This is a critical weekend for an ACC conference that is in perpetual need of national respect. By the end of Saturday night, I expect a mixed bag of results from the conference teams in premier matchups. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the matchups:
(Don’t miss my Q&A with defensive lineman A.J. Francis, which I expect to post later today. Francis is the only player who, when asked a benign question about the WVU-Maryland rivalry, finds a tangent and winds up talking about how his 100-year-old great-grandfather “Shaky” stands in line for two hours at the electric company to protest a $2 hike in the cost of his bill.)
West Virginia at Maryland: This has the potential to be Maryland’s most exciting game of the season. It’s a matchup of two up-tempo, dynamic offenses and two bitter rivals. WVU has won five straight in the series. This may be going out on a limb here, but I think the quality of the game will overshadow the all-black uniform story line. Just a hunch. I am saving my prediction for tomorrow morning.
Auburn at Clemson: Picking against Auburn was a popular weekend activity last Saturday, but folks got burned when the Tigers beat then-No. 16 Mississippi State. As for Clemson, every season I get e-mails from Tigers fans saying Dabo Swinney’s team will prove me wrong. And every season they look as erratic as ever. They’ve looked underwhelming against weak competition. Some think they’ll be at their best against the defending national champs. Not me.
Kansas at Georgia Tech: If there is an under-the-radar ACC team at this juncture, consider Georgia Tech. Two impressive wins over inferior opponents have given the Yellow Jackets the chance to show off their passing game some. As Coach Paul Johnson says, the biggest misnomer is that his team is not a big-play team. They’ll display their big-play potential Saturday.
Ohio State at Miami: The Hurricanes get several of their players back from suspension, including quarterback Jacory Harris. The Buckeyes looked vulnerable last week against Toledo. If Harris can avoid his trademark throw — the interception — the ’Canes should win. Prediction: Al Golden gets his first win at Miami.
Oklahoma at Florida State: The Seminoles have been waiting for this one since getting thrashed in Norman, Okla., last season. The stakes couldn’t be higher: this matchup will determine whether the ACC has a legitimate national title contender for the first time in a number of years. I want FSU to win because it would enhance the significance of its game with Maryland later in the season. But I think the Sooners will survive and advance, barely.
Texas at UCLA: If the Longhorns don’t get steady quarterback play, the Longhorn Network will . . . just kidding with this matchup. Well, it may be just a year or two premature the way things are going. Does Texas fit better in the Atlantic or Coastal Division?