College football picks: Panel likes red-hot UVa over struggling UNC
Last week, Miami pulling it out against rival Florida State pushed Charlottesville Daily Progress sports editor John Shifflett into first place. Shifflett is a perfect 6-0 in his picks since taking over for former Virginia beat writer Andrew Ramspacher.
There isn’t much variety in the predictions this week. We all like Virginia to stay hot and beat North Carolina, and we all expect Florida State to get things in gear against Duke. The only separation could come in the big ACC Coastal Division matchup between Miami and Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech has an open date this week, but the Hokies and their fans figure to have their eyes on the game between the ’Canes and Jackets.
Here are this week’s picks…
Virginia at North Carolina, 3:30 p.m., Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, N.C.
John Shifflett, Charlottesville Daily Progress (15-3)*: The Cavaliers head to Chapel Hill hoping to end a seven-game losing streak in the South’s Oldest Rivalry. After limiting to Duke to 255 yards last week, Virginia’s defense faces a UNC offense that has scored a combined 34 points in its past three games, all losses. Meanwhile the Cavaliers have won three straight games for the first time since 2011. Saturday, the Wahoos make it four in a row against the struggling Tar Heels.
PICK: Virginia 24, North Carolina 14
*Includes Andrew Ramspacher’s 9-3 record
Mike Barber, Richmond Times-Dispatch (14-4): Virginia is on a roll, having won three straight games, including its ACC opener over Duke last weekend. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, are floundering, besieged by a brutal combination of roster turnover and early-season injuries. North Carolina’s defense has started to round into form, but its offense very much remains a work in progress. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, have found an identity on both sides of the ball, where they’re excelling on third downs – converting and defending. It’s been a long time since U.Va. beat UNC. That changes this year.
PICK: Virginia 28, North Carolina 20
Andy Bitter, Roanoke Times (14-4): Call me crazy (again), but isn’t U.Va. just the better team in this one? The Cavaliers haven’t been world beaters by any stretch, but they’re at least playing well enough to win. UNC’s a mess, with youth and injuries likely keeping Larry Fedora and Co. at home this postseason. The game’s in Chapel Hill, which is about the only thing UNC has going for it. I think U.Va. wins again.
PICK: Virginia 30, North Carolina 23
Florida State at Duke, Noon, Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C.
Shifflett: Both of these teams enter Saturday’s matchup at 1-2 in the ACC and in need of a win. Florida State is coming off a gut-wrenching loss to rival Miami, while Duke’s offense has sputtered in back-to-back loss to Miami and Virginia. With the Blue Devils currently unable to move the ball effectively through the air and the Seminoles struggling to score points (18.5 ppg), this game has the makings of a low-scoring affair. FSU does just enough to sneak out of Wallace Wade Stadium with a W.
PICK: Florida State 21, Duke 17
Barber: I thought last week was the one that would see the Seminoles right their listing ship, but instead, rival Miami extended FSU’s misery and ended its own slide against its instate rival. Duke after an impressive start, has fallen on its own hard times, losing to Virginia last Saturday to fall to 1-2 in the league. Both teams need an ACC win, but the Seminoles are the more desperate team. Go with desperation.
PICK: Florida State 31, Duke 17
Bitter: Neither team is playing very well, with the Seminoles’ only win coming on a late touchdown against Wake Forest. Duke, surprisingly, can’t throw the ball very well, which is odd, considering Daniel Jones is one of the more promising young QBs in the league. If UVa can present problems for Jones, shouldn’t FSU? Duke’s defense keeps this one close, but I think the ’Noles get right.
PICK: Florida State 24, Duke 17
Georgia Tech at Miami, 3:30 p.m., Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Fla.
Shifflett: With the Yellow Jackets and Hurricanes both sitting at 2-0 in league play, this one could go a long way in determining the Coastal Division champion. After an emotional road win over Florida State last Saturday, Miami could be ripe for a letdown. Plus, the Hurricanes are dealing with the loss of star running back Mark Walton, who is out for the season after suffering an ankle injury. With a bye week, Paul Johnson has had two weeks to fine tune Georgia Tech’s option in preparation for Miami. I am expecting a big day offensively from the Yellow Jackets.
PICK: Georgia Tech 42, Miami 35
Barber: I went against Miami a week ago, against rival FSU, and it cost me first place. So, fine, I’ll believe in the Hurricanes. Year after year we in the media pronounce them back, only to have them ultimately disappoint. And now they will be playing without star tailback Mark Walton. And they’re facing Georgia Tech team that’s playing well and coming off an open date. But hey, it’s all about the U, right?
PICK: Miami 35, Georgia Tech 31
Bitter: Miami’s had an FSU hangover after all those losses over the years. Is it possible there could be a hangover after a win against its arch rival? Georgia Tech’s not a team you want to come out flat against. If the Jackets can get a lead, that’s trouble for anyone they’re playing against. Paul Johnson’s team had a bye last week too. It’s going to be a well-rested group playing a Hurricanes squad coming off an emotional victory, and one that no longer has top RB Mark Walton. I smell an upset.
PICK: Georgia Tech 26, Miami 23