The Big East, as a conference, is taking a break this week. Therefore, I thankfully will not have to write how the Big East needs to step up its game.
Cincinnati, Syracuse and West Virginia are all on bye weeks, with three other schools playing Sun Belt opponents and Rutgers taking on Tulane. Connecticut, however, is playing a BCS opponent in Vanderbilt in what should be a well-matched game.
Over in the ACC, we have an in-state matchup with North Carolina and East Carolina, a few tough conference games and a Notre Dame sighting. I thought the Irish were supposed to play Big Ten teams? Wait, Notre Dame isn’t in the Big Ten?
No. 16 Miami (FL) at Clemson (12:00 ET)
THE LINE: Miami -3.5
THE PLOT: Both teams had bye weeks after crushing losses to ranked teams. The ‘Canes won at Heinz Field 31-3 over Pittsburgh after its bye, and this week it is Clemson’s turn to rebound after the bye.
This game brings with it huge ACC implications. Though there are seven teams without an in-conference loss thus far, the winner of this game—or quite possibly both teams—will most likely end up in the ACC title match.
In terms of matchups, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney mentioned that the line play will be huge in this game. “They’re second in the nation in sacks and we’re not giving up many sacks.”
THE PICK: Obviously both teams can put on an offensive performance, even against good defenses—see Miami vs. Ohio State, and Clemson vs. Auburn. This game will pit a good Tiger defense against a scrappy, speedy and deeply talented Miami offense. Both coaches are relatively new to the ACC and have yet to supplant a name for themselves within the conference.
I believe this game will end up being a lot bigger than it seems at face value. Playing in Clemson is nuts, and if the Tiger faithful can get to Jacory Harris like the Buckeye fans did on September 11th, then Clemson walks away with a win. But Miami demoralized what was supposed to be the Big East’s best team last weekend.
THE SCORE: Miami 30, Clemson 28
Vanderbilt at Connecticut (12:00 ET)
THE LINE: Connecticut -7.5
THE PLOT: In their respective histories, neither team has been outstanding against the opposing conference. The Commodores are just 10-7-1 against the Big East, while the Huskies are only 1-2 against the SEC.
The only previous meeting between the two schools was former Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson’s first win over a
FBS Division 1A school in 2002. Connecticut’s only win over a SEC school came last year in the PapaJohns.com Bowl.
Vanderbilt has lost both home games this season against Northwestern and No. 19 LSU, but won their only road game at Ole Miss. Saturday’s matchup with the Huskies is in Storrs.
As for the Huskies, both home games have resulted in wins by an average margin of nearly six touchdowns. Both road games have resulted in losses, 20-points at Michigan and 14-points at Temple.
THE PICK: To be fair, the Huskies have had quarterback problems. To be unfair, they have had quarterback problems for the past five years, averaging around 166 passing yards per game over that span.
And if you will believe me, Vanderbilt has a worse passing game this year than Connecticut. Through its first three games, the Commodores have recorded just 383 passing yards. An anemic passing offense is tolerable, I guess, if you can run the football. But the Commodores do not have a single rusher who averages more than 75 rushing yards per game. The Huskies? They have Jordan Todman.
Todman is fifth in the nation in rushing yards per game behind—brace yourself—Denard Robinson, LaMichael James, Daniel Thomas and Mark Ingram. Todman is going to elevate Connecticut past Vanderbilt at home and put the Huskies over .500 for the first time this year.
THE SCORE: Connecticut 23, Vanderbilt 16
Virginia Tech at No. 23 North Carolina State (12:00 ET)
THE LINE: Virginia Tech -4.0
THE PLOT: Here it is folks. This is the game that will put Virginia Tech back on the map a la Michigan in 2007. Losses to Boise State and James Madison to start the year killed the moral of Hokie nation. I would even argue that the loss to Boise State set the Hokies up for its loss to James Madison on a crummy and rainy day.
N.C. State comes into the game at 4-0 sporting a legitimate Heisman contender in Russell Wilson. To put the Wolfpack’s start into perspective, the last time they were 4-0 they had Philip Rivers in his prime. There is a lot of hoopla surrounding N.C. State with their unexpected start, which can only be cause for distraction.
THE PICK: If you don’t think Frank Beamer is treating this game as if it were the last game of his career, you’re mistaken. All Beamer does is win ACC Championships. He understands that an ACC match is much more valuable of a win than a game against either James Madison or East Carolina.
What did the Hokies do last week at Boston College? Virginia Tech shut out the Eagles in the first ACC game of the year.
This Saturday, N.C. State walks into a slightly adapted trap game as Virginia Tech regains ACC dominance, despite Ryan Williams second straight absence.
THE SCORE: Virginia Tech 31, N.C. State 23
Notre Dame at Boston College (8:00 ET)
THE LINE: Notre Dame -3.0
THE PLOT: This game will be very evenly matched, in my opinion. Since Notre Dame lost Brady Quinn, the Irish have really played at the level of their opponent, be it up or down. Coincidentally, Boston College also plays at the level of their opponent. The only major difference between the two schools right now, besides history, is recruiting.
The Eagles won six straight against the Irish until last year when Notre Dame took away a 20-16 win at home. That was the Eagles worst turnover performance, a -5 turnover margin.
A win for either team could really help. Boston College is unproven really, and could use an emergence at quarterback to set the tone for the remainder of the year. Notre Dame could simply use a win, because a 1-3 record to start the year with your lone win coming against a Robert Marve-led Purdue squad in South Bend surely is not cutting it.
THE PICK: While Notre Dame has some great playmakers on offense, they will really need the defense to step up. Through four games, the Irish have surrendered nearly 30 points per game. Boston College’s defense is good enough to hold the Irish under 30 points, so whomever can score more points will win the game—Yes, I reread that last sentence.
That being said, this mini-rivalry has been awfully low scoring. The past eight games have seen an average combined 37 points per game. I think I’ll keep with that trend. Boston College nudges out the win in Chestnut Hill.
THE SCORE: Boston College 20, Notre Dame 17
Straight up: 4-0
Vs. spread: 2-2
Straight up: 11-1
Vs. spread: 5-7
(I failed to predict scores before Week One, but if you would like to count my predictions on Week One from an outside source, you can add the following: Straight up 2-1, Vs. spread 0-3)
(Odds courtesy of SportsBook.com by way of our friends at NBCSports.com.)