Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
Welcome to the Week 3 of the 2020 college football season, where volatility will be in full force and predictions will surely fall short. Do we condone gambling? No. That being said, it’s no fun to stay away from the game. Here are three picks for conference games this weekend in the ACC (lines are courtesy of Bovada).
On the season, I am now 2-4 after last week. If another week goes poorly, feel free to fade me on sight – I won’t blame you.
No. 24 Louisville +3.0 vs. No. 21 Pittsburgh
Louisville is coming off a stinker performance last week against a talented Miami squad who took advantage of the Cardinals' lack of discipline on defense. Pittsburgh’s offense may be exactly what they need this week. Louisville’s defense is not too much worse than Syracuse’s, who held the Panthers to just 21 points last week, including just seven in the second half. While there were some missed field goals and unlucky turnovers, Pittsburgh’s offense never truly seemed in rhythm.
Louisville’s offense, despite putting up 34 points on a talented Miami defense, allowed too much pressure to be put on Micale Cunningham who misfired on several throws where there should have been completions. Pittsburgh’s defense is good enough to apply that same amount of pressure, which is probably why oddsmakers would not favor Louisville on a neutral field. S
till, Pittsburgh’s defense lacks the overall speed and athleticism to keep up with Cunningham and his playmakers on the outside. Pittsburgh will allow their corners to play man coverage on the outside which will leave opportunities to hit the deep ball. They may try to play more 2-hi shells on defense to force Cunningham to check it down, but that also allows running back Javian Hawkins to face lighter boxes.
To summarize, I can’t trust Pittsburgh’s offense to keep up with Louisville’s, even if it is a lower scoring matchup than last week. Louisville should win this one outright.
Virginia -5.5 vs. Duke
After an impressive start against the Fighting Irish two weeks ago, Duke has looked absolutely lost on both sides of the ball. Against a BC side that was playing their first game under a new head coach, David Cutcliffe looked like the novice. Tallying just six points in the entire game, the offense was off-schedule all day averaging just 4.9 yards per play. Quarterback Chase Brice looked inaccurate, throwing two interceptions putting his defense in bad situations.
It may be a similar type day for the Blue Devils due to the similarities in how the Virginia and BC defenses are constructed, particularly their strengths at linebacker. Charles Snowden and Noah Taylor excel when attacking the line of scrimmage and disrupting offenses, and it appears Duke’s offense is relatively easy to disrupt as they lack the talent and continuity up front to control the tempo of a game when possessing the ball.
Virginia’s biggest question mark heading into their opening game is their replacement for Bryce Perkins, Brennan Armstrong. He played some garbage time snaps last year and looked okay, but the hope for the Cavaliers is that he took the next step in his development to improve as a passer. Luckily for him, Duke’s defense isn’t exactly stellar enough to offer a tough test in his first game as a starter. The Hoos should be able to rely on their run game and defense to carry them to a convincing victory.
No. 20 Virginia Tech -6.5 vs NC State
The Hokies’ season opener comes against a rested NC State side that won a 45-42 shootout against Wake Forest two weeks ago. That score line may come as a surprise, considering Wake Forest dealt with the loss of their quarterback and most dangerous offensive weapon before the season and still hung 42 on the Wolfpack’s defense.
That should be enough for Virginia Tech to be salivating at the thought of facing NC State, particularly for Hendon Hooker and wideout Tre Turner. The Wolfpack’s secondary should show some improvement since last year where offenses enjoyed torching them through the air, but by no means should they be a lockdown unit.
The Hokies’ defense should have success containing NC State’s offense. The Wolfpack essentially solely rely on their run game to move the ball down the field, gaining 270 yards against the Deacons. Tech’s defense is much more stout, particularly in the trenches and at linebacker which should mitigate NC State’s run game.
But we have seen in the past where the Hokies’ smaller players between the tackles, while they get penetration, allows too many runners to get to the second level of the defense where they struggle to bring down bigger backs. It will be an interesting first test for Justin Hamilton to scheme up favorable box advantages against NC State’s offense.
Overall, I like the Hokies to win by a touchdown or more in this game. The quarterback matchup certainly favors Tech, as do the perimeter matchups with the Hokies’ receivers being a skill level notch above NC State’s. The Hokies’ defense will be tested, but they should force enough mistakes from a young NC State quarterback, whether that will be Devin Leary or Bailey Hockman.