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Picking the ACC: Four Lonesome Nights in October

Statement of Unintelligence
The First Half of September
The Rest of September

October 7th

Self-evident: Duke at Alabama, and East Carolina at Virginia.

Clemson at Wake Forest: One of the hidden dangers of picking every game - now that I've built Wake Forest up to a 5-0 team, I can't just say it's obvious that Clemson will handle them. Especially after last year, when Clemson most certainly didn't. But while I'm sure the Tigers will falter and lose concentration at some point this year, it won't be in Winston-Salem. An overachieving Demon Deacon squad isn't going to sneak up on Clemson twice.

Florida State at N.C. State: Chuck Amato's gotten into the habit of playing FSU close. Putting aside their disasterous first meeting in 2000, the Wolfpack have since never lost by more than a touchdown, and pulled of the upset three times, often salvaging the season in the process.

Maryland at Georgia Tech: Depending on the scores of Maryland's first four games (Three patsies and a juggernaut West Virginia team), Terrapin fans could enter this game thinking their team is good. This will be the game that disabuses them of that notion. They're still carrying the flaky quarterback and porous defense from last year's 5-6 squad. Another intersting fact: They haven't won an ACC road game outside the state of North Carolina since 2002. That won't change this year either.

North Carolina at Miami: It was only two years ago that a lesser Tar Heel team stunned an undefeated Miami squad. There's no reason it couldn't happen again - all UNC's missing is the element of surprise, the home crowd, and a weak but not yet exposed opponent. All right, so it won't happen again. It'll be close, though.

October 14th

Self-evident: Temple at Clemson, Duke at Florida State, and Florida International at Miami

Maryland at Virginia: Hands down, bar none, the Least Interesting ACC Game of the Year. At least the Duke games have a roadside accident curiousity aspect going for them, and there's enough bad blood amongst the North Carolina schools to overcome poor play, but this game will be lucky if the teams film it for scouting purposes. It's years of football games like this that deluded ESPN into thinking people would watch poker on television. Virginia might just win this by default when Maryland forgets it was scheduled.

South Florida at North Carolina: John Bunting's teams have lost at least two OOC games every year he's been at the helm. At this point, with two non-conference foes left on the schedule, I'm bucking a lot of history giving this game to the Heels. (You think this is foolhardy? Just you wait.)

Virginia Tech at Boston College: I just now found out that the Hokies' new quarterbacks coach is N.C. State legend Mike O'Cain. They must have gotten this version of his resume - note the conspicuous lack of the word "fired." Even if O'Cain can produce a Hokie Charlie Whitehurst, BC already have Matt Ryan. Advantage Eagles.

Wake Forest at N.C. State: At this point, I'm just picking on the Wolfpack. This is another of those middle of the pack games it's impossible to have any insights about two months in advance. One of these teams will have gelled together and had some success by this point, and the other probably won't. I'm going against the grain and putting N.C. State in the "won't" category.

October 21st

Self-evident: Duke at Miami, Southern Mississippi at Virginia Tech. Should I just rename the Self-evident sections Duke and other crap games?

Boston College at Florida State: The Tabula Rasa of the ACC comes down to Tallahassee. Can they really win this game? I don't know. To say my impression of them varies wildly would imply I have an impression. They're Boston College, International Team of Mystery. And this week, they're not good enough to shake a Seminole team in their element.

Georgia Tech at Clemson: By this point, it should be obvious I'm setting up Georgia Tech and Clemson for a championship showdown. After this occurs, we can all party like it's 1990. While you're cueing up that Wilson Phillips album, Clemson can begin that patented October stumble - only in the 6-5 season did Bowden win more than two games in this month - as Georgia Tech can roll on and start worrying about Miami.

North Carolina at Virginia: 24-56. 27-37. 6-17. 13-30. 17-20. 10-34. 10-17. 9-14. These are UNC's scoring efforts in Charlottesville going back to the Mack Brown era, and it's only boredom that stopped me there. The Heels haven't won at Mr. Jefferson's University since 1981. Back when the Cavaliers were coached by Dick Bestwick. Back before Michael Jordan played a minute at UNC. Back when there was a Bluebonnet Bowl.

Now to be fair, Virginia hasn't had a losing season in any of those years - their only lapses being 1986 and 2001, home games for the Heels. I see a losing season for the Hoos this roast beast-less Christmas, and I'm not alone in this. But better teams have been broken in Charlottesville, so this is still a pretty optimistic take on my part.

N.C. State at Maryland: Say what you will about the misfortunes I'm heaping on N.C. State, but I'm meaner to Maryland. I haven't seen Friedgen win with players he recruited, and I can't see him taking over as offensive coordinator solving any problems. I don't think I'll have to worry about spelling his name this time next year.

October 28th

Self-evident: Buffalo (A Deal at Twice the Price) at Boston College, Vanderbilt at Duke, Florida State at Maryland and N.C. State at Virginia.

Clemson at Virginia Tech: Yes, I still subscribe to Virginia Tech as Worse-Than-Clemson. But I also faithfully follow the Clemson Collapse every OCtober, and a week after losing their undefeated season to Georgia Tech is the perfect time for them to not pay attention. No one's selling short the Hokie defense, and they'll be able to handle the Tigers at home.

Miami at Georgia Tech: It's at this point that I throw off the shackles of the Chan Gailey Equilibrium, giving them a seventh win on a schedule that still has a Durham Bye Week to come November. But this is a chance for Tech to all but clinch a Coastal Division title - the rest of their ACC slate consists of the Research Triangle teams - and start looking forward to the Georgia game. Doing so against a Miami squad of dubious fate that's been snacking on cupcakes since the Louisville game in mid-September? Even Gailey can't stop Ball & Johnson from doing that.

"Ball & Johnson." I hope that phrasing doesn't catch on.

Wake Forest at North Carolina: The best way to sum up UNC's recent football is with Bunting's record against Wake Forest, a paltry 2-2, with the first loss coming with his 8-5 inaugural squad. Wake, a school that hasn't cobbled together more than six regular season wins since Bill Dooley walked the sideline. As much as I've enjoyed putting Wake at the top of the conference during these predictions, this is the beginning of the meat of their schedule, and I don't hate Bunting enough to give him a losing record against the Demon Deacons.

So with one month to go, if nothing else my general ACC bias is slipping through. Over half the league will already be bowl eligible, and only Duke will be amongst the bowl eliminated.

Team Overall ACC Team Overall ACC Georgia Tech 7-1 5-0 Clemson 7-2 4-2 Miami 6-2 3-1 Florida State 6-2 4-2 North Carolina 6-2 3-2 Boston College 6-2 2-2 Virginia Tech 5-3 2-3 Wake Forest 6-2 2-2 Virginia 5-4 2-3 N.C. State 4-4 2-3 Duke 1-7 0-5 Maryland 3-5 0-4
The standings are pretty much set, but I'll have enough bizarre November thoughts to make this series even sillier, don't worry.