The ACC has been thought of as one of the weakest BCS conferences in the nation the last several years. They haven’t done much to prove otherwise. They have plenty of opportunity to take strides in the right direction in the first three weeks of the season. Here is a list of key matchups that could swing the pendulum towards the ACC’s side when conference strength is discussed.
UNC vs LSU (Georgia Dome)
The SEC has easily handled the ACC in the first two Chik-fil-A kickoffs, and LSU will be the favorite in this game. UNC is returning a very good defense that is extremely strong in the front seven. If UNC could win this game it could jump start their season and earn the conference some respect.
Early Prediction: LSU 21 UNC 17
Virginia Tech vs Boise State (Fed Ex Field)
Boise State is going to be a top-five team entering the season, and Virginia Tech will be in the top 15. Much like their game against Oregon last season, if Boise wins this one they will have a very easy schedule the rest of the way. This game is really a lose-lose for the conference because if Virginia Tech wins, Boise State will just be considered weak, and if Boise wins, then the conference will be ‘down’ once again.
Early Prediction: VT 27 Boise 21
Georgia Tech at Kansas
Both of these teams have to replace heavy contributors from last years team. It will be interesting to see who steps up and moves the ball for these two clubs. Don’t be surprised to see multiple turnovers and an overall sloppy game. Kansas replacing their long time quarterback, Todd Reesing, will be tough and the difference in the game. Tech should win the conference some credibility with this game.
Early Prediction: GT 31 Kansas 21
Miami at Ohio State
I am not a big fan of the athletic programs at the "U," but damn, they’ve got balls. This game will be an interesting matchup of quarterbacks entering their junior years with tons of question marks. Both Terrelle Pryor and Jacory Harris have shown that they can do incredible things, but they also have shown they can do some incredibly stupid things. Expect to see some of both in this game. Whichever quarterback makes the most plays will lead his team to victory, and my money is on Pryor. A Hurricane win, though, would be huge for the conference’s reputation.
Early Prediction: Ohio State 24 Miami 17
Florida State at Oklahoma
Jimbo Fisher will be trying to start off his tenure as head coach with a bang in this game. Oklahoma was decimated by injuries last season and was still respectable. Both teams are full of talent, but most of it is unproven at this point. That being said, this game will come down to coaching. Stoops is proven, and Fisher isn’t at this point, so logic tells me to lean towards the Sooners. I wouldn’t be shocked at all, though, if the Seminoles pulled out the victory.
Early Prediction: Oklahoma 26 FSU 20
Virginia at USC
This will be Lane Kiffin’s first time to really make a statement, and he will try to run up the score as high as he can get it. Virginia also is warming up a new coach in Mike London, and he’ll be using this game to try and start his tenure with a landmark win. USC clearly is the more talented team and has the more talented coaching staff, but I think UVA will keep things close…for a half. USC’s advantages will show in the second half, and it will probably become a rout. Still, London and the Cavaliers have a chance to make a nationwide statement that they are on the right track to success. I’d like to see it happen but realistically just can’t picture it.
Early Prediction: USC 41 UVA 20
Virginia Tech vs East Carolina
East Carolina has been a lurking mid major for the last few years. They have played the "David" role against several Goliaths, including Virginia Tech two seasons ago. The difference between then and now is Skip Holtz. Hotlz was an extremely good coach, not just riding the coat tails of his father (i.e. Kiffin, Lane). Holtz leaving is going to set them back a little, and the Hokies should be able to take advantage.
Early Prediction: VT 31 ECU 16
Duke vs Alabama
This game would be huge for David Cutcliffe and the Duke program. If they could somehow pull out this upset victory, they would shock the country. Don’t get too excited though. Bama is superior in every way imaginable and shouldn’t struggle against the Dukies.
Early Prediction: Bama 41 Duke 17
Clemson at Auburn
Clemson is coming off a division championship, and many supporters love Dabo Swinney. Auburn is coming off a New Year’s Day bowl victory and a top-five recruiting class. Their supporters love Gene Chizik. This game will be a huge launching pad for either of these two teams’ seasons. Clemson lost a ton of talent on offense, but Kyle Parker really developed over the course of the season. He’ll have to be on top of his game for him to lead Dabo’s Tigers to victory. The only thing I can guarantee about this game is that there will be happy Tigers, and there will be sad Tigers.
Early Prediction: Auburn 23 Clemson 21
Florida State vs BYU
FSU will either be coming off an emotional high after beating the Sooners in Norman or trying to recover from a loss. Either way, the Noles should be able to handle the Cougars. Max Hall’s graduation will be a huge loss both on the field and off for BYU, and this early in the season, it will be to hard to replace. The Cougars will be looking for revenge in this game for the beat down they suffered last year by the Noles in Provo, but I don’t see payback coming this year.
Early Prediction: FSU 31 BYU 20
Wake Forest at Stanford
This game last year might have been the elite win for the conference. That game was on the East Coast, and with Riley Skinner. Jim Grobe and the Demon Deacons are going to have to travel cross country with an inexperienced quarterback. Stanford did lose star running back Toby Gerhart, but they have Luck (quarterback Andrew Luck) on their side.
Early Prediction: Stanford 27 Wake Forest 20