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ACC Rooting Guide: Week Eight

The leaders of the Atlantic and Coastal Divisions are hoping to get one step closer to Charlotte Saturday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 24 Wake Forest at Virginia Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pittsburgh and Wake Forest, the ACC’s two current division leaders, are looking to continue their path towards Charlotte this weekend. The Panthers face their toughest remaining game, against Clemson, and if they win it will be hard for anyone to catch them in the Coastal Division. Meanwhile, Wake Forest takes on Army in an out-of-conference game that will lessen some of the pressure on the Demon Deacons, and shift it to Clemson and NC State, who are chasing them down for the Atlantic Division title.

Saturday, October 23

No.16 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-0, 4-0 ACC) vs Army Black Knights (4-2), 12:00 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Wake Forest is the most surprising undefeated team in the country through the first seven weeks of 2021, and the Demon Deacons are there due to an explosive offense that scores almost 40 points per game. Wake Forest’s defense has struggled over their last two games, allowing 34 points to Louisville and 37 points to Syracuse. The Demon Deacons will have to improve on Saturday afternoon against an Army team that, as always, is exceptional at running the football.

Wake Forest is a conference team, so that should be the team to root for, but its’ always hard to root against a service academy. Either way, this game has little impact on the rest of Miami’s 2021 season.

UMass Minutemen (1-5) vs Florida State Seminoles (2-4, 2-2 ACC), 12:00 p.m., ACC Network

The beginning of 2021 was horrific for FSU, who started the season 0-4, including a loss to FCS program Jacksonville State. Since then, though, the Seminoles have been significantly improved, defeating Syracuse and North Carolina in back-to-back games before entering their bye week. With a win on Saturday FSU could be hoping to reach bowl eligibility; needing three wins from a set of remaining games that includes fellow struggling rivals Miami and Florida.

UMass is the team to root for here. Florida State is a rival, and it would benefit Miami if the Seminoles lost some of the momentum they’ve built before the Hurricanes play them in a game that could determine if Miami makes a bowl.

Syracuse Orange (3-4, 0-3 ACC) vs Virginia Tech Hokies (3-3, 1-1 ACC), 12:30 p.m., ESPN 3

This game features two similar teams. Both Syracuse and Virginia Tech started out the season well, saw their expectations increase, and then went on losing streaks. Additionally, both coaches in this matchup are on the hot seat, with each team needing a win to turn the season around. The key to this game will be how Virginia Tech’s offense, which has scored just 22 points per game this season, attacks a Syracuse’s defense that has been solid throughout 2021.

Root for Syracuse in this game. Virginia Tech currently sits ahead of Miami in the conference standings, and the Hurricanes need the Orange to help them out on Saturday afternoon.

Clemson Tigers (4-2, 3-1 ACC) vs No.23 Pittsburgh Panthers (5-1, 2-0 ACC), 3:30 p.m., ESPN

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 Pitt at Georgia Tech Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If, on September 3, someone had told you that Pittsburgh vs Clemson featured Pitt as the matchup’s only ranked team, would you have believed them? Would you have believed Kenny Pickett was the Heisman contending quarterback, and not D.J. Uiagalelei? Or would you have believed that the Panthers had better odds of winning the ACC than the Tigers? The answer to all those questions is probably no, but its’ the reality before Saturday’s matchup, the biggest of the weekend for the ACC.

Pitt enters the game as the clear favorite in the Coastal Division, and the favorite to win the ACC. The Panthers lone loss came in week three against Western Michigan, a game Pitt would argue they lost due to being physically and emotionally tired after a road win against Tennessee the week prior. Kenny Pickett has emerged as a real contender for the Heisman Trophy, with just one interception through six games. Clemson, on the other hand, has taken a step back in 2021, with an offense that averages just 20 points per game and a series of injuries that have taken their toll.

The Tigers are the team to root for here. Miami plays Pitt next weekend, and the Hurricanes need to win that game, and need the Panthers to lose another conference game, to have any chance of making it to Charlotte.

Boston College Eagles (4-2, 0-2 ACC) vs Louisville Cardinals (3-3, 1-2 ACC), 4:00 p.m., ACC Network

After the first few weeks of the season Boston College seemed to be in great position to win the ACC. The Eagles started the season 4-0, including an out-of-conference win over the Missouri Tigers. However, an injury to starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec has left the Eagles 0-2 in the conference and unlikely to challenge for the title. Louisville, on the other hand, had a nightmare start to the season, getting shutout in the first half of a 43-24 season-opening blowout loss to Ole Miss. Since then, the Cardinals have been marred by inconsistency, winning three games in a row before back-to-back losses by a combined four points.

Both teams will head into Saturday feeling like this is a must win game, and it is in the race for the ACC’s Atlantic Division. The game’s outcome is unlikely to affect Miami, but this is one of the best under-the-radar games on this weekend’s college football schedule.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-3, 2-2 ACC) vs Virginia Cavaliers (5-2, 3-2 ACC), 7:30 p.m., ACC Network

Virginia has emerged from an 0-2 start in the ACC to sit second in the Coastal Division as the calendar nears November. The UVA offense has continued to be prolific, and three straight conference wins have given confidence to a defense that gave up 126 combined points in their first three conference games. The Yellow Jackets continue to improve in their rebuild under Head Coach Geoff Collins, with two of their losses coming by less than one possession. GT has a chance to make a bowl game for the first time since 2018, especially if they can find a way to earn a road upset Saturday.

Root for Georgia Tech in this game, Virginia owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami, so the Hurricanes need them to lose another conference game to remain in contention to win the ACC.

The ACC has been the most unpredictable conference in 2021 and there are several opportunities for that to continue Saturday. Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Boston College all have a chance to get back into contention this weekend in what could be another chaotic weekend for the ACC.