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    ACC News

    [2020] ACC Week 16 Preview Guide

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    Week 16 Preview Guide: W2W4, Bold Predictions, Keys to the Game, Game Predictions

    Teams in Action:

    • TNF: :miami: Miami (FL) Hurricanes (3-8 at FSU), :fsu: Florida State Seminoles (5-6 UM)
    • FNF: :unc: North Carolina Tar Heels (6-5 at NCSU), :ncsu: NC State Wolfpack (2-9 UNC), :wake: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-9 at Cuse), :cuse: Syracuse Orange (3-8 Wake)
    • Sat. Morning: :clemson: #13 Clemson Tigers (9-2 SC), :gt: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-9 #16 UGA), :vt: Virginia Tech Hokies (4-7 at #10 UVA), :uva: #10 Virginia Cavaliers (10-1 VT)


    Teams on Bye:

    • :bc: Boston College Eagles (5-7), :louisville: Louisville Cardinals (8-4), :duke: #23 Duke Blue Devils (9-3), :pitt: #3 Pittsburgh Panthers (11-1)


    Thursday Night Football:


    Tallahassee, Florida: :miami: Miami (FL) Hurricanes (3-4 ACC, 3-8 overall) at :fsu: Florida State Seminoles (3-4 ACC, 5-6 overall)

    • What 2 Watch 4: The Seminoles' last stand. Florida State did what they needed to do against Wake, and now they'll have to do the same at home against rival Miami. The job should arguably be easier this time given how questionable Miami's pass defense has been, recording only 4 interceptions on the year - don't forget that Luke Cobb is only a Top 5 receiver nationally. While the Hurricanes do have a presence in the pass rush, it might not be nearly enough to get through FSU's solid offensive line and disrupt the efficient Benjamin Schuler. The 'Noles are fighting for bowl eligibilty, but I don't think this game will be much of a fight at all.
    • Bold Prediction: Luke Cobb will have more receiving yards than Jason Ledford will have passing yards. A bit unrealistic a prediction, but hey, these need to be especially bold on rivalry week. Ledford has done exceptionally better than former starting quarterback Aiden Benton in terms of scoring and not throwing the ball to defenders, but they've been par for the course in terms of actual production. Cobb could have a field day with this secondary, but the same can't be said for Ledford as he goes up against a formidable pass rush and a few pro prospects in that secondary.
    • Keys to the Game, UM: Control the clock offensively. Florida State can't score if they don't have the ball, right? Ronnie Peterson has to play a huge role in the offense, and Ledford has to avoid throwing picks - something that might not be as easy considering he threw three of them last outing against Nebraska. Defensively, I really can't suggest much outside of trying to pressure Schuler into some bad throws. Gavin Crockett has a respectable seven sacks on the season, and he'll have to come up with more if this defense is to stand a chance. With a grand total of eleven sacks, it's not out of the realm of possibility for the 'Canes to bring Schuler down twice or three times before the day is done.
    • Keys to the Game, FSU: Spread the ball around. Yes, Cobb is obviously a juicy target in this one, but between Miami being really weak at corner and showing inexperience in the middle of the field, it'd be wise of Schuler to utilize the likes of Nicolas Singer and Wyatt Cornett to mix things up. On the other side of the ball, the key for the 'Noles is to force Ledford to throw. He's not going to beat the 'Noles with his arm barring a huge defensive breakdown, but Peterson can definitely run on a defense that at times has struggled against the run.
    • Prediction: :miami: Miami (FL) 10-49 Florida State :fsu:. I know Coach ajyoungmark has been mixing things up to get the best out of this squad, but I haven't seen nearly enough all season to inspire any sort of confidence against a Florida State team that, while they have struggled overall, has feasted on much weaker teams. 'Noles get that bowl berth after a very shaky 2020 season.


    Friday Night Football:


    Raleigh, NC: :unc: North Carolina Tar Heels (4-3 ACC, 6-5 overall) at :ncsu: NC State Wolfpack (1-6 ACC, 2-9 overall)

    • What 2 Watch 4: How do the Heels build off a dominant win over Duke? North Carolina returned to their early-season form in tearing apart Duke's defense, but can they replicate that against a State defense that, for lack of better words, has been pisspoor at times this season? UNC has been about as inconsistent offensively as the Wolfpack have been defensively, so the real question regarding this game is whether or not good UNC/NCSU shows up or not. 
    • Bold Prediction: Isaiah Peko leads the Heels in receiving for a second-straight game. Running back Peko surprised everyone in a dominant receiving performance against the Blue Devils, compiling 89 yards and 2 touchdowns out of the backfield. While the Pack haven't allowed many running backs to do damage in the passing game, they haven't really played a running back capable of such damage. The interior of the Wolfpack defense has been mediocre at best this season; expect Peko to do lots of damage to that unit.
    • Keys to the Game, UNC: Get the run game going. State's front seven have been worse than advertised against the run this season, and if Peko can get off the blocks quickly, it'll be a long day for both the rush defense and the pass defense. Likewise, the Heels need to shut down the ground game. Keith Harley hasn't been great by any means in his sophomore season, but forcing Blake Fry to throw is probably the best thing this Heels' defense can do.
    • Keys to the Game, NCSU: Contain Peko. The rush defense really has gone missing as of late, but if Peko can be held down (both on the ground and through the air), then the Pack secondary might be able to handle a rejuvenated Max Laws. If the Heels' offense becomes one-dimensional similar to the way Louisville was a few weeks ago, State could very well come out with another win. Offensively, Blake Fry has to be quick and precise with the ball. As if being the best defensive end in this upcoming draft class wasn't enough, Josiah Harden came very alive against Duke, helping bring down freshman Bryce Thompson on three separate occasions. Fry can't take many hits this game - he'll have to get rid of the ball before Harden gets rid of him.
    • Prediction: :unc: North Carolina 38-17 NC State :ncsu:. These are two teams that have gone in two very different directions this year, and that will be prevalent throughout the day. Win or lose, the Heels will be going to a bowl, but they'd much rather win here than suffer a second embarrassing loss in two seasons to the Wolfpack.


    Syracuse, NY: :wake: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-6 ACC, 2-9 overall) at :cuse: Syracuse Orange (2-5 ACC, 3-8 overall)

    • What 2 Watch 4: The end of an era in New York. Despite how the 2020 season turned out, the Orange defense has been loaded with talent. For the past few years, the likes of Noah Tubbs, Bradley Nunn, Antoine Mayfield, and Chance McKenzie have been terrorizing ACC offenses, finding a bulk of their success last season when the offense wasn't in shambles. We'll get to see this quartet of pro-talent one last time as they take on Oscar Sanderson and a middling Wake offense.
    • Bold Prediction: The combined total for rushing yards will exceed 300. Sanderson has been a pleasant surprise for a Wake team that redshirted most of their offensive talent, hitting 100 yards rushing on four different occasions. On the flipside, Giovanni Coley has fully re-earned his starting spot by breaking 1,000 yards on the season, including hitting the century mark a solid six times. Coley and quarterback Christian Coates should find moderate success against a flimsy Wake front seven, whereas Sanderson can probably whip up a solid 80 against a formidable 'Cuse front seven.
    • Keys to the Game, Wake: Run the ball as much as possible. Hemana Toma is easily considered a bottom three quarterback in the conference, and his receiving corp is nothing special by any means. Going up against the likes of Tubbs and Nunn in that secondary, it'd be wise for Toma to just hand the ball off to Sanderson, who can likely do more with a few runs than Toma should do in a half. The defense needs to keep Coates in the pocket and force him into throwing situations. The Orange receivers aren't nearly as good as the group the Deacons faced last week (FSU), and Coates, while accurate, has been turnover-prone through the air, throwing nine picks on the year so far. The Wake defense could thrive off passing situations in this game.
    • Keys to the Game, Cuse: Stay safe with the ball. Between Coates and Coley, the ball has been turned over on ten separate occasions this season, and in a game where points might be more at a premium than expected, it's important that the ball not end up in the opposing team's hands. The defense needs to break into the backfield to slow down Sanderson before he hits the edges. The Demon Deacons have had on average the worst offensive line in the conference, and while the Orange haven't been great at breaking into the backfield this season, they should be able to get more opportunities in this one.
    • Prediction: :wake: Wake Forest 13-20 Syracuse :cuse:. I'm not particularly impressed with either offense, and I'd much rather take the team with the proven defense with pro-talent than the defense with exactly zero players looking forward to playing in the pros.


    Saturday Morning Football:


    Clemson, SC: :scar: South Carolina Gamecocks (6-5 overall) at :clemson: #13 Clemson Tigers (9-2 overall)

    • What 2 Watch 4: A Tigers team with something to prove. At #13 in the recent coaches poll, there's genuine belief that the ACC Atlantic Division champions can still make the playoffs with an upset win over either Virginia or Pittsburgh, both ranked in the Top 10. It's definitely not impossible, but Clemson can't start talking about playoffs unless they can take care of a much-improved Gamecocks team. The Gamecocks clinched a return to the postseason by handling Kentucky, and Milo Condon has turned things around with a solid season thus far. Can Clemson handle an upstart SC team?
    • Bold Prediction: Condon will throw half as many picks in this game as he's thrown all year. With a 15-5 TD:INT ratio, you'd expect this to be a joke. But let's not forget that the Tigers still own one of, if not the best secondary in college football. The Tigers have forced 11 interceptions thanks in part to a load of talent in the secondary (Marquise Holliday and Malachi Douglas, to name a few) and a mean pass rush that has brought down the quarterback 20 times this season. The Gamecocks' offensive line has been decent but not great, and their receivers, while exceptional, have yet to take on the talent that the Tigers' defense brings.
    • Keys to the Game, Clemson: The offensive line has to hold strong against a formidable SC pass rush. With 13.5 sacks of their own, the Gamecocks have had their fair share of QB takedowns. Clemson's O-Line has to give Jamel Armstrong time in the pocket to throw the ball - he'll definitely need all the time in the world given his 2020 track record. Defensively, pressure the hell out of Condon. Behind a somewhat average offensive line, Condon has had the benefit of not facing tough pass rushes this season. Welcome Glenn Thorpe and Co. to the field. If the Tigers can put enough pressure on the junior QB, the secondary should be licking their lips at a few misplaced balls.
    • Prediction: :scar: South Carolina 14-31 Clemson :clemson:. I really don't think the Gamecocks have won a meaningful game this season. They've lost to teams better than them and beat teams worse than them (with the exception of maybe Akron?). Clemson is far and away the best team on their schedule, and I can't see Clemson dropping the ball in a rivalry game at home with a shot at the playoffs still alive.


    Atlanta, GA: :uga: #16 Georgia Bulldogs (8-3 overall) at :gt: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-9 overall)

    • What 2 Watch 4: Can the Jackets end this sour season on somewhat of a high note? It's been rough waters from the start in Atlanta, and without a reliable head coach in place, it's bound to end similar to last season's disaster in this same venue. Josh Beckett and Anthony Swanson both fell into a bit of sophomore slump, and the defense has been nonexistent. All of this can be blamed on a lack of proper coaching, but who's to say that they can't do the unthinkable and beat the Bulldogs at home? It's possible, right?
    • Bold Prediction: Georgia scores more than 3/4ths of last year's total. The Bulldogs racked up 51 points in Atlanta last season, and with the Yellow Jackets playing as poor as they have been in recent weeks, it's not hard to imagine the Bulldogs putting up 38+ in this one. The real question is if Tech can put up more than 7, which they couldn't do last year.
    • Keys to the Game, GT: Slow down Isaac Wilson. It's no question that the offense runs through the rushing attack, and Wilson has been as solid a back in the SEC as any. The Jackets have to lock him down and force Salvatore Tanner to throw the ball. The offense has to hold on to the ball; most importantly, Beckett can't afford to throw the ball away. The Georgia secondary has forced seven picks this season, led by athlete Dominique Dawkins (five). Beckett has thrown the second-most interceptions in the conference; adding to that total will surely make this game as miserable as the last.
    • Prediction: :uga: Georgia 48-6 Georgia Tech :gt:. I have no faith in a coachless team going up against a Top 20 team in the country with a dominant running game. There's really not a lot I need to write about this game. Fans in Atlanta can't wait for the upcoming announcement regarding their new coach. One thing is for certain: they will love the hire.


    Charlottesville, VA: :vt: Virginia Tech Hokies (2-5 ACC, 4-7 overall) at :uva: #10 Virginia Cavaliers (6-1 ACC, 10-1 overall)

    • What 2 Watch 4: Can the Cavs' handle the extra pressure of clinching the Coastal? The defense in particular cracked hard with the division crown in their grasp, allowing 40+ points and over 230 rushing yards against Louisville in a triple-overtime loss, their first of the season. The Hokies come to town with nothing to play for except ruining their rivals' season in the most crushing of manners. It's up to Matteo Rook and the offense to finish the job once and for all, but can they avoid the biggest choke job in the conference in recent years? 
    • Bold Prediction: The rush defense holds the Hokies to sub-100 rushing yards. One week after seeing DeSean Dockery put up his best performance of the season in an upset, the Cavaliers have to handle a similar-styled Hokie offense. Maurice Ervin is no Dockery though, lacking that killer speed that tore apart the Cavaliers last week. We'll see Virginia regroup and stifle Ervin and the VT offense.
    • Keys to the Game, VT: Expose the rush defense. Is this a recurring theme or did Virginia succumb to Dockery's Heisman-like talent? If Ervin can find holes and pull off huge chunks of yards similar to Dockery a week ago, then the Hokies will be more than able to hand with a high-powered offense. The defense has to force turnovers, mainly in the passing game. Rook threw his 7th and 8th interceptions of the season against Louisville, and while that doesn't sound bad, it's notable in that he threw multiple picks for only the third time this season, with the former two (Duke and UNC) being in semi-close performances.
    • Keys to the Game, UVA: I could use this for both offense and defense, but this mainly goes out to Coach npklemm: maintain composure. I feel that the playcalling and decision-making in the Louisville was a result of a lack of composure; as the game wore on and Louisville kept hanging around, the Cavs' became more and more nervous and made some hasty decisions. The Cavaliers can't let talks of a choke or of being overrated get to them. Virginia needs to play with only two things in mind: beating their rivals and clinching the Coastal. Outside of that, not throwing picks certainly goes a long way in winning the game.
    • Prediction: :vt: Virginia Tech 20-34 Virginia :uva:. Virginia starts the game shakily, but they'll grow into the game and ride Rook to a small halftime lead. From there, it's all sunshines and rainbows and Virginia should wrap up the Coastal Division, a school-best 11-1 record, and one last game before a shot at the playoffs.

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