Each week, we’ll team up with Charlottesville Daily Progress and the Roanoke Times to bring you the predictions of three ACC beat writers. This year, in addition to Tech, U.Va. and an ACC game of the week, we’ll be picking an upset of the week, hoping to create a little more separation in the standings.
Charlottesville Daily Progress Virginia beat writer Ron Counts and Roanoke Virginia Tech beat writer Michael Niziolek and I will do our best to predict games each week in college football. Counts debuted with a perfect 4-0 week to move a game ahead in the standings.
Here are this week’s picks...
Virginia Tech at North Carolina, 7 p.m., Kenan Memorial Stadium, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Ron Counts, Charlottesville Daily Progress (14-10): This one should be really ugly. Virginia Tech is going to come out with something to prove after a loss last week to Notre Dame, and let’s face it, North Carolina isn’t very good. Both UNC quarterbacks (Nathan Elliott and Chazz Surratt) are turnovers waiting to happen and the Tar Heels are getting nothing out of the running game. Bud Foster’s defense has to be licking its chops. Tech is going to pressure whoever takes the snaps and that usually results in turnovers. This game will get out of hand quickly. Quarterback Ryan Willis and the rest of the Hokies’ starters are in for a short night.
Pick: Virginia Tech 45, North Carolina 14
*Includes Sam Blum’s 10-10 record
Mike Barber, Richmond Times-Dispatch (13-11): Virginia Tech looked overmatched against Notre Dame, which pulled away in the second half. That won’t be the case this weekend. North Carolina figures to hit some big plays against the Hokies’ young and developing defense, but not enough to make a game of it. UNC will have to go with Nathan Elliott at quarterback, after Chaz Surratt underwent season-ending surgery this week. But in the end, Carolina’s defense, or lack of it, is the big issue. Tech should be able to run and pass against the Tar Heels and win in Chapel Hill for the third straight visit.
PICK: Virginia Tech 41, North Carolina 24
Michael Niziolek, Roanoke Times (13-11): Virginia Tech could have another defensive collapse and still win this one. North Carolina is lucky to have one won game this season with the way its struggling on both sides of the ball this season. Only 10 FBS teams are averaging fewer points this season than the Tar Heels (21 per game) while the defense is inching closer to giving up 40 points a night. North Carolina is coming off a bye week, but Virginia Tech isn't a team that looks worn down right now.
PICK: Virginia Tech 42, North Carolina 24
No. 16 Miami at Virginia, 7 p.m., Scott Stadium, Charlottesville
Counts: Much like the game kicking off in Chapel Hill at the same time, this one might get pretty ugly, too. Virginia hit some deep shots and built an early lead last season at Miami, but the Cavaliers’ couldn’t sustain it. The Hurricanes’ athletes were a step faster than Virginia’s and the linemen were nastier. The same may be true this season. The Cavaliers have not shown the ability to consistently run the ball or protect quarterback Bryce Perkins. If that carries over into Saturday, it isn’t going to be pretty. Miami has one of the ACC’s most athletic defensive lines, and they’re tied with Clemson and Syracuse with a conference-high 20 sacks. Pressure usually leads to turnovers. When the turnover chain comes out, there’s no keeping up with the Hurricanes.
PICK: Miami 35, Virginia 13
Barber: Virginia’s offensive line is still the team’s question mark and Miami comes in with a defensive line that may only be second to Clemson in the ACC. The ball-hawking secondary gets the credit – and the turnover chain – but Miami’s dominant defense all starts with that defensive front. Behind N’Kosi Perry the offense is explosive and able to take advantage of the turnovers the defense comes up with. Like last year, Virginia might put a scare into the Hurricanes, before Miami pulls away.
PICK: Miami 38, Virginia 17
Niziolek: Miami struggled putting Florida State away at home, but Virginia doesn't match-up well against the Hurricanes. Miami's strength is a run defense that's ranked seventh in the country. If the Hurricanes can make quarterback Bryce Perkins one-dimensional, it's easy to picture them running away with a win.
PICK: Miami 38, Virginia 17
Duke at Georgia Tech, 12:20 p.m., Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta
Counts: This one is a bit trickier. Conventional wisdom suggests Duke should win. The Blue Devils have an NFL-caliber quarterback in Daniel Jones and some talented linebackers, but Georgia Tech has the triple option. It’s an outdated scheme, which barely employs the forward pass, but it has tripped up more than one capable defense (See Navy’s mauling of Virginia in last season’s Military Bowl). The Yellow Jackets absolutely dominated a bad team from Louisville last week, and when the combination of quarterback TaQuan Marshall and running back Tobias Oliver get rolling, they’re hard to stop.
PICK: Duke 28, Georgia Tech 24
Barber: At one point, Georgia Tech had won 10 in a row in this series. But since 2014, Duke has actually won three of the last four meetings and, last year, held the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense to just 20 points. This year, Duke’s defense has been middle of the pack in the ACC against the run and on third down. That won’t get it done against a Georgia Tech team that has put up over 60 points each of its last two outings, both wins.
PICK: Georgia Tech 31, Duke 27
Niziolek: The Georgia Tech that scored 129 points the last two weeks doesn't look like the same team that lost three straight earlier this season. The offense is clicking and coming off its most efficient performance in three years having averaged 8.3 yards per carry on the ground in a 66-31 win over Louisville. Duke is a better team than the Cardinals this year, but if Georgia Tech plays like it does the last two week it should be able to win at home.
PICK: Georgia Tech 35, Duke 21
Upset of the week
Counts: Last season’s unofficial national champions are going down. The Memphis offense is putting up ridiculous numbers. I’m talking about 46.17 points and 547.2 yards per game. Quarterback Brady White is completing better than 69 percent of his passes, and he has put up 1,549 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and just one interception. Running back Darrell Henderson has 934 yards and 12 touchdowns to his credit and 10 different receivers have caught touchdown passes. UCF will, by far, be its toughest test to date and Knights quarterback McKenzie Milton is one of the most dynamic athletes in the country, but Memphis is up to the test.
PICK: Memphis 31, UCF 28
Barber: This could be a week of upsets out west. I think Oregon has a good chance to get it done against Washington and this could be the year Colorado finally beats Southern Cal. But that’s not where I’m going with my upset of the week. It’s been a rough start to say the least for Chip Kelly at UCLA. The Bruins are going to have a losing season and finish as one of the worst teams in the Pac-12. But they’re not going to finish winless. Kelly’s club hung with Washington its last time out. Cal hasn’t really been tested this year. Its best win is over BYU and its 0-2 in the conference.
PICK: UCLA 27, Cal 24
Niziolek: Oregon is a three point underdog at home against Washington. The Ducks are coming off a bye at 4-1 while Washington has won five straight since losing a close season-opener to Auburn. Oregon would likely be 5-0 if it wasn't for some questionable clock management against Stanford. Look for Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert to put the team on his back and give them a key conference win.
PICK: Oregon 42, Washington 31