The good news for N.C. State is that while losing to Notre Dame may wipe out whatever hopes it had of College Football Playoff participation, it meant nothing in the ACC race. The same can’t be said of No. 6 Clemson (7-1) on Saturday. Assuming No. 20 N.C. State (6-2) doesn’t collapse down the stretch, this is a de facto Atlantic Division elimination game. It’s almost certainly going to be one of these two teams.
As for Duke (4-5) and North Carolina (1-8), losers of a combined 11 straight, their off weeks have arrived, blessedly, and basketball season is nigh. An old joke, and a tired one, but sadly all too appropriate. In their absence, a pair of bonus picks: Houston 41, East Carolina 21 and Notre Dame 28, Wake Forest 7.
Called all three games straight up last week to move to 22-5 on the season, but missed against the spread on two to fall to 16-10-1.
Last week: “It’s hard to see things turning around at Virginia Tech, so Duke’s bowl hopes will likely hinge on wins at Army and Wake Forest.”
This week: Things did not. Of Duke’s three remaining games, Army is by far the most winnable of the three, but it won’t be easy. The Blue Devils need to find two wins at Army, vs. Georgia Tech and at Wake Forest. Feels like 5-7 is probably their ceiling at this point, given how well the Jackets and Deacons have played this season.
Saturday prediction: Off
Last week: “As for this week, the Tar Heels are just trying not to lose anyone else to injury.”
This week: North Carolina rallied to give undefeated Miami a legitimate scare, but that was all. The performance offered hope the Tar Heels have enough in the tank, mentally and physically, to win one of their remaining two ACC games – at Pittsburgh and N.C. State – but even Western Carolina could prove an unexpected challenge given how many players North Carolina is missing.
Saturday prediction: Off
Last week: “It’s crazy (and realistic) to think the Wolfpack could end up 11-1 and just as crazy (although less realistic) to think it could finish 8-4 or 7-5.”
This week: Well, 11-1 is off the table but the Atlantic Division title is not. A win over Clemson would give the Wolfpack not only the head-to-head edge over the Tigers but a two-game cushion in the standings. And yet Boston College, Wake Forest (and potentially even North Carolina based on the way things went against Miami) won’t be pushovers, either. There’s still a wide diversity of outcomes here; 9-3 seems the most likely option.
Saturday prediction: N.C. State 30, Clemson 27
Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock