Welcome back, football! Tonight begins another fantastic season of our favorite chaos-ridden soap opera, also known as college football. And with that, there are actual games being played, and actual predictions to be made. Just like normal, we’re running down the list of every ACC (plus Louisville) game and predicting outcomes that will almost undoubtedly be wrong. Every conference team is in action this weekend too, so we’re splitting things up into two posts to make things more easily digestible. You’re welcome, and happy football season!
Game of the Week
Georgia Bulldogs at Clemson Tigers: Two top-10 teams with National Championship dreams, facing off on the first Saturday night of the season. It just doesn’t get any better than this. Clemson has a distinct home field advantage and completely understands what’s at stake: perception, which is most of the battle in college football. If Tajh Boyd wins his second straight contest against an elite SEC defense, then expectations are off to the races and the Tigers appear to be a legitimate threat to win it all. Lose, and they spend the rest of their season digging out of a hole. Preseason injuries have seemingly ravaged this ‘Dogs secondary, and that won’t do them any favors against the likes of Sammy Watkins & co. Clemson grabs win number one. Prediction: Clemson 31, Georgia 23
The Rest of the Slate (in order of start time):
North Carolina Tar Heels at South Carolina Gamecocks: Old ACC rivals reunite in a battle for who gets to be called “Carolina” for the rest of the season. The Gamecocks program has risen to previously unseen heights these past few years, while the Tar Heels are looking to embark on a similar upward trajectory. It could start here for UNC, though they’ll have to figure out a way to deal with SC’s Jadeveon Clowney first and foremost. The country’s best defensive lineman will give the Heels’ line all they can handle tonight. Despite some optimism that they’re up to the task, it still won’t stop Clowney from making a huge impact, though. Prediction: South Carolina 33, North Carolina 24
Presbyterian Blue Hose at Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Presbyterian was very bad last year (2-9), so this matchup is the exact type of body bag game Wake Forest needs to start off their season on the right foot. Outside of winning the football game (not a difficult task in this case), the main goal is getting out of the contest with everyone healthy — a struggle for the Deacs lately. With an ACC game coming up in week two, I’m also curious if Wake looks to break out some of the new spread-option elements of the offense, or if they’re keeping it under wraps until they head up to BC. I’d bet they keep things pretty basic tonight. Prediction: Wake Forest 38, Presbyterian 7
Elon Phoenix at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Elon struggled a bit on defense last year (allowed nearly 32 points per game), but it’s not as if Georgia Tech was all that great themselves in that department. Still, given the talent disparity here, the contest just won’t be all that close. Vad Lee should thrive in his debut as the full-time starter, and this one should be over by halftime. The Phoenix just don’t have the personnel to stop the triple-option, which should not surprise anyone in the slightest. Prediction: Georgia Tech 59, Elon 10
Villanova Wildcats at Boston College Eagles: Boston College is eager to prove that this really is a new era for the football program and that they’ll be quick to turn the corner back to respectability. Villanova, on the other hand, almost upgraded to FBS two years ago and is actually one of the better programs in the Championship Subdivision. Even if you don’t believe in BC’s resurgence though, there’s no picking against them here. The Eagles defense could surprise folks this year, and as long as Alex Amidon is catching passes, it’s highly unlikely they’re losing to a lesser team like ‘Nova. Prediction: Boston College 34, Villanova 14
Florida International Panthers at Maryland Terrapins: FIU, you never should’ve fired Mario Cristobal. Because now you’re showing up in College Park as a 21-point underdog. Last season’s edition of the Panthers couldn’t score, nor could they stop teams from scoring. Maryland has one of the best wideouts in the country in Stefon Diggs, and at the very least will be able to score points at a higher clip than they did last season. If the Terps roll in this one (and they should), it is an expected outcome, though. So let’s not start making claims they’re going to win eight or nine games just yet… Prediction: Maryland 33, FIU 13
Looking for the rest? Go check out Part 2!