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ACC Football Previews: Aug. 31- Sept. 2

Friday, August 30, 2013 3:07pm
  • Sammy Watkins (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
     Sammy Watkins (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
  • Logan Thomas (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
     Logan Thomas (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

SATURDAY

ELON AT GEORGIA TECH

 Time: 12:00 P.M.

TV: ESPN3

 KEY FOR GEORGIA TECH

 Um...beyond showing up? Probably getting off to a good start under defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who’s at approximately his 47th different school now. (Not really...but close.) All it took last year was Georgia Tech getting rid of Al Groh for the defense to immediately look at least somewhat better. How quickly can Roof and his 4-3 scheme can pay off defensively for an experienced unit? It might seem like it was a relatively easy transition in this game, anyway.

 KEY FOR ELON

 ASSIGNMENT FOOTBALL. Listen, you can’t stop Georgia Tech’s offense if you don’t tackle the person you’re supposed to tackle. Oh, who am I kidding? The Phoenix have some experience at running back, but they lost their starting quarterback and best wide receiver from last year. And they went 3-9, so maybe that wasn’t so bad. Anyway, Elon isn’t likely to slow that Tech offense down so they’d better score some points. (ANALYSIS!)

 HERE’S A GUY

 Jeremiah Attaochu. After being moved from linebacker to defensive end this off-season, the talented senior is ready to show NFL scouts what he can do in this system. He seems like a natural fit for the position, and he’s made a number of preseason watch lists. It’s very doubtful Elon has anyone who can match up with him one-on-one.

 THIS GUY

 Mike Quinn. The junior quarterback will be making his first start in Atlanta, and he acquitted himself pretty well in Elon’s spring game (11-of-14, 150 yards and a touchdown). Last year, he played in nine games and went 20-of-29 for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He might just be pretty good. But he’s also making his first start at an FBS team.

 STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

 Bobby Dodd Stadium is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and, per the Georgia Tech game notes, is “the most tenured stadium in FBS”. ... Georgia Tech has only lost one game to a Southern Conference team in its history (Furman in 1983), and is 88-33-33 all-time in season-openers. ... Paul Johnson is 4-1 in season-openers as the head coach, with the only loss coming last year at Virginia Tech in overtime.

 NARRATIVES

 Georgia Tech Win:

Georgia Tech Loss: It’s not really fair to judge Georgia Tech on this game since Elon had all off-season to prepare for the triple option.

 PREDICTION

 Georgia Tech, 63-10. I mean, really. Name your score. This one could get ugly.

 

VILLANOVA AT BOSTON COLLEGE

 Time: 12:00 P.M.

TV: ESPNEWS/WatchESPN

 KEY FOR BOSTON COLLEGE

 DON’T LET ANYTHING BAD HAPPEN TO THE LIVE EAGLE! That’s right, BC is bringing back a live eagle mascot for the first time in 47 years! And in September....we can name the Eagle via social media! This is the best news I’ve heard in nearly a month.

 Okay, back to football. The Eagles need to show that their defense is better. Villanova is as legit as FCS teams come, but the Wildcats struggled some offensively last year...while Boston College’s defense struggled to stop just about anyone, really. BC returns a lot of experience on defense, though, and this should be a much-improved unit. If they can’t stop Villanova, there are bigger problems this season than what happens when the live eagle mascot gets mad.

 KEY FOR VILLANOVA

 Create doubt early. Boston College’s players have been beaten down the last few years, but they’re feeling much better about themselves now that Steve Addazio has assured them that they, too, can be a dude. Still, that doubt may start to creep in again if Villanova can get out to an early lead.

 HERE’S A GUY

 Andre Williams, because Addazio is going to want to run the ball and Williams looks to be the guy. Problem is that BC was not very good at running the ball last year, and there’s no proven option behind Williams this year. How will Addazio and his staff use Williams and company? Will Williams be the workhorse? And really, the most important question is: "Can BC run the ball against Villanova?".

 THIS GUY

 John Robertson. Villanova’s dual-threat sophomore quarterback won the Jerry Rice Award in 2012 (given to FCS’s best freshman), after completing 152-of-253 passes for 1,965 yards (14 touchdowns and seven interceptions). He also ran for 1,021 yards on 189 carries and 14 rushing touchdowns. Yeah. He could be a problem for the BC defense.

 STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

 BC and Villanova are renewing a rivalry that has been dormant since 1980, and BC leads the all-time series 29-15-1 (22-9 at home). The Eagles have waited 33 years for revenge for a 20-9 loss at Villanova in 1980. Wait no more, Eagle friends. ... BC kicker Nate Freeze leads the ACC and is fifth in the country (FBS) in active career field-goal percentage (.820). ... First-year head coach Steve Addazio is one of 31 new head coaches in FBS this year. Of those, 11 hired completely new staffs and six kept one coach. BC was one of those, as was N.C. State.

 NARRATIVES

 Boston College Win: Rather than give you the obvious about Addazio opening with a bang or BC might not be that bad or whatever, I’m going to instead give you this from BCEagles.com’s Reid Oslin, recounting the history of the BC-Villanova rivalry that will hopefully put the last few years of struggle in perspective:

 On September 22, 1979, the Eagles scored a 34-7 triumph over the visiting Wildcats before a paltry crowd of 16,000 in Alumni Stadium. At the game's conclusion, BC's students rushed onto the field and tore down the goal posts. The reason? The win had broken the Eagles' 13-game losing streak - longest in school history - that included an excruciating 0-11 death march under Coach Ed Chlebek in 1978.

 Boston College Loss:

PREDICTION

 Boston College, 44-18. This might be a bit too optimistic, but I think the Eagles are going to be a lot better this year, and the game is at their place. Anytime it seems logical that an FBS team will struggle with an FCS team, they always seem to end up pulling away. Just saying.

 


FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL AT MARYLAND

 Time: 12:30 P.M.

TV: RSN/ESPN3

 KEY FOR MARYLAND

 Start scoring some points. Last year was just horrendous in that department, mostly because of injuries. But Maryland edged William & Mary 7-6 in last year’s opener before a lot of the attrition happened. The Terps then scored 20 or more in four of their next five games before the QB injuries got really bad, and they failed to hit the 20-point mark in five straight games. The defense was too good last year (and should be again this year) for the offense to be that bad.

KEY FOR FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL

 Getting through the game without firing Ron Turner. Hey, FIU might get down early. And the administration might feel like the first quarter was “a total collapse”. But FIU lost 20 starters (!!!!!!) from last year, including 20 on offense. Hard to tell if that’s good or bad, but when your starting five offensive linemen are all first-year starters, that’s....well it’s not good. And so the FIU defense, which returns four starters, needs to slow down Maryland’s offense.

 HERE’S A GUY

 C.J. Brown. Considering we haven’t seen him play in 11 years or so, it will be interesting to see how the senior quarterback looks. (Okay, so it’s been like 22 months. Whatever.) Brown’s ACL tear in last year’s fall camp started a horrific plague of quarterback injuries for Maryland that would not stop until a linebacker was playing quarterback. Brown has shown a lot of promise, though, running for 574 yards and throwing for 842 in 2011. All reports are that he’s back to full health. But will he return to that 2011 form (or better)?

THIS GUY

 Jake Medlock. FIU’s quarterback will be in fear for his life behind a brand new offensive line, but he is experienced. The redshirt junior had an up-and-down year in his first season as the starter, but he did have 2,127 yards and 13 touchdowns to just two interceptions. And he is FIU’s leading returning rusher with 236 yards. Poor Jake Medlock.

 STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

 If only FIU’s roster were as experienced as the new coaching staff. Ron Turner and company total 194 years of coaching. ... FIU is 3-8 in season-openers, including a pretty thorough beatdown at Duke last year. ... Maryland scored 43 points off of 20 takeaways by its defense in 2012 while opponents scored 91 points off of 30 Maryland turnovers. ... Maryland’s defense allowed 457.2 yards per game in 2011 and improved that number to 336.8 in 2012. Prett-ay, prett-ay good.

 NARRATIVES

 Maryland Win: Could Maryland be that elusive third-best team in the Atlantic that sounds better than it actually is because FSU and Clemson are much better than everyone else? MAYBE!

 Maryland Loss: Um...so, good news, ACC fans! Since they’re going to the Big 10 next year, we don’t have to claim Maryland anymore!

 PREDICTION

 Maryland, 33-9. The defense is still going to be the strength of this team, but the offense will be much better. It just may not look great in Week 1, as Brown gets used to college football again.

 

LOUISIANA TECH AT N.C. STATE

 Time: 12:30 P.M.

TV: ACC Network

 KEY FOR N.C. STATE

 Leniency. I kid, I kid. But first-year head coach Dave Doeren was right about one thing - even though N.C. State’s schedule stacks up favorably, there are no guarantees that they’ll win every game they’re supposed to, or that they’ll look great early in the season. This team is still a work in progress, particularly offensively, but it will get better. It just might not look all that great in Week 1, and no one should be surprised by that. They just have to rely on the defense, avoid mistakes on offense, and try to ignore the palpable angst coming from those irrational and insane N.C. State fans. (JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKING!)

 KEY FOR LOUISIANA TECH

 Hope that their no-huddle, up-tempo attack is too fast for the Wolfpack, even though they’ve been practicing against it all off-season? I mean...I don’t know. On a somewhat related note, it’s hard to imagine anything more en vogue than no-huddle, up-tempo, spread offenses since those Harlem Shake videos started popping up everywhere. Unfortunately for Nick Saban and those who hate it, they’re going to last longer than the Harlem Shake. But maybe not longer than Gangnam Style. It’s hard to say. Either way, I think we can all be thankful that Oregon’s up-tempo offense has become the fad in college football rather than Oregon’s often-hideous uniforms.

 HERE’S A GUY

 Brandon Mitchell. The Arkansas transfer is the more mobile option for N.C. State, and probably a better fit for the offense that Dave Doeren wants to run than is Pete Thomas. But if he hasn’t won the job by now, it’s probably because there are still some issues with his play. Doeren has said that we’re going to see both quarterbacks on Saturday, but I’m more curious to see Mitchell. In theory, he’s the better fit for this offense and it would at least be interesting to get an idea of how it’s supposed to look.

 THIS GUY

 Kenneth Dixon. The reigning WAC Freshman of the Year, Dixon set an NCAA record in 2012 with 27 touchdowns and 1,194 yards on 200 carries. He’s about the only bright spot returning from what was an explosive Louisiana Tech offensive a year ago. N.C. State’s defense is pretty good, particularly on the defensive line, and Louisiana Tech has a lot of question marks along its offensive line. But Dixon is dangerous enough that they’ll find a way to get him the ball.

 STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

 Dave Doeren has never lost a home game as a head coach, and with a 23-4 career record since 2011, he has more wins than any coach in that span except Nick Saban. ... Between N.C. State and Louisiana Tech, a total of 19 out of 44 starters are turning. N.C. State returns 11, while Louisiana Tech returns just eight. ... Doeren is the youngest coach in the ACC (just 41), but N.C. State has had five head coaches that took over at a younger age, including Lou Holtz (35), Monte Kiffin (40) and Mike O’Cain (39). The youngest was Bo Rein, who took the job when he was 31 in 1976.

 NARRATIVES

 N.C. State Win: One home win for N.C. State, one step closer to backing into a bowl game.

 N.C. State Loss: OH, YOU WANTED LENIENCY, HUH DOEREN???? HUH???? STATE FANS ARE GOING TO RUN YOU OFF FOR THE MORE POPULAR (FILL IN THE BLANK) AFTER ONE LOSS BECAUSE THEY’RE CUH-RAAAAAAZAY!

 PREDICTION

 N.C. State, 29-13. As Doeren has warned, it won’t be a pretty game. N.C. State’s defense can handle this one, though.

 

PENN STATE VS. SYRACUSE (METLIFE STADIUM)

 Time: 3:30 P.M.

TV: ABC/ESPN2/WatchESPN

 KEY FOR SYRACUSE

 Getting the ground game going. Senior running back Jerome Smith is the real deal, running for 1,176 yards last year. He and Prince-Tyson Gulley - a good back in his own right - will be running behind a much younger offensive line than they were a year ago, but they’ll do what they can and they’re talented enough to make things happen. Somehow, Syracuse has to be able to take pressure off whichever quarterback they start.

 KEY FOR PENN STATE

 Basically, the reverse of Syracuse’s key - stop the run. If Penn State makes Syracuse one-dimensional, the Orange will have little to no chance in this game. Unless of course, whoever gets the start at quarterback ends up being the next Russell Wilson or something.

 HERE’S A GUY

 Drew Allen/Terrel Hunt. It’s safe to say we’ll probably see both Syracuse quarterbacks. Okay, it’s probably not safe to say anything at this point. But whoever gets the start or most of the reps, they’re not going to have it easy against a tough Penn State defense. At least Syracuse will get a pretty good idea of where they are. If either/both/all play well, though, Syracuse will definitely have a chance to win.

 THIS GUY

 Zach Zwinak. Syracuse has a lot of question marks along the defensive line, and Penn State’s senior running back could be a problem. He cracked the 1,000-yard mark last year despite getting three carries in Penn State’s first three games, and his turnaround was key to Penn State’s turnaround.

 (Also, his bio from the Penn State website reads: “Cut from an old-school cloth and ready to deliver a blow on every play with his downhill, hard-nosed running style, Zach Zwinak emerged as one of the Big Ten's most productive running backs in 2012.” Hmm. Is he also gritty, gutty, savvy, a coach on the field?)

 STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

 Not a stat, but this game is called New York’s College Classic. Yet it’s being played in New Jersey. Oh. ... This will be the tenth time (including fourth in the last six years) that Syracuse has opened the season against a Big 10 team. Syracuse is 1-7-1 in those openers, and the last win came over Wisconsin in 1997. ... Penn State is Syracuse’s most-played opponent with 70 meetings between them. Penn State leads the series 43-23-5.

 NARRATIVES

 Syracuse Win: How do you like the Orange now, ACC media? HUH? DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHERE SYRACUSE IS ON A MAP??

 Syracuse Loss: Listen, Syracuse was just trying to respect well-established ACC traditions by losing important non-conference games, okay?

 PREDICTION

 Penn State, 31-22. Penn State returns just a bit more talent on both sides of the ball. Like, 16 starters.

 

BYU AT VIRGINIA

 Time: 3:30 P.M.

TV: ESPNU/WatchESPN

 KEY FOR VIRGINIA

 Better turnover luck. BYU’s offense can be stopped. (Sometimes, by itself.) But Virginia has the sixth-worst turnover margin in the country over the last five seasons, and the Cavaliers’ four interceptions last year were the fewest by a UVa team since the forward pass was invented. UVa lost 26 and gained 12 turnovers last year for a -14 margin, 110th nationally. I mean...yeah. You can luck into recovering more turnovers than that. Maybe if the Cavaliers can start the turnover ball of momentum rolling downhill this weekend, it will have the best turnover luck of all time.

 KEY FOR BYU

 Generating offense. That wasn’t something BYU did reliably a year ago, and some of the Cougars’ uglier games - like a 20-14 loss to San Diego State, a 7-6 loss to Boise State or a 6-3 win over Utah State - stand out as particularly memorable. And by memorable, I mean eyeball-searing. The Cougar defense is dominant, but they need help. Virginia’s defense was up and down last year too, but they should be much better, and they’re at home.

 HERE’S A GUY

 David Watford. Hey, you were named the starter a few weeks ago? Congratulations, buddy! Your first game will be against one of the better defenses in the country. Best of luck! UVa head coach Mike London loves nothing more than to switch quarterbacks, but he named Watford the guy pretty early in fall camp. Maybe that confidence means Watford really will be the answer at quarterback. Or maybe it means London was tired of answering questions about it. Or maybe the other options were that much worse. Either way, UVa should try to avoid QB roulette this year.

 THIS GUY

 Kyle Van Noy. BYU’s senior linebacker is on basically all of the watch lists and could cause all sorts of problems for the UVa offense. He had 22 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, eight quarterback hurries and six forced fumbles last year. At linebacker. And he also had two interceptions, a fumble recovery and two blocked kicks. He made most All-America teams last year (second, third or Honorable Mention), and he should be even better this year.

 STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

 Mike London has never lost a season opener in his five-year career as a head coach. If he wins this one, he’ll be the only UVa coach in history to win his first four season-openers. ... Virginia leads the series with BYU, 2-1. ... Virginia is 1-5 all-time in the month of August. That’s right - in its over 100-year football history, the Cavaliers will be playing just their seventh game in the month of August.

 NARRATIVES

 Virginia Win: Wow, BYU must really be terrible. (No, that will be the narrative. Or that BYU had to travel to the east coast. No credit will be assessed here.)

 Virginia Loss: HAHAHA awful ACC teams can’t even win games at home against decent non-conference opponents

 PREDICTION

 BYU, 21-17. If you like points, go elsewhere.

 

NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL AT DUKE

 Time: 4:00 P.M.

TV: ESPN3

 KEY FOR DUKE

 Duke’s backups playing well. David Cutcliffe has been saying all summer that he is going to play a lot of people these first few games, particularly since they are mid-afternoon games, likely played in oppressive heat. And he needs to know that he can count on the backups. Duke has unprecedented depth this year, or at least, it does on paper. The backups will get a few chances to show Cutcliffe and the rest of the coaching staff that they are capable of playing well against other opponents. This will be one of those chances.

 KEY FOR NC CENTRAL

 Getting past the distraction of their head coach being fired. Henry Frazier was let go a little over a week before Game 1 after being charged with violating a domestic violence protective order. And he’s now appealing that decision. The Eagles have an interim coach who was already on staff, but after the improvements they made a year ago, this kind of turmoil was the last thing they needed.

 HERE’S A GUY

 Anthony Boone. It’s the junior quarterback’s first start as “the” guy. The last time he started a game was last year, and coming out of the tunnel, this happened:

 By all accounts, he’s ready. But it will be interesting to see how different the Duke offense, now with elements of read-option, looks with Boone and his skill set leading it. It’s doubtful that the Blue Devils will go crazy in opening up the playbook in Week 1, but we should at least get a pretty good feel for it.

 THIS GUY

 Jordan Reid. The NC Central senior quarterback was the backup last year going into the Duke game. And when he came in during what was essentially garbage time, he completed 17-of-26 passes for 218 yards. The job was his after that. Duke’s secondary is better than it was a year ago, but Reid is better too.

 STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

 Duke is 2-0 in the Bull City Gridiron Classic (which began in 2009). ... Duke OT Perry Simmons has started 37 straight games, the longest active streak in the ACC. ... Duke’s five home wins last year tied a school record. The Blue Devils averaged 39.7 points at home and 19.6 on the road.

 NARRATIVES

 Duke Win: It’s pretty crazy that ‘meh, whatever, on to the next one’ would be the narrative after any Duke win. But that’s where Duke is now under David Cutcliffe. They’re at the place where they can schedule cupcakes. They used to BE the cupcake!

 Duke Loss: Duke Football: Breaking hearts across the ACC footprint. WE WANTED TO BELIEVE IN YOU!

 PREDICTION

 Duke, 55-13. Cutcliffe should have his starters out by midway through the third quarter or so. If he doesn’t, it means that this game is closer than it should be.

 

ALABAMA VS. VIRGINIA TECH (GEORGIA DOME)

 Time: 5:30 P.M.

TV: ESPN/WatchESPN

 KEY FOR VIRGINIA TECH

 Hope no one else gets injured, either before game time or during this game. No, seriously. At this point, I think the Hokies would take that. Injuries and attrition have rocked them during fall camp and the hits keep on coming, particularly on offense. And the offensive side of the ball was already a huge question mark. Against that Alabama defense? Yikes.

 KEY FOR ALABAMA

 Establishing the offensive line against the Hokies’ defensive front. That’s really the only question mark coming into this game, since Alabama is returning just two starters there (gasp!) and Nick Saban hasn’t been pleased with them during fall camp. Saban is rarely pleased with anything, but still. Virginia Tech’s front seven is pretty good and has some experience, so maybe they can hold off Alabama’s offense for a little while, anyway.

 HERE’S A GUY

 Logan Thomas. Listen, he can’t do it by himself, people. And remember how he was doing it virtually by himself last year, or trying to anyway? Yeah, it’s going to be even worse this year. And especially in this GAME. This is the type of game and experience that could demoralize Thomas and his offensive teammates for the rest of the year if they’re not careful. His body language will no doubt be dissected carefully during this game as well, so he’d better be ready to hold his head high if he doesn’t want the bad narratives to start early this year.

 THIS GUY

 T.J. Yeldon. Alabama’s sophomore running back was the first freshman in school history to have a 1,000-yard season last year, and he did all that coming off the bench. Virginia Tech’s defense often struggled to stop the run last year, but they should be better at it this year. Still, if Yeldon gets free, it’s going to be a big play. He’s strong, fast and basically everything an Alabama tailback usually is.

 STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

 Alabama leads the all-time series with Virginia Tech 11-1. The Hokies’ last win was in 1998 (38-7 in the Music City Bowl), and the most lopsided win by either team was Alabama’s 77-6 victory in 1973. ... Alabama has won the national title in four of the last five seasons when it faced Virginia Tech (2009, 1979, 1978, and 1973). ... Virginia Tech has a total of ten seniors on its two-deep depth chart. Welp.

 NARRATIVES

 Virginia Tech Win:

 Virginia Tech Loss: You know how coaches say after every game that they need to forget what happened that week and move on to the next one? It’s never really true. But it needs to be this week.

 PREDICTION

 Alabama, 45-17. Not much to add here. Godspeed, Hokies.

 

NO. 5 GEORGIA AT NO. 8 CLEMSON

 Time: 8:00 P.M.

TV: ABC

 KEY FOR CLEMSON

 The Clemson defense getting stops. Look, both teams are going to move the ball in this game. These quarterbacks are too good, and so are the skill players around them. Clemson simply has to get off the field on third down defensively. Last year, South Carolina dominated the time of possession battle in Death Valley by putting together four drives of ten or more plays, three of which went for scores. Georgia will try to repeat that, but Clemson has to tighten up and finally make the leap defensively that they need to make.

 KEY FOR GEORGIA

 Keep the ball away from Clemson. You can’t score without the ball, right? Unless your defense scores. But even then, they have to have the ball. See the key for Clemson for some of the relevant information here, but Georgia’s defense is just as questionable as Clemson’s, if not more so. The offense needs to do its part. And by its part, I mean everything.

 HERE’S A GUY

 Sammy Watkins. After a dynamic freshman season followed by an up-and-down sophomore year marred by an early suspension, it’s time for him to step up, particularly since Nuk Hopkins is gone. Against a young and green Georgia secondary, Watkins should have a field day, in theory. Tajh Boyd has to have a target as reliable as Hopkins was a year ago, and it needs to be Watkins. It should be Watkins.

 THIS GUY

 Todd Gurley. Georgia’s sophomore tailback (and North Carolina native! THE FENCE DIDN’T WORK!) is in pretty good company. He and Herschel Walker are the only two freshmen in Georgia history to run for 1,000 yards. Gurley had 1,385 last year and set the freshman rushing touchdown record with 17. Clemson is going to have enough problems dealing with Georgia’s passing game - if the Dawgs can get Gurley and the ground game going too, Clemson is going to have major problems. Or they’ll just need to score on every offensive drive. Heck, both teams might do that anyway.

 STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

 Against SEC teams not named South Carolina, Dabo Swinney is 4-1. (But he’s 1-4 against teams that are named South Carolina) ... Clemson has won four straight season openers, while Georgia has gone 2-2 in its last four (losing to Oklahoma State in 2009 and Boise State in 2011). ... Georgia leads the series with Clemson 41-17-4 (it dates back to 1897). Georgia even leads the series 8-6-2 at Clemson, one of three teams with a winning record in Death Valley. Florida State and Auburn are the other two.

 NARRATIVES

 Clemson Win: Clemson is for real and the ACC finally has a national title contender! Now everyone has to laugh slightly less at every ACC non-conference loss and give at least 1/8th more credit to every ACC team that wins an out-of-conference game! That’s the rule.

 Clemson Loss: ACC stinks and Clemson is phony and there goes yet another year of no ACC team being relevant after the first few weeks of college football!

 PREDICTION

 Clemson, 45-34.

 

MONDAY

 NO. 11 FLORIDA STATE AT PITTSBURGH

 Time: 8:00 P.M.

TV: ESPN/WatchESPN

 KEY FOR FLORIDA STATE

 Destroy any kind of Pitt confidence or momentum early. There are already a lot of question marks surrounding this Pitt team, and they’re well aware of the challenge that FSU presents. FSU still has a certain cache. And so the Seminoles need to establish themselves early on both sides of the ball, particularly offensively against Pitt’s pretty good defense. Let Pitt hang around too long and they’re liable to find a way to win. After all, this is the same team (sort of) as the group that lost to Youngstown State at home one week and beat Virginia Tech the next.

 KEY FOR PITTSBURGH

 Containing Florida State’s offense. Pitt’s defense is the strength of this team, and while Florida State does have an excellent o-line and running back corps, it is still starting a freshman quarterback on the road. Pitt’s defense is going to be one of the better ones in the ACC this year, and it will be up to them to somehow keep the Panthers in this game. But if they let Winston get comfortable and let the running backs get going, it will get ugly in a hurry.

 HERE’S A GUY

 Jameis Winston. Jimbo Fisher didn’t want to name a starting quarterback for awhile, pretending this was a two-man race between Winston and Chanler Coker, which was cute. And who knows, he may have meant it. But once Winston gave everyone this at FSU media days, there’s no way he wasn’t going to start. No. Way. HE DROPPED THE MIC! In all seriousness, Winston’s skills have been the stuff of legend for the past few years. But his first start won’t be easy - on the road, in a conference game, against a good defense. Is he up to it?

 Let’s just hope we see some of this (via Andy Staples’ Instagram account):

 THIS GUY

 Tom Savage. Pitt is pretty high on the transfer quarterback. Well, pretty high meaning quotes like “He gives us the best chance to win, but still. Savage was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and has had to transfer about 5,000 times during his college career, finally landing at Pitt for his final year of eligibility. His career has seemed star-crossed from beginning, but this is his last chance to change that. He hasn’t played since 2010, and he’ll be facing off against an elite FSU defense. That...could be a problem.

 STATS ARE FOR LOSERS

 Pitt has won the last three meetings against Florida State. The last meeting, though, came in 1983 and Pitt won, 17-16. ... FSU is 50-16 in season-openers and 17-10 on the road. ... No. 11 FSU is the highest-ranked opening-game opponent for Pitt since the Panthers beat No. 5 North Carolina at home in 1982, 7-6. ... Probably a good thing Pitt’s Tino Sunseri graduated, since his dad Sal is the defensive ends coach at Florida State. That would’ve been a little awkward.

 NARRATIVES

 Florida State Win: Jameis Winston is the real deal! FSU lost a lot of NFL draft picks? Meh. Addition by subtraction. FSU doesn’t rebuild; it reloads. The Seminoles are totally going to wipe the floor with CLIMPson later this year, too! (Special shoutout to the troll who penned that who will not be named, since he subsists solely on the food of being recognized for his trolliness.)

 Florida State Loss: Hey, remember when Florida State would lose games at Wake Forest or N.C. State the last few years? This is like that. Also, the ACC is already doing this to itself, and it’s only Week 1!

 Pittsburgh Win: All ACC football needed was an injection of energy from a powerhouse Big East program all along to really make things interesting! Also, look at the newfound depth and competitiveness of this league! (Who am I kidding. See the FSU loss narrative and repeat it here.)

 Pittsburgh Loss: Pitt opening its ACC schedule like any good ACC team should - with a frustrating, futility-filled loss to Florida State. It’s an homage to ACC history, really.

 PREDICTION

 Florida State, 31-13. It seems unfair that there’s a word like Clemsoning, but there’s not a word for FSU losing at N.C. State last year. Whatever that word would be, though, this game won’t be that.