College football picks: Panel high on Hokies, down on Wahoos

November 2, 2017 GMT

Our standings won’t be changing any this week. If you’re a lover of variety and dissention, we’ve failed you. Despite two massive games – one in each division of the ACC – we’ve all predicted the same outcomes for this week’s slate of key ACC games.

Will Clemson remain the class of the ACC’s Atlantic Division by besting upstart North Carolina State? Will Virginia Tech seize control of the Coastal by winning at rejuvenated Miami? Will Virginia’s slide continue at home against Georgia Tech?

We say yes to all three.

Here are this week’s picks…

Georgia Tech at Virginia, 3 p.m., Scott Stadium, Charlottesville

John Shifflett, Charlottesville Daily Progress (21-6*): Some of the shine has come off of the Cavaliers the past few weeks after back-to-back lopsided loss to Boston College and Pittsburgh. Virginia’s problems begin under center, where Kurt Benkert has struggled recently. Part of the issue is pass protection. Benkert has been sacked three times in each of the past two games and been pressured on numerous other occasions. With starting left tackle Jack English out with an injury this week, it could be another difficult day for Benkert and the UVa offense on Saturday.


PICK: Georgia Tech 35, Virginia 21

*Includes Andrew Ramspacher’s 9-3 record

Mike Barber, Richmond Times-Dispatch (20-7): U.Va. coach Bronco Mendenhall said defending option teams – like Georgia Tech – is his “passion.” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson sniped back that “playing 3-4” defense – the scheme Mendenhall runs – is his passion. Passion and even preparation only go so far. Johnson has better pieces to run his plans than Mendenhall does. Virginia’s magical season is petering out.

PICK: Georgia Tech 27, Virginia 17

Andy Bitter, Roanoke Times (20-7): Bronco Mendenhall’s BYU teams were pretty good at stopping Georgia Tech’s option, but he’s not at BYU anymore. The Yellow Jackets ran for 6.4 yards per carry in last year’s win at U.Va. and I figure they’ll have similar success at home this year. Not to mention, Cavs QB Kurt Benkert’s been battling a shoulder issue. UVa’s bowl hopes get a little bit slimmer after this one.

PICK: Georgia Tech 30, Virginia 20

No. 13 Virginia Tech at No. 9 Miami, 8 p.m., Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Fla.

SHIFFLETT: More than likely, the winner of this game will be the ACC Coastal Division champion. Miami is off to a 7-0 start but has had some nailbiters along the way. The Hurricanes have won their last four games by a combined total of 18 points. The Hokies, meanwhile, bring college football’s No. 2-ranked scoring defense and a three-game winning streak to South Florida. Virginia Tech hands Miami its first loss of the season and takes command in the Coastal.

PICK: Virginia Tech 38, Miami 34.


BARBER: Miami hasn’t played the toughest schedule to date, but the Hurricanes have been explosive on both offense and defense. Capable of big plays and great quarterback production offensively, and a turnover and sack machine defensively, Miami is the real deal. Thing is, Virginia Tech has been just as productive offensively and has one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. This should be a classic Big East throwback game, but it’s one I think Tech wins to grab control of the Coastal Division.

PICK: Virginia Tech 21, Miami 20

BITTER: Vegas thinks the Hokies are a better team, installing them as 3-point favorites. I tend to agree. Miami’s been just getting by lately against less-than-great competition. Virginia Tech hasn’t played anyone of significant lately, but at least the Hokies are winning by a lot. Miami QB Malik Rosier’s got a slightly dinged up shoulder, and that’s not a good way to go into a game against a Bud Foster-coached defense that’s second nationally allowing 11.5 points per game.

PICK: Virginia Tech 27, Miami 19

No. 4 Clemson at No. 20 NC State, 3:30 p.m., Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C.

SHIFFLETT: Like the Virginia Tech-Miami game in the Coastal, this game is the de facto championship game in the ACC Atlantic Division. Clemson bounced back from its surprising loss at Syracuse with a win over Georgia Tech last Saturday. N.C. State saw its six game winning streak end in South Bend last week, but has still played good football for most of the season. The Tigers needed overtime to take down the Wolfpack last season in Death Valley. N.C. State keeps it competitive again, but Clemson gets out of Raleigh with a victory and the inside track to Charlotte for the ACC Championship Game.

PICK: Clemson 31, N.C. State 24

BARBER: When the dust settles, North Carolina State will have proved it’s vastly improved over a year ago. And Clemson will have shown its still head-and-shoulders above, the class of the ACC. Too much Tigers offense, too much Tiger defense. Kelly Bryant and company should take control early and make a statement in this one.

PICK: Clemson 34, N.C. State 20

BITTER: The shine came off this matchup a little bit last week when N.C. State got hammered by Notre Dame. It makes me wonder if the Wolfpack are quite ready to run with the big boys. Then again, N.C. State had Clemson beaten last year if not for a short field goal miss at the end of regulation. A lot of this pick depends on Kelly Bryant’s health. He looked fine against Georgia Tech last week. I like Clemson’s defense a little bit more than N.C. State’s, even on the road.

PICK: Clemson 24, N.C. State 20