Last week, we were lulled into believing there would be no upsets in the ACC. So we skipped the upset watch. I mean, would Duke really beat Virginia Tech? Would Pitt really lose to Navy? Would Wake Forest nearly beat Miami?
We have learned our lesson. No matter how much better the ACC has fared this year, there still is a little bit of #goacc to go around the league. So the upset watch is back at its regularly scheduled time, with three games to keep an eye on Saturday. Remember, these are not predictions. These are simply games we think the underdog could make some noise and potentially win.
1. Virginia Tech (6-2, 3-1) at Boston College (3-4, 1-3). There are no more gimmes on the Hokies schedule, not after they lost to Duke last weekend. This team has been living on the edge all season, and it finally caught up to them against the Blue Devils. Clearly Virginia Tech will not be able to win on defense alone. Because its defense did enough to beat Duke. More than enough, really. Simply put, it is the offense that has to get itself in gear, something that has yet to happen through eight games. Beyond the four interceptions Logan Thomas threw, Virginia Tech had way too many critical penalties and only converted on four third-down attempts. That makes it tough to win games, no matter how good the defense performs. Even though the Eagles got blown out in Chapel Hill, they are a much better team than a year ago and gave panic attacks to both Florida State and Clemson earlier this season. Boston College took Virginia Tech to overtime a season ago, too. There is no doubt Boston College faces a tough task against the Virginia Tech defense, but the Eagles will not have to score 30 to win.
2. Pitt (4-3, 2-2) at Georgia Tech (5-3, 4-2). The Jackets are a double-digit favorite, but they are coming off a victory over Virginia in which they had five turnovers and nine penalties. They are not going to be able to get away with such a sloppy game against a better team in Pitt. While it is true the Panthers lost to Navy last week, the key here is they faced an offense similar to the one they will see Saturday against Georgia Tech. Pitt held Navy to 70 yards below its season rushing average. Facing this type of offense in consecutive weeks gives the Panthers an advantage that many other teams simply do not get. The Panthers also have one of the best receiving duos in the ACC in Devin Street and Tyler Boyd, the only ACC players in the top 10 in both receiving yards per game and receptions per game. Last week, Georgia Tech allowed two 100-yard receivers in Darius Jennings and Tim Smith. Consider Smith had only 13 catches going into the game before catching 10 passes against the Jackets; Jennings had only 15 receptions before catching 13 last week.
3. No. 7 Miami (7-0, 3-0) at No. 3 Florida State (7-0, 5-0). In a rivalry game between unbeaten teams, anything can happen. Are we going to pick Florida State to lose? No. But Miami could give the Noles some trouble. The Canes have the best offensive line Florida State has faced to this point in the season, and a dynamic runner in Duke Johnson. Miami is not afraid to play smash-mouth football, and that is a completely different style than what the Noles have faced over the last three games. The Canes also have played in close games essentially all season long, and have had to overcome double-digit deficits in their last three wins. While it is true the last two should have never gone down to the wire, Miami does know what it takes to play in and win close games. In years past, there might have been panic on the sideline at the prospect of having to come back to win. There is no panic anymore. This is a more mature, confident group. Florida State, on the other hand, has yet to play a game where the fourth quarter mattered. Perhaps Miami had a hard time getting up for games against North Carolina and Wake Forest and played down to its competition. There is no doubt Miami will be up and supremely motivated for this game. The Canes still have plenty to prove.