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ACC Fearless Predictions - FIU-Duke & More

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 27, 2012


Week 1 CFN Fearless Predictions - FIU at Duke, and more

2012 Fearless Predictions 

ACC Week 1 - Part 2

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Fearless Predictions
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Murray State (0-0) at Florida State (0-0) Sept. 1, 6:00, ESPN3

Here’s The Deal: To say that this is a huge year for Florida State and third-year head coach Jimbo Fisher would be a gross understatement. The Seminoles, ranked No. 7 in the preseason Coaches Poll, need to deliver on expectations after missing their mark a year ago. They’ll open the pivotal campaign with back-to-back FCS opponents, affording them a chance to shake off some rust and build depth before ACC play starts. Murray State is in Tallahassee to tour Doak Campbell Stadium and pick up a substantial paycheck to help fund athletic programs.

The Racers are actually an up-and-coming program out of the Ohio Valley Conference, winning seven games for the first time in seven years, and outscoring Louisville over the final three quarters of last year’s opener.

Why Murray State Might Win: Yeah, it’s by OVC standards, but the Racers offense is outstanding. From the team that ranked third nationally in scoring return QB Casey Brockman and six of last year’s top eight pass-catchers. The Seminoles secondary, which no longer has Greg Reid at cornerback, is going to get a sneaky-tough test from the Murray State passing attack.

Why Florida State Might Win: The ‘Noles will have no problem bullying Murray State at the point of attack. Brockman is a quality passer, but he’ll spend much of the night trying to dodge linemen Brandon Jenkins, Bjoern Werner and Everett Dawkins. This is a good spot for Florida State to work on a suspect ground game by pounding the undersized Racers with a wave of complimentary backs.

What To Watch Out For: More than anyone, even pivotal QB EJ Manuel, Florida State’s big-picture fate rests with its offensive linemen. While the blockers won’t get much resistance from Murray State, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be working on sharpening their technique and building chemistry. One to watch, in particular, is LT Cameron Erving who’s been lights out since shifting from the D-line.

What Will Happen: Forget the final. It’ll be lopsided in favor of Florida State. Of greater importance, the Seminoles want to use this opener to work out the offensive line, monitor Reid replacements Nick Waisome and Ronald Darby and test out the ankle of Manuel, which was hurting in August.

CFN Prediction: Florida State 58 … Murray State 13
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) No Line; O/U: No Line
Must Watch Rating (5 – Boss, 1 - Married To Jonas): 1

Liberty (0-0) at Wake Forest (0-0) Sept. 1, 6:30, ESPN3

Here’s The Deal: While Wake Forest stopped the bleeding by qualifying for last season’s Music City Bowl, finishing a game below .500 was hardly a sign of progress. The Demon Deacons, perennially fighting for respect in the ACC, will be looking to gain some early traction after closing out 2011 with six losses in their final eight games. Now led by former Buffalo and Kansas head coach Turner Gill, Liberty is a Big South contender coming off a solid 7-4 mark. The Flames’ last foray into the FBS occurred in the 2011 opener, a respectable 43-21 loss to NC State that was closer than the score indicated.

Why Liberty Might Win: Gill inherits a talented Flames team that will press the Deacons on both sides of the ball. The defense features four preseason all-conference picks, including Francis Bah at defensive end. The native of Germany and the rest of his linemates are going to get very little resistance from a dilapidated Wake Forest offensive line breaking in four new starters.

Why Wake Forest Might Win: Liberty will have a difficult time solving a Deacons D that’s underrated entering the season. With Nikita Whitlock at the nose, a veteran corps of linebackers and corners Merrill Noel and Kenny Okoro jumping routes, the Flames will struggle to sustain drives. The gap separating Wake southpaw Tanner Price and Liberty’s makeshift situation at quarterback is expansive.

What To Watch Out For: For Wake Forest to become more of a nuisance in the ACC Atlantic, it’ll have to run the ball much better than it did in 2011. While the line is an undeniable question mark, the Deacons are encouraged by the situation at running back. Josh Harris’ hamstring is finally healed, and Orville Reynolds possesses field-stretching speed.

What Will Happen: Price is one of the ACC’s underrated quarterbacks, a dart-thrower who rarely makes mistakes. He’ll spread the ball around Saturday night, hooking up liberally with favorite target Michael Campanaro. The Wake Forest D will take care of the rest, flexing its muscles versus a Liberty offense with too many holes to fill.

CFN Prediction: Wake Forest 44 … Liberty 10
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) No Line; O/U: No Line
Must Watch Rating (5 – Boss, 1 - Married To Jonas): 1

Florida International (0-0) at Duke (0-0) Sept. 1, 7:00, ESPN3

Here’s The Deal: Despite being tempted by more than one larger program, head coach Mario Cristobal has stuck around at Florida International, determined to continue what he started. And the Golden Panthers couldn’t be much happier about the situation. The program, which won eight games and bowled in 2011, is well-positioned on both sides of the line to compete for its first-ever Sun Belt Conference championship.

Duke’s quest to appear in the postseason for the first time since 1994, however, drags on with no immediate end in sight. Although fifth-year head coach David Cutcliffe has made undeniable strides in Durham, too few of them have actually reached the bottom line. For a program that has perennially wallowed near the bottom of the ACC pack, winning non-conference games, especially at Wallace Wade Stadium, is a must.

Why Florida International Might Win: The Golden Panthers might call the Sun Belt home, but Duke is going to feel as if it’s entertaining an ACC-caliber D Saturday night. Florida International welcomes back almost every starter from a unit that yielded less than 20 points a game in 2011. The team is fast, experienced and well-coached, a tough combination for a Blue Devils offense that lacks balance. At each level, the Panthers boast a senior stopper, from DE Tourek Williams and LB Winston Fraser on the front seven to SS Jonathan Cyprien in the defensive backfield. Duke’s struggles in 2011 to produce big plays will continue into the opener.

Why Duke Might Win: The Blue Devils won last year’s meeting in Miami largely off of the right arm of QB Sean Renfree. Renfree is back for his senior year, looking to sweep the Golden Panthers. The veteran went 28-of-43 for 335 yards and two scores a season ago, spurring a 31-27 victory. He’ll once again be hooking up with Conner Vernon, his favorite target and one of the top wide receivers in the ACC. Florida International, on the contrary, will begin the season with a new man behind center, sophomore Jake Medlock. While Medlock played some last year, he no longer has WR T.Y. Hilton to help with his development.

What To Watch Out For: The “X” factor will be Florida International’s Kedrick Rhodes, easily the best running back in the game. Unlike Duke, which hasn’t been able to mount a ground game in many years, Rhodes gives the Panthers an option to wear down defenses, and take a lot of pressure away from the passing attack. If the junior can roll downhill, it’ll help neutralize DE Kenny Anunike, the Blue Devils top pass rusher who had his 2011 campaign cut short by an injury. FIU plans to do whatever is necessary to keep No. 84 from messing with Medlock’s confidence and rhythm.

What Will Happen: It matters not that Duke is a conference bottom-feeder. Florida International is no less geeked about an opportunity to take down a team from the ACC. The Golden Panthers are still peaking as a program under Cristobal, improving defensively as the offense seeks out more stability under center. The combination of that assertive D and the running of Rhodes will spearhead a meaningful victory over the Blue Devils, avenging last October’s loss. FIU actually has fewer holes in this one, a credit to Cristobal and a major concern for Cutcliffe.

CFN Prediction: Florida International 28 … Duke 24
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Duke -3.5; O/U: 53
Must Watch Rating (5 – Boss, 1 - Married To Jonas): 2