ACC Report - Week 1
August 29, 2012
By Joe Williams
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I have lived in Atlantic Coast Conference territory for a few years now, right in the heart of Tobacco Road. There is no denying that this has been, is, and likely always will be, basketball country. However, there are some die-hard football fans with unrealistic goals, especially at this time of the season, who believe each of their schools are national championship contenders.
Each week, I'll be looking at the five most intriguing matchups in the conference. Without further adieu, let's break down Week 1...
5-Star Game - Clemson vs. Auburn (from Georgia Dome)
The Clemson Tigers were thoroughly embarrassed in the Orange Bowl last season against West Virginia, who hung a 70-spot on them. They will have redemption on their mind as they roll into Atlanta Saturday night for the second half of the Chick-Fil-A opening weekend of games.
The Clemson Tigers usually have no trouble firing out of the chute. Traditionally, the Tigers roll early in the season, and don't disappoint until well after the leaves have changed colors and there is a chill in the upstate air. Clemson will be without playmaker Sammy Watkins (suspension) for the primetime battle, which is a big loss for the offense.
This battle of the Tigers will be won thanks to experience, and that favors Clemson heavily. Auburn was not a great passing offense last season, and QBs Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley are rather inexperienced coming into this one. In addition, the Tigers will have three first-time starters up front on the offensive line. While they have RB Onterrio McCalebb returning in the backfield, if the O-line can't open holes, it will be a very long evening for the Auburn offense.
4-Star Game - Tennessee vs. North Carolina State (from Georgia Dome)
While I tend to have a more discerning eye, I have gotten sucked into the hype surrounding head coach Tom O'Brien's North Carolina State Wolf Pack
N.C. State heads down to Atlanta for the Chick-Fil-A kickoff weekend to take on the Tennessee Volunteers. Bettors might be seeing red, as the ACC representative is getting three and a hook from most books.
First off, QB Tyler Bray is back for the Vols, and he showed he can be good. However, WR Da'Rick Rogers was suspended for multiple failed drug tests, and he has since transferred. That's a big piece of ammunition missing from Bray's arsenal. Add in the fact that the Vols do not have a top-notch caliber running back on their roster, and they might struggle to move the chains. Secondly, the Wolfpack have one of the best DBs in the nation in All-ACC CB David Amerson. He is the Darrelle Revis of the ACC. His nose for the ball literally shrinks the field for opposing offenses. Lastly, the Volunteers are changing their defensive scheme, and they are young and inexperienced as it is. Look for much confusion, as N.C. State's QB Mike Glennon picks them apart.
3-Star Game - Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech
Bettors will want to pay close attention to this one on the Labor Day holiday. Georgia Tech likely will want to take to the air quite a bit more with QB Tevin Washington, although they'll need someone to step up following the loss of WR Stephen Hill to the NFL. The Yellow Jackets ranked second overall in the nation in rushing yards per game last season, and Washington found the end zone three times on the ground against the Hokies last year. Don't think Virginia Tech doesn't remember that, and will be looking to atone.
The Hokies defense is the highlight of a team still looking for a runner to step up, and an offensive line to take shape. That defense has helped the under come through frequently for Virginia Tech in the past two seasons. The under is 15-5-1 in the past 21 games for Virginia Tech, and the under is 4-1 in the past five meetings between these sides.
Bettors will want to note that the Yellow Jackets are 4-0 ATS in their past four September games, while the Hokies are 0-5-1 ATS in their past six games at Lane Stadium, and 2-8 ATS in their past 10 games on grass. The road team has covered in five of the past six meetings in the 'Battle of the Techs'.
2-Star Game - Florida International at Duke
The Duke Blue Devils have appeared in just eight bowl games in school history, and just two since 1960. Their last postseason appearance came in 1995 in the Hall of Fame Bowl. However, hope springs eternal in Durham, and head coach David Cutcliffe is ever the optimist. He feels his squad could be very good if the offense can offset a rather marginal defense. He might be right, or he might be crazy. We'll see.
The Dukies do have WR Conner Vernon returning, and he might be one of the most unheralded receivers in the nation. He has tremendous hands, and is Duke's version of NFL star Wes Welker. FIU would be wise to pay tremendous mind to where No. 2 is on the field at all times.
FIU will need to find a playmaker to make up for WR T.Y. Hilton, who has moved on to the NFL. This game will be played at night at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, and that is not exactly a house of horrors for the opposition. Over the past couple of seasons, the Blue Devils have started slow. They lost to FCS power Richmond (who opens in Charlottesville at Virginia this weekend) in 2011, and they lost their first six games against FCS opponents in 2010 before showing signs of life late.
Bettors might want to take a good, long look at FIU on the road this weekend, as Duke tends to start slow, and awaken a few games into the season. At least that's been the trend lately.
1-Star Game - Miami (Fla.) at Boston College
It's Year 2 of the Al Golden era in Miami, and his Hurricanes will open the season on the road with a conference game. That's the bad news. The good news is that the Canes will face Boston College, which struggled mightily last year.
The Hurricanes have been installed as a slight favorite, and they are the better team here. The Hurricanes covered their final four games on the road last season, and they are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings with B.C. Another trend bettors might like, the Eagles are 1-6 ATS in their past seven games in the month of September.
Another note to keep in mind, the Hurricanes tend to be slowed somewhat on the field turf. The over/under is listed as a rather marginal 44 points, but the under has cashed four times in the past five games Miami has played on field turf.