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2012 College Football Week 8 Preview: Maryland, Virginia Tech, Duke, Florida State

An abbreviated week of ACC football that saw only 8 teams in action produced a surprisingly predictable set of results, with three favorites winning and UVA’s self-inflicted freefall continuing unabated.  

While I expected this regression somewhat from Virginia, they are playing like a team that doesn’t have much confidence in their leadership.  When bad things happen to them, they really seem to happen in bunches, and their never-ending quarterback roulette really isn’t helping.

Week 8 Plays

***  Maryland Terrapins +3.5 -108

The points with the home dog are really valuable in my opinion in what figures to be a close and low scoring affair between two divisional rivals that need a win to supplement their bowling (and ACC Atlantic title) aspirations.  I like getting more than a FG in this match-up where I have a really good defense going against a one-dimensional offense (Wolfpack avg just 3.1 ypc vs FBS opponents).  NC State is still missing 3 preseason Offensive line starters and will likely have trouble protecting the immobile Mike Glennon from a defensive front that sacks opposing QB’s on 8.3% of passes (15th nationally).  The Wolfpack don’t have any game breakers in the passing game as they average under 7 yards per throw, so if the OL struggles again they will be hard-pressed to consistently move the football.

Maryland is an ugly team to back in general, they win with a suffocating defense and aside from the electric Stefon Diggs, don’t have any offensive star power.  Though they are 4-2 Maryland has actually been out gained by 67 total yards this year and in 3 of their wins they out gained their opponents by a total of 33 yards.  Going against a Wolfpack team that has suffered from a surprising number of turnovers (2.4 per game) and has had execution issues (7.5 penalties a game, 33% 3rd down conversions) I feel like UMd can continue to rely on the defense here to create good field position and put pressure on the Wolfpack defense.

I feel like some of the line value is coming from the win over FSU, but aside from that performance this has been a very unimpressive State team.  They have won 4 games, but only covered this number against the FCS citadel and FBS newbies South Alabama.  Maryland, on the other hand, has only not covered this number once, and that was in a 10 point loss at West Virginia where the Terps were getting 4 touchdowns.  Tom O’Brien is 0-13 SU in Atlantic divisional road games as the HC of NC State.   In a homecoming game for a Maryland team that has won 5 of 6 in this series in College Park (and NC State in a bit of a sandwich spot with UNC on deck) I’ll take more than a FG here in a game where points should be at a premium.

*** Virginia Tech – Clemson Over 61.5 -110

This one, like most Clemson games, looks like one that favors the offenses.  Tigers run one of them most complete and balanced offenses in the country, with an offense that is in the top 25 nationally in BOTH rushing and passing attempts a game.  Clemson ground game is their key, once they get Ellington going it sets up everything else that they want to do.  Clemson in a lot of ways reminds me of UNC’s offense re: play style and make-up, and I expect they will be able to have similar success moving the football here.  

Bud Foster has hinted this week that the VT defense is going to continue to isolate their secondary, so the improved Taj Boyd (68.2%, 14/5) should have some nice opportunities on the edges with Hopkins and Watkins to take advantage of 1v1 coverage.  One of the factors that I like to look for in playing overs is big play potential, and this V Tech defense ranks 87th nationally (96 plays allowed of 10+ yards) in giving up big plays going against the explosive Clemson offense that ranks 24th.

Don’t look now, but Virginia Tech and Logan Thomas have found a bit of a passing game, with LT throwing for 284 yards and 56% completions over the last 3 games.  Part of that is because they were at least partially playing from behind, but VT is showing some signs of abandoning their traditionally run-first approach in favor of a more balanced attack (49-51% run/pass split in ’12).  Clemson’s defense has really struggled this season, allowing 5.8 ypc against FBS teams and ranking in the bottom 5 nationally in yards per play allowed.  Clemson doesn’t really pressure the backfield very well, so a banged up Hokie line has a good chance at providing decent protection here.  In our big play rankings, Virginia Tech’s offense surprisingly ranks 18th nationally in plays over 20 yards, while  Clemson ranks 120th in 20 yard plays allowed.  Expect VT to be able to hit a few really big plays that lead to quick scores here.

I lean to laying the points with the Tigers in this one, but just can’t lay more than a TD against a savvy VT team in a revenge spot going against that defense.  Both teams have success moving the football and hitting big plays here, with Clemson finding again finding a way through the frontdoor late here.  Clemson 45 – Virginia Tech 31

*** Duke Blue Devils +10.5 -108

This is the point in the season where I question just what North Carolina is playing for, their coming off a couple of big ACC wins against VT and Miami and now find themselves in a spot with back to back games against their biggest rivals, Duke and NC State.  The NC State game next week is absolutely this teams bowl game (UNC losers of 5 straight in that series and have placed HEAVY emphasis on it under new regime) so possible that this is a bit of a look-ahead, even against an ‘arch-rival’ in Duke.  The reality is that UNC has won 21 of 22 in this series and may take their dominance a bit for granted, though they’ve never covered this number in Durham against Cutcliffe.

I think were getting a good match-up for the Duke offense this week, UNC is really good against the run but will be going against a Duke team that just doesn’t run it (43% of plays are runs) and can exploit holes at the second level with the passing game (Heels allowing 61% completions) which should allow their offense to move the football.    I just think that the DD doggie has a lot more to play for here, and is probably more motivated as well.  It would be quite a feat for Duke to reach bowl eligibility this week at home versus the hated UNC, and while I don’t know that they get it done, I do think this one is close all day.  Duke is just to feisty and well-coached to get blown out here.  34-31 Tar Heels

*** Florida St Seminoles -20.5 -113

Another absolute mismatch for a FSU team that should still be pissed off, and they get to go against a back-up quarterback making his first career start to boot (edit:  Stephen Morris practiced Wednesday and is a GTD for Saturday night). Canes just really struggle with these physical teams (KSU and Notre Dame, the 2 closest teams to FSU they’ve played, beat them a combined 93-19) and are going against an FSU team that will just run the ball right down their throats all day. This is a match-up of a FSU team with the 2nd most plays over 10+ yards nationally going against the WORST D IN THE COUNTRY at giving up 10+ yard plays.

I just see Miami getting constantly shredded on defense here against a pretty prolific FSU ground attack which should only continue to get more severe as the game wears on. FSU should absolutely be able to take away Duke & James on the ground here which will put all the pressure on Ryan Williams to make plays against a Seminole front which will be in his face all day. I just think FSU matches up really well, and in this in-state rivalry game on prime time National TV they have an excellent chance to make a statement. If FSU shows up here they should absolutely role a Miami team that is still overvalued. Noles 45, Miami 13

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