If all goes well with COVID-19 testing. we should finally see the remaining ACC teams yet to play in the 2020 season in action during what should be a very exciting Week 4 across the conference. After getting our first look at Boston College and NC State, both victorious in their conference and season-openers last week, we should finally get a chance to learn more about Commonwealth Cup rivals Virginia and Virginia Tech on Saturday. As long as those two games, Duke at Virginia and NC State at Virginia Tech, are played as scheduled, then we will enter the month of October with every ACC team on the board with at least one conference game under its belt.
So, fingers crossed, Saturday should be a moment to celebrate the players who have taken great efforts to play this fall as the final ACC teams get off the sideline and onto the field for the first time in 2020.
Let's turn our attention to the action set to take place in this momentous Week 4, with hopes to keep the momentum rolling from a successful Week 3 on the picks side of things.
No. 24 Louisville at No. 21 Pitt (-2.5): Pat Narduzzi can't be happy with the sloppiness Pitt showed in its win against Syracuse. Bad penalties, missed field goals and a couple turnovers kept what would have been a comfortable win well in reach for the Orange into the third quarter. The belief around the program is that performance was uncharacteristic of Pitt's standard, and this week should be all about correcting those issues. Which brings us to Louisville, and my concern that the defense that was exposed by Miami might not be able to correct the structural issues in just one week. This is a bad matchup with Louisville's greatest strength, its offense, being met and possibly limited by Pitt's greatest strength, its defense. The Panthers are elite at all three levels of the defense and get the tiebreaker here with a passing attack that has enough weapons to find the space that Miami was able to exploit last week. Look for freshman wide receiver Jordan Addison to shine and Pitt to improve to 3-0 on the season. Pick: Pitt -2.5
Georgia Tech at Syracuse (+8): Consider me a believer in the Geoff Collins era, but do not expect that belief is going to come with trust to cover more than a touchdown on the road against an ACC opponent. Syracuse won't be able to create the same kind of electricity in the Dome that has been iconic in its most signature wins without fans, but if Dino Babers and the team can generate its own energy for an early kick, there might be an opportunity to avoid an 0-3 start with the Yellow Jackets coming in off an exhausting 49-21 loss to UCF. This is a backs-against-the-wall stretch for Syracuse with Georgia Tech, Duke and Liberty all at home over the next four weeks. All of those games are winnable, but if the Orange continue to struggle in the red zone, they are all games that could be losses, too. Pick: Syracuse +8
Duke at Virginia (-5.5): Major alarm bells are going off after Duke's loss to Boston College because it was as unfamiliar a performance that we've come to expect from David Cutcliffe's teams. Under Cut, Duke has closed talent and athleticism gaps with elite attention to detail. Saturday's home loss to Boston College was the exact opposite of that. There were bad penalties, coverage busts that resulted in explosive plays, poor open-field tackling and red-zone turnovers that kept the Blue Devils from hanging in a game that it absolutely had the talent to win. If Duke corrects those mistakes and brings better energy and focus to a Virginia team that has yet to play a game, it could cover this spread. That'd be a bad bet, though, and the right side is looking at a Duke team that can't score in the red zone, a Virginia offense with a new starting quarterback and the expected standard of a Bronco Mendenhall-coached defense and taking the under. Pick: Duke-Virginia Under 47
Texas State at Boston College (-18): There's a lot of excitement following the first ACC win of the Jeff Hafley era, so much so that he wants to get commemorative game balls made for everyone involved to celebrate what was accomplished in the win at Duke. Now, to be fair, Hafley did acknowledge what it's taken from the players and staff to even make it to the start of the season -- and BC has been reporting very encouraging COVID-19 test results for weeks -- so I get the reasoning behind making it special. But I'm also not ready to turn around for Game 2 and lay 18 points against a battle-tested Texas State team that has gone through two heartbreaking losses, had to use two starting quarterbacks because of COVID-19 protocols and is coming off a win in its Sun Belt opener. As I mentioned earlier, the takeaways from the Eagles' 26-6 win were stronger for Duke than BC, and as long as Texas State doesn't match the Blue Devils' five turnovers, I think they can stay inside this number. Pick: Texas State +18
Florida State at No. 12 Miami (-11): This year's edition of Miami-Florida State is overflowing with narratives. Miami is surging after nearly hanging 50 on Louisville in a win that clearly makes a case for the Canes as one of the best teams in the ACC. The Canes aren't just expected to beat Florida State, but to do so handily after the Seminoles lost to Georgia Tech at home in its 2020 opener. The start of the Mike Norvell era went just as poorly as many of the fourth-quarter collapses from the last two seasons, leaving Florida State fans with a familiar sinking feeling that's going to take more than one coaching change. Oh yeah, and speaking of Norvell? He's not even with the team after testing positive for COVID-19! There's just so much "stuff" going on here that no side feels right, and we're left to fall back on an old trusty principle: rivalry game unders. We're capitalizing on the tension of the moment and guessing that more than a few drives won't go as planned for the offenses, plus some tight butts if the game is close in the second half. Florida State is an under-friendly team with its solid defense and poor offense, so that's just another reason to ride on the total and avoid the inevitable sweat of an 11-point spread. Pick: Miami-FSU Under 56.5
NC State at No. 20 Virginia Tech (-7): Justin Fuente did not bubble over with confidence regarding the current state of his roster at Monday's press conference, noting that he hoped to have roster numbers that would allow the Hokies to play this game. Maybe it's gamesmanship, but in this kind of season, I'm not going to put too much stock in that considering Virginia Tech has already had to postpone games because of player availability following COVID-19 protocols. Ultimately, this is a play for NC State and not against Virginia Tech's numbers, as I think what we saw against Wake Forest was not a mirage and that an effective rushing attack with Bam Knight and Ricky Person will give the Wolfpack a shot against every opponent on the schedule. Pick: NC State +7
Last week: 5-2 | 2020 season: 7-6