Welcome to part two of this week’s previews and predictions! Here’s part one if you missed it.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at NC State Wolfpack: With coach Sonny Dykes now off to California, it’s likely the Bulldogs’ torrid offensive pace from last year leaves with him. That also means that State’s very young secondary, which is replacing three of four starters from 2012, gets a bit of a break too. This won’t necessarily be a cakewalk for this young Wolfpack team — we still don’t know what type of pistol elements are already implemented into this offense, nor do we know how the running game will look (my guess is mediocre). But they should be able to score a home win to start the year without a ton of difficulty, and build some positive momentum for this very green group. Prediction: NC State 37, Louisiana Tech 21
Penn State Nittany Lions v. Syracuse Orange (MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ): Neither team has revealed who their quarterback will be, but in Syracuse’s case, they’ve got the better options to choose from in Drew Allen (likely the pick) and Terrel Hunt. But regardless of who’s throwing the ball, this game is very likely to be decided in the trenches. Penn State’s rushing defense was very strong last year and SU figures to have one of this year’s top rushing attacks in the ACC. If either team starts getting in behind the line, that will be the difference-maker in what should be a hard-fought battle between the former rivals. Prediction: Syracuse 20, Penn State 17
BYU Cougars at Virginia Cavaliers: This game is perceived to be pretty close (current line’s at +1 for UVa), but I have a feeling we’re looking at a much different outcome. With a young quarterback in David Watford, the Hoos are likely to spend the opening portions of the contest finding their way on offense, which should also open up the BYU defense for some critical opportunities. The Cougars only allowed 14 points per game last season, and as long as Kyle Van Noy‘s in the fold, they’re likely to hold teams to a similar number this year as well. Despite the cross-country trip, BYU makes short work of Virginia. Prediction: BYU 36, Virginia 17
N.C. Central Eagles at Duke Blue Devils: It’s never a great start to the season when you fire your coach just a week before the first game, yet that’s what NC Central did last week. Now, they’ve got to pick up the pieces against the biggest test of their schedule: Duke. The Blue Devils have made some changes on offense, but this group will look very much like last year’s, albeit with a moving target under center. Anthony Boone‘s mobility should be on full display against the Eagles as Duke moves to 1-0 on the season in blowout fashion. Prediction: Duke 55, NC Central 10
Alabama Crimson Tide v. Virginia Tech Hokies (Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.): I don’t buy Virginia Tech’s ability to pull a major upset in this one, but I hope they can keep things respectable. To beat Alabama, you usually need to force turnovers, score and run the ball well. Unfortunately, “Beamerball” is not what it used to be, with Tech only gaining 21 takeaways all year. The offense also sputtered, and that was mostly due to the rushing game’s complete ineffectiveness. Alabama’s built to chew up and spit out teams with those issues, so unfortunately for the ACC, the Hokies just can’t match up. Prediction: Alabama 34, Virginia Tech 20
Ohio Bobcats at Louisville Cardinals: Louisville begins their quest to go undefeated against the very dangerous, upset-minded Ohio Bobcats on Sunday. Ohio is a pretty complete team, and should they manage to start this game hot, they also have the defense to hold off Louisville in the second half. Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t play as well from behind, so the key for the Cards will be to score first and control the ball from there. Despite the potential of these two offenses, the defenses figure to match those strengths well, resulting in a low-scoring affair. Prediction: Louisville 23, Ohio 17
Florida State Seminoles at Pittsburgh Panthers: Welcome to the ACC, Pitt! You get to open your season with Florida State, who despite losing 11 players to the NFL Draft, may be just as strong as they were last year. If the Panthers can’t figure out their running game, it’s going to be a very long Labor Day as FSU’s superb pass-defense won’t have much trouble shutting them down. If they have any chance to win, they must resist the urge to go one-dimensional on offense. Florida State feasts on teams like that, and it’ll be something to watch out for as the game progresses and FSU starts getting behind the Pittsburgh offensive front. Prediction: Florida State 36, Pittsburgh 10