It’s here! After nearly eight excruciating months of realignment nonsense, smatterings of recruiting updates, spring practice injuries and arrests, the 2012 college football season is finally here! As per usual around these parts, I’ll be offering up my previews and predictions for each week’s ACC games in a format very much resembling the post you see below. Agree with my choices? Tell me all about it. Or are you wondering with disgust how I could possibly pick against your favorite squad and their mediocre collection of former three-star recruits? Feel free to voice your dissenting opinion in the comments section below as well.
At least for this week: Good luck this season, everyone! And hope you all have a fantastic Labor Day/College Football Kickoff weekend!
Game of the Week
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Virginia Tech Hokies: This Labor Day matchup has a ton of implications for the first week of the season, giving the winner a nice inside track to take home the Coastal division title. With a full offseason to prepare, though, will the VPI defense (one of the nation’s best) be too prepared for the Wreck’s triple-option to succeed? Or will the Georgia Tech defensive line catch an inexperienced Hokies O-line sleeping in their first game? I’m tempted to believe that Logan Thomas is the real deal, regardless of who’s blocking for him. Plus, if Tevin Washington still hasn’t figured out how to throw the ball, it could be far too predictable a gameplan for the league’s second-best rushing D to sniff out. Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Georgia Tech 20
The Rest of the Slate (in order of start time):
Tennessee Volunteers vs. NC State Wolfpack (in Atlanta): It’s been a rough few years down in Knoxville, as an Vols fan will tell you. But now, with QB Tyler Bray healthy (for once), their luck may be turning back around. Obviously, this is bad news for a Wolfpack team looking to make their own statement after years of failing to meet expectations. State QB Mike Glennon will get a great chance tomorrow to show he’s worked on his decision-making under pressure, operating against what should be an aggressive Tennessee blitz. If the senior can avoid turnovers, and the Pack can force a few of their own, it’ll be a great statement game for the conference. Prediction: NC State 27, Tennessee 21
Northwestern Wildcats at Syracuse Orange: Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter can run — a big issue for the SU defense last year, especially considering how much they lost on that side of the ball. Plus, there’s that pesky injury to star O-lineman Justin Pugh that every Orange fan’s so concerned about. But on the bright side, for ‘Cuse, Northwestern can’t seem to rush the passer (collected just 17 sacks). So what gives? I think Orange QB Ryan Nassib knows this offense like the back of his hand, and that, over Colter’s mobility, will end up being the difference-maker as SU notches a big (yet close) win to start the year. Prediction: Syracuse 28, Northwestern 24
Elon Phoenix at North Carolina Tar Heels: The Phoenix are actually a pretty good passing team (averaged over 280 yards through the air in 2011), and lo and behold, that was not one of UNC’s strong points last year (gave up 24 passing TDs). This would normally be a slight cause for concern, but then you take a look at Elon’s defensive statistics. Allowing nearly 200 yards per game on the ground is not ideal, especially when you’re going up against the ACC’s best running back in Giovani Bernard. Elon will score, but the Heels, behind Bernard, will still pull away by the third quarter. Prediction: UNC 48, Elon 28
William & Mary Tribe at Maryland Terrapins: This game was a lock for the Terps a month back. Now? Still a lock, though I did due some additional background research on the Tribe to be sure. Last year, W&M was a five-win squad that struggled to really excel in any aspect of the game, so I’d expect more of the same against a FBS team — even one as seemingly downtrodden as Maryland. Since this is a bit of a glorified scrimmage, I am curious to see how Perry Hills performs as the new starting QB, however. If he does poorly (horrifying for UM fans, by the way), how long ’till he’s benched? Prediction: Maryland 35, W&M 13
Richmond Spiders at Virginia Cavaliers: The Spiders could throw the ball last year, but that’s about it. Another FCS squad that struggled to really produce consistently on offense, they did pick the right first-week opponent. UVa is dealing with a lot of youth on D, and Richmond did upset the Blue Devils during last year’s opening weekend. Still, given the Cavaliers’ strong running game and a great group of linebackers, they should be able to prevent the upset. Prediction: Virginia 31, Richmond 14
Check out Part Two of our predictions, too!