There is usually a part of the schedule that seems a little more difficult than the rest -- a key stretch, if you will, that has the potential to make or break a team’s season. It doesn’t always have to come against the most difficult competition. It could just be a stretch of winnable games a team can’t afford a letdown against. This week I’ll start a team-by-team breakdown of each of those season-defining weeks in the ACC, along with a prediction for each. We’ll go in reverse alphabetical order this time.
Key stretch: at Maryland, Boston College, at NC State (Oct. 30-Nov. 13)
Analysis: If Wake Forest is going to make it to a bowl game this year, it needs to win at least two of these games. The Deacs can find four other wins on their schedule (the best chances coming against Presbyterian, Duke, Navy and Vanderbilt). IF -- big if -- Wake can pull off an upset on the road against Florida State on Sept. 25, this stretch would also keep the Deacs in the Atlantic Division race. The good news for Wake is that it has a bye week to rest and prepare.
Prediction: This is a tough one because these are three games against less-than-spectacular teams that could go either way. I’ll give the Deacs one road win -- against the Terps -- because they have the bye week to prepare for it while Maryland will be coming home from a road trip to Chestnut Hill. A home loss to the Eagles is a good possibility if BC is still in the hunt for the division title, and NC State always seems to be at its best late in the season and at home. Best guess is the Deacs win at least one of these games -- maybe two. But not all three.