Former sports anchor joins N&O college football Week 5 picks for North Carolina schools

Our first guest picker was a dismal 3-4 — good thing Rod Brind’Amour’s an excellent hockey coach — but that wasn’t much worse than the best of the N&O staff, with a multi-way tie at 5-2 for first. Let’s see if an ex-media member can outduel the media this week when former ABC 11 sports anchor Mark Armstrong gets a shot.

Gone from our airwaves but still around to paint our houses, Armstrong once knew what he was talking about, or seemed like it anyway. We’ll find out if that’s still the case.

News & Observer sports staff picks games for Week 5 of the college football season. Former ABC 11 sports anchor Mark Armstrong is this week’s guest picker.
News & Observer sports staff picks games for Week 5 of the college football season. Former ABC 11 sports anchor Mark Armstrong is this week’s guest picker.

N.C. State at Clemson: Life all comes down to a few moments. This is one of them. It may not have been a smooth path to this point for either team, but the winner of this one is going to have an open road ahead. Wake Forest will still have something to say about it. As will Syracuse? Apparently? But the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been Saturday night — the biggest game of the day, under the lights, rub the rock, down the hill, in the rain, full stop.

So: is this really N.C. State’s season of destiny? Is Clemson still the Final Boss to beat? What happens Saturday night — if it’s even played, in the teeth of Hurricane Ian — is going to set the tone for the rest of the ACC season. This is the good stuff. Serve it up.

Armstrong says: “Clemson is darned near impregnable at home, but DJU is not Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers defense looked pedestrian against Sam Hartman. A seasoned Devin Leary guides the top ten Pack to a seismic win.”

N&O consensus: Evenly split befitting the stakes

Virginia Tech at UNC:Struggling offense meets UNC defense” didn’t work out so well for the Tar Heels last week, when the Fighting Irish turned the clock back to 1988 and steamrolled its way through Kenan Stadium. It was a little strange to hear Mack Brown talk about how Notre Dame has more talent and better recruiting, considering that’s been the alleged foundation of his return to UNC.

The UNC defense is clearly both frustrated and considerably less than the sum of its parts. Individually, it seems like there are good players on the defensive line, at linebacker, in the secondary. But collectively, it’s not working — and under two different defensive coordinators. When Brown talks about failures in “development” is that coachspeak for “chemistry?”

Armstrong says: “Just how bad is this UNC defense? We may find out for good this week. The Hokies are hopeless on offense, so if they find a way to 30 points ... yeeeesh. Still — UNC scores enough to win.”

N&O consensus: Despite Virginia Tech being 1-0 at Kenan Stadium in hurricanes, UNC is a unanimous choice

Virginia at Duke: Add one to the (very lengthy) Duke Court Storm Counter, but perhaps the first ever in football. Normally, you could write off Duke football for the fall after a loss to Kansas but that’s a different Kansas team and this may be a different Duke team, even if subsequent events haven’t exactly polished the road win at Northwestern.

Still, Virginia looks a bit rudderless under first-year head coach Tony Elliott, the Blue Devils have done a good job getting people back into Wallace Wade and the Duke offense appears to have a reasonable degree of legitimate explosiveness, all of which should put Mike Elko in a position to open his ACC account with a win.

Armstrong says: “Mike Elko has injected immediate life into the Blue Devils. Tony Elliott has seemingly done the opposite at UVA. Duke moves closer to bowl eligibility.”

N&O consensus: Blue Devils claim a share of the Coastal lead

Wake Forest at Florida State: This is going to be a tough one for the Demon Deacons, bouncing back from a game that by all rights they could, and maybe should, have won at home against Clemson in the best game of the year in the ACC so far. Meanwhile, Florida State is Back (™), for real this time, everyone swears.

The combination of internal deflation, a motivated opponent and a road game may be too much for Wake Forest to handle — or it may be exactly what gets the Deacs back on track and jumpstarts their season. It’s also a chance to expose the Seminoles as fraudulent, just a week or two later than usual.

Armstrong says: “Expecting the over 66 to hit in Tallahassee. Should be a fun one, but FSU squeaks it out to get to 5-0.”

N&O consensus: Florida State is Back (™)

ECU at South Florida: Nothing but good thoughts here for Owen Daffer, who missed an extra point and potential game-winning field goal against N.C. State and then missed a kick to prolong overtime against Navy on Saturday — a year after his walk-off boot to beat the Midshipmen in Annapolis — in a game that East Carolina was expected to win handily. College kickers deserve a lot more sympathy than they get. May the football gods let this one be decided by four points or more, either way.

Armstrong says: “Wherever ECU-USF winds up being played, the Pirates have a get-right game after recent frustrations.”

N&O consensus: Pirates win, probably somewhere other than Tampa

N.C. Central at Campbell: This has the potential to be a fun regional rivalry on a regular basis as the Camels ascend to the Colonial. This year, it’s a good road test for the Eagles, who remain in the FCS top 25 and keep taking care of business. Based on the Sagarin ratings — not an exact science this far down the food chain — the Camels should be a 1-point favorite.

Armstrong says: “Trei Oliver’s Eagles have upped their point total in every successive game so far this year. That won’t happen vs. Campbell, but NCCU keeps rolling to 5-0.”

N&O consensus: Eagles pull the upset(?) on the opposite side of the Triangle

Michigan State at Maryland: Another chance for the ACC to pick up a nonconference win after going 2-5 against FBS opponents last week — sorry, force of habit. Look, even if no one wants to admit it, the ACC misses Maryland in most sports — basketball, men’s and women’s, especially — but not really in football. With a few exceptions in the good Fridge years, the Terps were mostly just kind of ... there, getting in the way. Maryland has a strong chance to move to 4-1 over struggling Sparty, which might have meant something in the ACC but just means a mid-tier bowl future in the Big Ten.

Armstrong says: “That Mel Tucker contract — hoo boy. Taulia Tagovailoa is swept into his big brother’s jet stream and leads the Terps to a convincing win.”

N&O consensus: Fear the Turtle

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