The ACC is the weakest of the power five conferences, which basically means there isn’t many good games to open up the season on the East coast. North Carolina will start their season off against South Carolina on Thursday, with Louisville taking on Auburn and Virginia challenging UCLA on Saturday. Those games are the only interesting ones of the week. I went 54-27 in my ACC picks last season.
Here’s my ACC week 1 picks:
Thursday, September 3
23 North Carolina vs South Carolina 34
The Tar Heels will square off against South Carolina and new starting quarterback Connor Mitch on Thursday. Connor Shaw also made his debut against North Carolina in 2013, with the Gamecocks prevailing 27-10 at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mitch will have the best receiver in the SEC in Pharoh Cooper and will have senior Brandon Wilds in his backfield. The Tar Heels return 17 starters from last year’s team that went 6-7. North Carolina also returns recording setting quarterback Marquise Williams to the helm. The dual-threat QB led the team in rushing in 2014, but the coaches don’t want him to take as many hits this season. Gene Chizik should do a great job of fixing the Tar Heels defense, but at the end of the day I think the Gamecocks are too strong for North Carolina this year.
13 Elon at Wake Forest 30
3 Alcorn State at #16 Georgia Tech 49
35 Duke at Tulane 16
Friday, September 4
10 Rhode Island at Syracuse 38
Saturday, September 5
17 Wofford at #12 Clemson 42
9 Maine at Boston College 41
6 Youngstown State at Pittsburgh 35
20 Virginia at #13 UCLA 24
Virginia has a tough defense which will make this game a very entertaining one for people like me that enjoy low scoring games. True freshman Josh Rosen will make his debut as the starting quarterback for the Bruins, while the Cavaliers return safety Quin Blanding and corner Maurice Canady. The Virginia defense did lose Eli Harold and Max Valles from their front seven and could struggle to stop Paul Perkins and the Bruins rushing attack. I think UCLA offensive line will dominate Virginia inexperienced front seven and pull out a close one at the Rose Bowl.
21 Louisville vs #6 Auburn 31
I have this game as my upset alert of the week and think this game could go either way. Auburn has a high power offense, while Louisville still has a dominate front seven and added TCU transfer Devonte Fields, who could be a first-round pick in the draft if he plays like he did in 2012. The Cardinals do have to replace most of their secondary, but have two very talented and experienced replacements in Josh Harvey-Clemons and corner Shaq Wiggins, who both played at Georgia in 2013. Louisville definitely is athletic enough to keep up with the Tigers, but can they do so for four quarters is the main question. I think the Cardinals can keep the game close early, but the Louisville offense will struggle to move the ball which will keep the defense on the field too much. I think this game will be close in the third quarter, but Auburn pulls away in the fourth for a ten point victory.
6 Bethune-Cookman at Miami (FL) 56
10 Troy at NC State 34
7 Texas State at #10 Florida State 42
Monday, September 7
24 #1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech 27
I probably sound crazy, but I think Ohio State might be the most overrated team in college football. Every year we hype up the defending champions and they rarely pan out, and I think the Buckeyes are no different. Don’t get me wrong I love the work that Urban Meyer has done in Columbus and think that Ohio State is a top notch team, but there’s no way that they repeat this season and it starts with this game. We all remember what happened last year when the Hokies shocked the world, upsetting Ohio State, 35-21. That game was at Ohio Stadium, so just imagine what the outcome could be at Lane Stadium, home of the Hokies. The crowd will be electric and all of Virginia will be shaking at kickoff.
Virginia Tech returns All-American corner Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson, while Ohio State will be without three of their offensive weapons, who are suspended for the opening game. The Buckeyes will also be without receiver Noah Brown, who’s out for the season with a leg injury. Advantage easily goes the Hokies way in the passing game. Virginia Tech’s whole defensive line also returns and all four of those players have earned All-ACC honors at some time. Dadi Nicolas might be the most disruptive player on the defense and the senior defensive end will put a ton of pressure on the Buckeyes quarterback. The one weak spot on the Virginia Tech defense is at linebacker, which shouldn’t be a major concern, but will definitely be a position to pay attention to as the game progresses.
It will be a long day for Ohio State if Ezekiel Elliott struggles to get past the D-line, since the Buckeyes will rely on Elliott to carry them offensively in this game. In my opinion Ohio State should start J.T. Barrett, as it will give them more options on offense and I wouldn’t be surprised if you see Barrett and Cardale Jones in the game at the same time for a trick play.
Virginia Tech had some key losses on offense, but they should overcome that, with experience at skill positions and quarterback Michael Brewer returning for his senior season. Ohio State losing Joey Bosa for this game will also be tough for the Buckeyes to overcome on defense. Like I said earlier, I probably sound like the craziest person in the world right now, but I think the Ohio State talk will end on September 7th. You never know maybe the Buckeyes overcome the loss and win the National Title again.