ACC-SEC Grudge Week Preview
Posted on: November 23, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 12:47 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen and Chip Patterson
There's no formal conference-vs.-conference challenge in college football, but this week is as close as we're going to come: four contests matching up SEC and ACC opponents, all of them competitive matchups on paper. Here, our resident ACC and SEC bloggers break down why each team can (or should) expect to win and offer their predictions.
No. 13 Georgia at No. 23 Georgia Tech, 12 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN
THE CASE FOR GEORGIA: Regardless of motivation or prep time (neither of which favors the Bulldogs, admittedly), the antidote to Georgia Tech's triple-option is the same as it's always been: a powerful defensive line and a running game that keeps the Tech offense off the field. In immovable nose tackles John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers and whirling-dervish 3-4 outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the Bulldogs can put a check mark by the former, and the combination of Crowell and a rapidly improving offensive line should be able to provide the latter. If the Dawgs are at all focused, they've got the better, more talented team. But are they at all focused?
THE CASE FOR GEORGIA TECH: While the in-state athletes have made a point to do their barking in the media, I'm not entirely sure the Bulldogs will have their total focus on Georgia Tech. With the SEC Championship Game a week away, some have suggested that Mark Richt rest banged up players like star running back Isaiah Crowell to keep them fresh for the SEC West representative in Atlanta. Georgia Tech is out of the ACC Championship Game hunt, and now has refocused on a goal of achieving a 10-win season. With the game in Atlanta, it just seems like the Yellow Jackets have more to play for and less to lose.
Jerry's Pick: Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 27
Chip's Pick: Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 24
Vanderbilt at Wake Forest, 3:30 p.m. ET. TV: ESPNU
THE CASE FOR VANDERBILT: A 5-6 record is a fine, fine start for James Franklin, but even more impressive is that the 'Dores have arguably been even better than that record: their last four SEC losses have come by a total of 19 points. Jordan Rodgers has been a revelation since taking over as starting quarterback, and potential All-SEC corner Casey Hayward leads a top-notch secondary that will pose major matchup problems for the Deacon passing attack. That Vandy's been better at home than on the road (and that the same goes for Wake) could be troubling, but this Commodore team is easily good enough to be a bowl team, and they should be plenty fired up to prove it.
THE CASE FOR WAKE FOREST: Wake Forest can expect to get Vanderbilt's best shot, particularly with bowl eligibility on the line for James Franklin's squad. Perhaps the best matchup for Wake Forest is neutralizing one of the Commodores' strengths. Vanderbilt has an opportunistic defense that has forced 17 interceptions on the season (T-1 in the SEC), but Tanner Price has one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC at taking care of the ball. Price has thrown for 19 touchdowns and just six interceptions, and has nearly doubled his 2010 output with 2,646 yards on the year. Still, especially after last week's debacle against Tennessee you have think Vanderbilt will be an inspired team on Saturday.
Jerry's Pick: Vanderbilt 30, Wake Forest 27
Chip's Pick: Vanderbilt 34, Wake Forest 31
Florida State at Florida, 7:00 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN2
THE CASE FOR FLORIDA: The (surprisingly difficult) win over Furman got the Gators into a bowl, but the only way to genuinely salvage Will Muschamp's rocky debut season is to beat the 'Noles, and Muschamp's team knows it. Playing hated FSU at home should wake up the dormant Florida Field crowd, and it's not like the Gators don't have the talent to win this game: a healthy John Brantley at quarterback, the Chris Rainey/Jeff Demps tag team at tailback, Jelani Jenkins at linebacker. The Gators' top-20 defense should be plenty enough of a match for an FSU offense that's scored a total of 36 points the last two weeks. If the 'Noles can lose to Virginia at home, they're certainly vulnerable enough to lose to the motivated Gators in Gainesville.
THE CASE FOR FLORIDA STATE: Unlike the Gators, the Seminoles have shown the potential of a Top 10-caliber team when they are healthy and have all the pieces working together. Unfortunately for Florida State, they are like Florida with their inconsistent performances throughout the season. When EJ Manuel has time to throw and is able to get in rhythm, the Seminoles becomes dangerous and potent very quickly. The Gators' defense presents arguably their toughest challenge on the schedule, but at least Florida State has played at an elite level at times this year.
Jerry's Pick: Florida 24, Florida State 21
Chip's Pick: Florida State 28, Florida 16
No. 17 Clemson at No. 12 South Carolina, 7:45 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN
THE CASE FOR SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks haven't seen many offenses like Clemson's, but the Tigers also haven't seen many defenses like Carolina's. Melvin Ingram has been one of the nation's best defensive ends, Jadeveon Clowney has lived up to the hype and more, and what was one of the FBS's most flammable secondaries in 2010 has turned into one of its stingiest in 2011. The buttoned-down Gamecock offense won't put a lot of points on the board, but they should put up some against the roller-coaster Tiger defense. They could easily be enough opposite that defense.
THE CASE FOR CLEMSON: Sammy. Watkins. When healthy, his presence on the field changes so many aspects of the game. The superstar freshman has been cleared to play after sitting out last week with a shoulder injury, and if he is at full speed Steve Spurrier will have some difficult special teams decisions to make. The Gamecocks' kick coverage has been less than stellar, so OBC will need to figure out whether he'd rather set up the potent Tigers offense with a short field or put the ball in the hands of arguably the most explosive player in the ACC. He returns kicks, punts, and offensive coordinator Chad Morris moves him all around in the offense. The Tigers' offense was missing a spark in the loss to NC State, but he'll be ready to go for this rivalry game.
Jerry's Pick: Clemson 27, South Carolina 21
Chip's Pick: Clemson 45, South Carolina 38
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Tags: Aaron Murray, ACC, Chip Patterson, Chris Rainey, Clemson, Connor Shaw, Dabo Swinney, EJ Manuel, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Isaiah Crowell, James Franklin, Jeff Demps, Jerry Hinnen, Jim Grobe, Jimbo Fisher, John Brantley, Mark Richt, Paul Johnson, Sammy Watkins, South Carolina, Tajh Boyd, Tanner Price, Tevin Washington, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Will Muschamp