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ACC Weekend Primer

By Matthew Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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A look at the upcoming schedule of games for week one in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The 2013 ACC Football season is already off to a less-than-awe-inspiring start.

With the eyes of the college football world squarely fixated on Columbia, South Carolina yesterday evening, the North Carolina Tar Heels couldn’t capitalize on a golden opportunity to earn the conference some much-needed national credibility, falling to South Carolina 27-10. While the final score may not have come as a huge surprise to many, the Tar Heels were thoroughly manhandled at the line of scrimmage and never even really looked competitive against the Gamecocks.

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons were the only other conference team in action yesterday and, although the team got off to a slow start, Jim Grobe’s squad recovered for a 31-7 win over FCS Presbyterian. The defense held the Blue Hose to just 151 yards of total offense and forced six turnovers. The concerning news considering the level of competition, however, is that the Wake Forest offense, which finished last in the conference in scoring last fall, still left a lot to be desired, averaging a mere 5.1 yards per play.

Let’s get geared up for the remainder of conference action this weekend with the ACC Weekend Primer.

Biggest Game: Clemson vs. Georgia – Saturday, 8:00 p.m.

The ACC desperately needs a team to emerge as a legitimate national title contender. On paper, the Tigers appear to be the most likely team willing to rise to the challenge, and they will be tested right away with a tough contest against a top ten Georgia squad.

Clemson lost DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington, but the Tigers are still loaded at the skill positions with Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, Charon Peake and D.J. Howard, among others. Going against a Georgia defense which lost eight starters from last season, Chad Morris’ bunch should have little trouble keeping the scoreboard operator occupied.
The bigger question will be how Clemson’s defense will hold up to the challenge of stopping a Georgia offense which is easily amongst the best in the nation. The Tigers lost three starters in the secondary and will need a huge performance from their new pieces in order to pick up a monumental win to start the campaign.

Prediction: Clemson 34, Georgia 30

Hope and Pray: Virginia Tech vs. Alabama – Saturday, 5:30 p.m. (Atlanta)

This game looked like it would be a much better matchup when it was arranged a couple of years ago. After a disappointing 7-6 season from the Hokies, however, the Crimson Tide are a massive favorite heading into the weekend.

Virginia Tech returns nine starters on defense, although Antone Exum will miss the opener, and should be able to make life somewhat difficult for AJ. McCarron and company.  The best bet for the Hokies will be attacking an Alabama offensive line that is replacing three starters from last year. Maintaining some sort of a pass rush will be absolutely critical.

Alabama’s defense looks to have a significant advantage here. Looking at the depth chart, it’s hard to identify a weakness for the Crimson Tide. Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas struggled with turnovers in 2012. Alabama, namely linebacker C.J. Mosley, is poised to put Thomas is some very difficult situations.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Virginia Tech 13

Welcome to the Show: Florida State at Pittsburgh – Monday, 8:00 p.m.

This will be the ACC debut for the Panthers and a high-profile one at that. Pittsburgh, on national television, will welcome the defending league champion Seminoles to Heinz Field. If they are to pull the upset, the Panthers will need an aggressive performance from their talented defensive unit. Pittsburgh defeated 2011 ACC champion Virginia Tech last year.

All eyes will be on Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston. Though he has never taken a college snap, expectations are overwhelming for the former five-star prep recruit. Winston looked great in the FSU spring game. Expect the Seminoles to turn to tailbacks Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, Jr. quite often.

Prediction: Florida State 27, Pittsburgh 17

Game of Intrigue: Penn State vs Syracuse – Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (East Rutherford)

It’s hard to know what to expect out of the Orange in their first season in the ACC. This pairing in New York’s College Classic will be a good litmus test. Scott Shafer steps in as the head coach for Syracuse and is looking to implement a physical tone after serving as the defensive coordinator since 2009. Expect a heavy dose of junior running back Jerome Smith, who is 226 pounds.
Bill O’Brien has done a very admirable job in a difficult situation with the Nittany Lions. The ramifications of NCAA sanctions may be more impactful this season than last, though Penn State has enough talent to have a successful fall.

Prediction: Penn State 24, Syracuse 23

Game of Intrigue: Virginia vs BYU

Some have hinted that this is a make-or-break year for Mike London. His Cavaliers had a stellar 2011 before regressing some a year ago. He will need quarterback David Watford to bring some playmaking ability to the offensive side of the football. The always-tough BYU defense will pose an extremely difficult challenge.

Prediction: BYU 27, Virginia 20

North Carolina State vs Louisiana Tech – Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

The beginning of the Dave Doeren era for the Wolfpack.

Prediction: N.C. State 33, Louisiana Tech 24

Maryland vs Florida International – Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

A can’t lose game for Randy Edsall.

Prediction: Maryland 30, Florida International  20

Georgia Tech vs Elon – Saturday, noon

Look for big offensive production from the Yellow Jackets.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 58, Elon – 6

Boston College vs Villanova – Saturday, noon

A potential tricky FCS opener for Steve Addazio.

Prediction: Boston College 37, Villanova 23

Duke vs North Carolina Central – Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

The Eagles just fired their head football coach.

Prediction: Duke 48, N.C. Central 3

Matthew Osborne - With an extensive background in both writing and high school recruiting, Matt serves as the Editor and Director of Recruiting for Southern Pigskin. Once serving as the South Region Senior Scout for a national scouting service, Matt is very familiar with the top football prospects in the south. If it is a weekend in the fall, you can rest assured that Matt is on the road watching some of the top high school and college games in the region. To keep up with all of the latest recruiting news in the south, be sure to follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborneSP. You can email him at matt@southernpigskin.com.