Friedlander: A preview and prediction for every ACC game in Week 3
This week is the calm before the storm in ACC football.
That might sound strange, considering that virtually every game on last Saturday’s schedule was delayed or adversely affected by violent weather.
But when it comes to the significance of the action on the field, this week’s games are merely a warmup act for what’s to come in a loaded Week 4 slate featuring Florida State’s showdown with Clemson, North Carolina’s trip to Pittsburgh and Brennan Armstrong’s return to Virginia.
Still, there are plenty of interesting and potentially meaningful games on tap, including 6 matchups against Big Ten opponents.
So let’s dive in and see what’s at stake (with a few predictions to spice things up).
Virginia (+14.5) at Maryland
Friday, 7 p.m. ET, FS1
This will be the 79th meeting of the neighboring rivals. But it’s the first time they’ve played since the Terrapins bolted the ACC for the Big Ten in 2013. While it doesn’t promise to be much of a game with Maryland at 2-0 and the rebuilding Cavaliers at 0-2 coming off a home loss to James Madison, there’s plenty at stake for Tony Elliott’s team beyond the scoreboard.
The most important issue is at quarterback.
Tony Muskett’s return from injury means that freshman Anthony Colandrea will be back on the bench despite an impressive debut in which he threw for 377 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Dukes. Colandrea is clearly UVa’s quarterback of the future. But if Muskett performs as he did in an opening week loss to Tennessee, it could open the door for Colandrea to become its quarterback of the present.
Prediction: Maryland 34, UVA 17.
Florida State (-25.5) at Boston College
Saturday, noon ET, ABC
The Seminoles tune up for next week’s trip to Clemson by opening their ACC schedule against one of the league’s worst teams. It’s on the road and the weather promises to be messy with the remnants of Hurricane Lee lurking off the coast. But if any team should know how to play in tropical storm conditions, it’s one from Florida.
Dealing with the conditions figures to be the only real challenge facing Mike Norvell’s 3rd-ranked squad. For the Eagles, anything positive they can get out of this mismatch should be considered a victory.
Although BC seems to have found some offensive life with the switch to UCF transfer Thomas Castellanos at quarterback, Norvell’s team should be able to take care of business as quickly and easily as it did last week against Southern Miss.
Prediction: Florida State 43, BC 13.
Louisville (-10.5) vs. Indiana at Indianapolis
Saturday, noon ET, Big Ten Network
For Jeff Brohm’s Cardinals, this is another opportunity to build on the momentum they’ve already started on the field and the excitement they’re generating in their community following an opening win against Georgia Tech and last week’s 56-0 demolition of Murray State.
It’s tough to get a gauge on what to expect from Indiana. After being held to just a field goal in an opening loss to Ohio State, the Hoosiers rebounded by beating Indiana State 41-7 with redshirt freshman Tayven Jackson going 18-for-21 for 236 yards and a rushing touchdown.
IU, however, is a familiar opponent for Brohm, who went 4-1 against them as Purdue’s coach.
Prediction: Louisville 31, Indiana 27.
Wake Forest (-13.5) at Old Dominion
Saturday, noon ET, ESPN2
The Monarchs have caused trouble for ACC teams at home in the past. They’ve beaten Virginia Tech in each of the Hokies’ past 2 trips to Norfolk.
But this is Wake Forest, not Virginia Tech.
Among the many things the Deacons have been good at in the Dave Clawson era is winning games they’re supposed to win. That includes a 42-10 takedown of ODU 42-10 in Winston-Salem 2 seasons ago.
Wake unveiled a potent running attack in last week’s win against Vanderbilt and its defense appears to have returned to the opportunistic form that helped it rank among the nation’s leaders with 29 takeaways in 2021. The Deacons have started 3 of the past 4 seasons at 3-0. Odds are they’ll add to that mark in their final warmup before starting ACC play.
Prediction: Wake Forest 37, ODU 20.
NC State (no line) vs. VMI
Saturday, 2 pm ET, The CW
Last week’s loss to Notre Dame identified multiple areas in need of improvement for Dave Doeren and his team. The greatest areas for concern are the defense’s penchant for giving up big plays and an offense that has yet to show the explosiveness that was promised with the arrival of Armstrong and coordinator Robert Anae.
The Wolfpack will have an opportunity to make strides in those areas against an overmatched VMI team that has yet to score more than 13 points in a win against Davidson and a loss to Bucknell.
State is 11-0 against FCS opponents under Doeren, winning those games by a cumulative margin of 378-99 with 3 shutouts. So if the Pack are ever going to get their act together and start gaining some confidence, this is the time to do it.
Prediction: NC State 49, VMI 7.
Duke (-18) vs. Northwestern
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, ACC Network
People, especially those who vote on the 2 major college football polls, are finally starting to take the 21st-ranked Blue Devils seriously. In order for it to stay that way, it’s important for Riley Leonard and his teammates to put the hammer down on the reeling Wildcats quickly and efficiently.
While Duke is well on its way toward building on last year’s 9-win season, Northwestern is a mess. The Wildcats are embroiled in a hazing scandal that cost coach Pat Fitzgerald his job and have lost 12 of their past 13 games. That includes last year’s meeting with Duke in Evanston.
Prediction: Duke 38, Northwestern 17.
North Carolina (-7.5) vs. Minnesota
Saturday, 3:30 pm, ESPN
A UNC defense that looked so good against South Carolina but took a step back in last week’s double-overtime win against Appalachian State will be tested in the first meeting vs. Minnesota.
The Tar Heels gave up 288 rushing yards (6.7 yards per carry) against the Mountaineers. That doesn’t bode well against a Gophers offense that piled up 296 rushing yards in last week’s win against Eastern Michigan, with Darius Taylor accounting for 193 of them.
Besides testing the defense, the matchup with Minnesota will give new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey another opportunity to turn star quarterback Drake Maye loose, something he has yet to do through the first 2 weeks. Maye has just 2 TD passes — and 2 INTs.
The greater reliance on the running game than Maye’s arm might have more to do with UNC’s receiving corps without Tez Walker than it does with the quarterback. But with Maye almost certainly gone after this year, it would be a waste not to take full advantage of his ability.
Prediction: UNC 38, Minnesota 30.
Virginia Tech (+7) vs. Rutgers
Saturday, 3:30 pm. ET, Big Ten Network
The 2-0 Scarlet Knights aren’t the only obstacle the Hokies are facing this week in their 2nd straight game against a Big Ten opponent.
Top receiver Ali Jennings III and quarterback Grant Wells were both injured in last Saturday’s home loss to Purdue – a game that was delayed for more than 5 hours because of dangerous conditions and saw Tech muster only 11 net yards on the ground.
Jennings is not listed on this week’s depth chart and isn’t expected to play. Wells will be a game-time decision. If he can’t go, Baylor transfer Kyron Drones will get his first start as a Hokie.
Prediction: Rutgers 17, Virginia Tech 13.
Georgia Tech (+18.5) at Ole Miss
Saturday, 7:30 pm, SEC Network
The ACC is 4-1 against SEC teams this season. It’s doubtful that the Yellow Jackets will be able to add on to that success. It will, however, be a valuable measuring stick game for coach Brent Key and his team.
Tech was shut out 42-0 by the Rebels last year; it could have been much worse if Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin wanted to run up the score. It turned out to be the penultimate game before Key replaced Geoff Collins.
Tech is 5-5 under Key, including Saturday’s win against South Carolina State. While the Yellow Jackets will be overmatched again, especially since the rematch is on the road, the result will give Key an idea of how far his team has come in a year.
Prediction: Ole Miss 42, Georgia Tech 14.
Pittsburgh (+2.5) at West Virginia
Saturday, 7:30 pm, ABC
It took a pick-6 off a rebound by MJ Devonshire with just under 3 minutes remaining for the Panthers to win last year’s Backyard Brawl in Pittsburgh. So you know the Mountaineers will be looking for revenge in Morganton.
To have any shot at a 2nd straight win in the rivalry, Pitt is going to need a more consistent performance from quarterback Phil Jurkovec than it got in last week’s loss to Cincinnati. It took until the 4th quarter for the Panthers to start generating anything offensively. They scored 2 of their 3 touchdowns in the final period and generated only 83 yards on the ground for the game.
Pat Narduzzi’s team can’t afford to go into next week’s tough ACC opener against UNC on a 2-game losing streak.
Prediction: Pitt 23, West Virginia 21.
Syracuse (-2.5) at Purdue
Saturday, 7:30 pm, NBC
The first 2 weeks have been fun. But this is the first real test for Dino Babers and the Orange. They’re facing a Power 5 opponent. On the road for the first time. In front of a network television audience.
Purdue is no pushover. It’s also not a top-tier Big Ten team, either. Purdue is coming off a 28-21 win at Virginia Tech last week. But the Orange came from behind late to beat the Boilermakers at the Dome in 2022.
We’re about to find out how good the Orange really are.
Prediction: Syracuse 30, Purdue 24.
Clemson (-24.5) vs. Florida Atlantic
Saturday, 8 pm ET, ACC Network
Unless these schools change their mind and decide to play basketball, this shouldn’t be much of a contest. So the objectives are clear for Dabo Swinney and his Tigers.
Eliminate the turnovers and glaring self-inflicted mistakes that have plagued them on both sides of the ball through the first 2 weeks. Continue the momentum from last week’s dominating 2nd half performance. Don’t get anybody hurt. And hope it’s all enough to be ready for next week’s pivotal showdown with Florida State.
Prediction: Clemson 56, Florida Atlantic 10