The Pittsburgh Panthers have taken care of business to become the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division champions. Who will the Panthers play in their first ACC Championship Game?
That’s a good question. Wake Forest, North Carolina State and six-time defending ACC champion Clemson each have paths to winning the ACC Atlantic Division title.
How that shakes out will be the top story worth watching in Week 13.
Those who bet online might be interested to know that the road team is favored in all but one game this week involving at least one ACC team.
North Carolina Tar Heels at North Carolina State Wolfpack
Odds: North Carolina State -6 (63½)
North Carolina State still can reach the ACC Championship Game with a win and a loss by Wake Forest to Boston College. With the Wolfpack playing on Friday, they can apply some extra pressure on Wake Forest.
Quarterback Sam Howell missed last week’s game for the North Carolina Tar Heels after playing in 35 consecutive games. The Tar Heels (6-5, 3-4 ACC) relied on a dominant running attack, rushing for more than 300 yards for the third time.
Howell will be needed against a North Carolina State (8-3, 5-2) team that in ACC play allows a conference-low 323 yards per game. Those numbers are all the more impressive considering that the Wolfpack are in the middle of the pack in the ACC in sacks and tackles for loss. North Carolina State does lead the ACC with 14 interceptions.
In a conference featuring some of the most prolific passers at the FBS level, North Carolina State has very quietly become one of two ACC teams to complete more than 65 percent of its passes while posting a passing rating over 150.
The Wolfpack have seven touchdown passes and four interceptions in the three losses compared to 24 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in the seven wins.
The Wolfpack have won the last five games in the series decided by seven points or less.
Pittsburgh Panthers at Syracuse Orange
Odds: Pittsburgh -13½ (58½)
The Pittsburgh Panthers won the ACC’s Coastal Division title and a spot in the conference championship game for the first time. Now the Panthers (9-2, 6-1) are eyeing a 10-win season, which is pretty impressive stuff for a team that not long ago would often head into the final regular-season game needing a win just to become bowl eligible. It’s been quite the ride for the team expected to finish third in the ACC Coastal Division.
The performance of Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett has been well documented as he has been touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate for much of the season. The Pittsburgh defense either led or was tied for the ACC lead in sacks in each of the last two seasons and once again the Panthers have the most sacks in the conference. They also lead in tackles for loss again. Habakkuk Baldonado and Calijah Kancey each have 11 tackles for loss and they have combined for 14.5 sacks
Syracuse running back Sean Tucker already has a program-record 1,467 rushing yards. He is third nationally in yards from scrimmage and his six runs of 40 yards or longer is the best among FBS players. He’ll need to come up big as Syracuse (5-6, 2-5) needs a win to become bowl eligible.
Pittsburgh has won seven of the last eight games in the series but is only 4-3-1 against the spread over that span.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Boston College Eagles
Odds: Wake Forest -4½ (63½)
When the schedule came out, this was not one of the games being circled on the calendar, but it is a rather huge contest now.
With the Wake Forest Demon Deacons’ loss at Clemson a week ago, they are in a position of needing to beat the Boston College Eagles to win the ACC Atlantic Division title.
Wake Forest is 6-0 when listed as the favorite according to the scores and odds.
An issue for Wake Forest (9-2, 6-1 ACC) is that quarterback Sam Hartman threw three interceptions in his first eight games but has six in the last three games.
Boston College (6-5, 2-5) only has three interceptions in seven ACC games and only Virginia has fewer sacks in ACC play than the 12 the Eagles have registered. Boston College does have the best passing defense in the ACC, allowing only 167.8 yards per game
A.T. Perry is already over the 1,000 yards receiving and Jaquarii Roberson needs 47 yards to join him.
A troubling statistic for Wake Forest fans is that the Demon Deacons have allowed more than 43 points per game in road contests compared to just over 20 when they play at home.
Nine of the last 10 games in the series have gone under the total.
Miami Hurricanes at Duke Blue Devils
Odds: Miami -21½ (68½)
Under different circumstances, this could have been a game where Miami Hurricanes quarterback D’Eriq King solidified his place as a Heisman Trophy candidate. However, King played in just three games during an injury-shortened season.
Redshirt freshman Tyler Van Dyke has stepped in and is second in the ACC in passing efficiency. Van Dyke has dealt with some accuracy issues in the last couple games. The good news for Van Dyke is that he is facing one of the worst passing defenses in the country. Among teams from Power-5 conferences, only Michigan State allows more passing yards per game than the 304.6 allowed by Duke.
Miami (6-5, 4-3) is only 2-4 against the college football spread in its last six games as a double-digit favorite, although one of the games the Hurricanes covered was against Duke (3-8, 0-7) last year.
One of the few bright spots for Duke, the only ACC team not to register a conference win, has been running back Mataeo Durant, who is second in the conference with 1,176 rushing yards.
Kentucky Wildcats at Louisville Cardinals
Odds: Louisville -3 (57)
What can Malik Cunningham do for an encore?
The Louisville quarterback passed for more than 300 yards and five touchdowns and also ran for 224 yards and two more scores in last week’s win over Duke. Cunningham will try to do something he has yet to accomplish: beat Kentucky (8-3)
Louisville (6-5) lost 56-10 in 2018 and 45-13 in 2019. Cunningham wasn’t much of a factor throwing the ball in either game. He needs 67 rushing yards to go over the 1,000-yard mark. He is also facing a Kentucky defense that is tied for last in the SEC, allowing a 66.7 completion percentage.
Five of the last six games in the series have gone over the total.
Virginia Tech Hokies at Virginia Cavaliers
Odds: Virginia -7 (62½)
As if the Virginia Cavaliers didn’t have enough incentive when facing the rival Virginia Tech Hokies, they should have an extra bounce in their step, knowing that a win would keep Virginia Tech from becoming bowl eligible.
Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong returned after missing the Notre Dame game due to injury. He threw for 487 yards against ACC Coastal Division champion Pittsburgh.
Only quarterbacks from Power-5 Conferences to average at least 400 passing yards per game in the last 10 seasons are Washington State’s Anthony Gordon in 2019, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes in 2016 and Connor Halliday of Washington State in 2014. Armstrong is currently at 404 yards per game for Virginia (6-5, 4-3). Not bad from an Ohio native who has made the most of his decision to head out of Big Ten country to play his college football.
CHARLOTTESVILLE – Growing up in Ohio, the Ohio State-Michigan game defined what a college football rivalry is to Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong. https://t.co/VTZpxTZ4dX
— Times-Dispatch (@RTDNEWS) November 22, 2021
Virginia Tech (5-6, 3-4), which recently fired head coach Justin Fuente, has given up 30½ points per game in its six losses and 13.6 points in the five wins. It is a concern that the Hokies gave up a season-high 357 passing yards last week with a matchup against the pass-happy Cavaliers coming up.
Virginia Tech has won 16 of the last 17 games in the series and has covered against the spread 12 times during that stretch,
Georgia Bulldogs at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Odds: Georgia -35 (54½)
What a way for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-8) to end the season with the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (11-0) on the schedule.
Since their last win over the Bulldogs in 2016, Georgia Tech is 0-3 and has been outscored 135-35 by Georgia.
Georgia Tech has lost seven of its last eight games when listed in the college football odds as a double-digit underdog against Georgia.
The Yellow Jackets have allowed more than 50 points in both of their games against ranked opponents this season.
Florida State Seminoles at Florida Gators
Odds: Florida -3 (59)
Considering the proud history of the Florida Seminoles and Florida Gators, it is hard to fathom that the loser of this game won’t be bowl eligible.
It has been the tale of two seasons for the Seminoles (5-6), who lost three one-score games during an 0-4 start but come into the game having defeated Miami and Boston College by identical three-point margins.
FSU’s Jermaine Johnson is the ACC’s leader with 10.5 sacks. He is the first Seminole with double digits in sacks since Brian Burns had 10 in 2018.
It is uncertain how the 5-6 Florida team will look in the first game since the firing of head coach Dan Mullen.
Florida has won the last five meetings when favored.
Clemson Tigers at South Carolina Gamecocks
Odds: Clemson -11½ (43)
It would be easy to excuse the Clemson Tigers if they are just a little concerned with what happens in the game in Chestnut Hill, Mass. If Boston College can beat Wake Forest, Clemson would finish tied for first in the ACC Atlantic Division.
Clemson (8-3, 5-2) would also need Syracuse to defeat North Carolina State to return to the ACC Championship Came for the seventh year in a row.
The Tigers lead the ACC in total defense, allowing only 317.7 yards per game, but offense has been a bigger issue. South Carolina (6-5) has given up at least 30 points in four of its five losses.
The Tigers have won the last six games against South Carolina.