Week 1 Fearless Predictions - ACC Sat, Part 2

Posted Aug 30, 2013

Week 1 Fearless Predictions - ACC Saturday, Part 2

Louisiana Tech (0-0) at NC State (0-0) Aug. 31, 12:30, ACC Network

Why You Should Give A Hoot: New coaching staffs in both locker rooms will be looking for the kind of fast start in Raleigh that builds player confidence and a head of steam.

NC State canned underachieving Tom O'Brien last year, replacing him with upwardly-mobile Dave Doeren, who earned his promotion while at Northern Illinois. Mired in mediocrity for far too long, the Pack last won at least 10 games more than a decade ago, and last wore an ACC crown in 1979. While there are no quick-fixes here, Doeren was rather hasty in his two seasons in DeKalb.

When Sonny Dykes got promoted to Cal, Louisiana Tech looked to a familiar face in college football circles, filling its opening with deposed South Florida coach Skip Holtz. Holtz takes over a Bulldogs' team that peaked with nine wins in 2012, but begins its first year in Conference USA with just a handful of returning starters on both sides of the ball.
Why Louisiana Tech Might Win: The offense may be undergoing an overhaul, both staff and personnel, but it still has a chance to be rather potent in 2013. Texas Tech transfer Scotty Young is a former four-star recruit, and RB Kenneth Dixon is coming off a Freshman All-American season in 2012. If WR Paul Turner, an import from LSU, is given the green light to join South Florida transfer Sterling Griffin right away, they'll face an overhauled Pack secondary breaking in three new starters.
Why NC State Might Win: The Louisiana Tech D was arguably the flimsiest in America last year. It won't be much improved this year. The Wolfpack has yet to announce who'll be the starting quarterback, but that guy is going to enjoy throwing on an FCS-caliber defensive backfield. Even as Quintin Payton nurses a protracted injury, State's receivers remain deep with the return of Bryan Underwood. RB Tony Creecy is capable of carrying the load on the ground now that Shadrach Thornton has been suspended for the opener.
Who To Watch Out For: Compelling game for those who like to watch quality D-linemen in action. Both teams are stacked up front; State will get after Young with ends Art Norman and Darryl Cato-Bishop and underrated tackles T.Y. McGill and Thomas Teal. Tech's best defenders are DE IK Enemkpali and DT Justin Ellis.

- Doeren will keep everyone in the dark until game day on his choice for quarterback. It's narrowed to two transfers, Colorado State's Pete Thomas or Arkansas' Brandon Mitchell. The smart money is on Thomas.

- Young has a very live, but will Holtz unleash it? The coach has had a penchant for running offenses that are—too—conservative.

- NC State is looking for breakout stars on defense. Senior CB Dontae Johnson, for one, is ready to answer the call, beginning with this Saturday's opener.

What Will Happen: Someone is going to capture his first win on a new campus. And that someone is Doeren. Yeah, his team is a work-in-progress, but this week's opponent is starting at an even more rudimentary stage. The Pack will have its way with the Bulldogs' defense, racing out to a lead that it never surrenders.
Prediction: NC State 38 … Louisiana Tech 20
Line: NC State -13.5 O/U: 62.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 N'Sync at the VMAs) … 2

Penn State (0-0) vs. Syracuse (0-0) Aug. 31, 3:30, ABC/ESPN2

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Having lost more than 30 seniors, its leadership core, to graduation, Penn State is determined to keep surging forward under the direction of second-year head coach Bill O'Brien.

Long gone are the linchpins of last year's storybook eight-win season, like Mike Mauti, Michael Zordich and Matt McGloin. New leaders are being developed as the Nittany Lions prepare to face one-time Eastern rival Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in a throwback to the old Kickoff Classic days. Not unlike this time last year, Penn State is a wild card, with its direction dependent upon a few key positions, such as quarterback.

Syracuse finished last season on a roll, winning six of its final seven games, including a Pinstripe Bowl rout of West Virginia. But the newest member of the ACC won't have head coach Doug Marrone or QB Ryan Nassib around to keep the program surging forward. New head man Scott Shafer, who was promoted from defensive coordinator, has been in no hurry to name his successor to Nassib.
Why Penn State Might Win: While neither JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson nor five-star rookie Christian Hackenberg have any experience at this level, the quarterback will be surrounded by solid supporting cast. North-south RB Zach Zwinak is a 1,000-yard rusher, Allen Robinson is one of the premier receivers of the Big Ten and the Lions are deep at tight end. If the hole at center can be filled, Penn State should be able to solve a Syracuse defense still looking for answers in the pass rush and pass defense.
Why Syracuse Might Win: Depth remains a problem at Penn State, and probably will be for some time. The Orange wants to wear down the Lions with the complementary backfield duo of Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley, which combined for 2,001 yards on the ground in 2012. Penn State lost six defensive starters, which is going to force a bunch of underclassmen to perform beyond their experience level. Syracuse, on the other hand, has a veteran feel on D, headed by DT Jay Bromley, linebackers Dyshawn Davis and Marquis Spruill and CB Keon Lyn.
Who To Watch Out For: Both teams will have new starting quarterbacks. Shafer won't announce his choice before Saturday, leaving O'Brien to guess whether Terrel Hunt or Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen will get the nod.

- Whoever is taking snaps in blue ought to be just fine. O'Brien has that kind of effect on young quarterbacks. Plus, none of the Syracuse pass rushers are particularly frightening coming off the edge.

- Syracuse is going to miss LT Justin Pugh, but how much? Someone in orange better be prepared to slow down Penn State DE Deion Barnes, one of the Big Ten's best pass rushers.

- Too bad Penn State and Syracuse didn't wind up in the same league. Still, this is the kind of game that should be played every other year.

- Penn State is getting more questions these days about football and far fewer about the NCAA sanctions. Progress.
What Will Happen: Just like last season, Penn State will start slowly. This time around, though, a more confident team will find a way to survive. The Lions are a bit of a mystery, with question marks on both sides of the ball. Fortunately, the same applies to Syracuse. In the battle of first-time starting quarterbacks, Penn State will get a few more money plays from its new point man to hang on for a gut-check win.
Prediction: Penn State 28 … Syracuse 24
Line: Penn State -7.5 o/u: 54.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 3

BYU (0-0) at Virginia (0-0) Aug. 31, 3:30, ESPNU

Why You Should Give A Hoot: BYU is making a rare trip to the East Coast to pop the cork on one of the toughest schedules of 2013. Although the Cougars might have as much talent as any other non-AQ squad, that nasty slate is likely to squash dreams of a BCS bowl game. Ninth-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall is shifting to a more up-tempo attack in the hopes of surpassing last year's eight wins.

Virginia head coach Mike London initiated his own changes since the end of 2012, shaking up his staff with the additions of Steve Fairchild and Tom O'Brien on offense and Jon Tenuta to lead the defense. London needs the moves to be effective. He's five games below .500 in three seasons at the head of the Cavaliers, and last year's squad won just four games.
Why BYU Might Win: The Cougars begin the season with a bona fide star on each side of the ball, WR Cody Hoffman and LB Kyle Van Noy. Virginia, to the contrary, isn't boiling over with sure-fire studs. BYU will again be solid defensively, while the offense will grind out yards on the ground behind run-first QB Taysom Hill and second-year RB Jamaal Williams. The Cavs will be especially vulnerable in the front seven, as a spate of new starters gets inserted into the lineup.
Why Virginia Might Win: The Cavaliers will make the Cougars one-dimensional on offense on Saturday afternoon. BYU is installing a new system with a young quarterback who's a better runner than thrower at this stage of his development. Plus, the defensive backfield is Virginia's strongest unit on either side of the ball. All four starters return, including all-star candidates Demetrious Nicholson and Anthony Harris. UVa will have the luxury of pressing up safeties and linebackers to stall the BYU ground game.
Who To Watch Out For: Hill holds the key to BYU's success this year and possibly for the next couple of seasons. He'll run, even on a surgically-repaired knee, but it's his development as a passer that'll hold the key to the Cougars' offense.

- It's David Watford's show behind center in Charlottesville now that Michael Rocco transferred and Phillip Sims got the academic boot. Watford must maximize the skills of receivers Tim Smith and Darius Jennings.

- This is the start of a crucial year for UVa LT Morgan Moses. If he can finally put it all together, he has the size, seasoning and skill set to be one of the first linemen chosen in the 2014 NFL Draft.

- When Hoffman and Nicholson are matched up on opposite sides of the line, pro scouts will be sitting up and taking notice. This will not be the final time that the receiver and the cornerback face-off in a meaningful game.

What Will Happen: In a tight defensive struggle that'll be painfully light on explosive plays, BYU's stars will help carry the team to a hard-fought win. Van Noy, in particular, is a difference-maker, the kind of defender who can impose his will on a game. He'll do something in the latter stages of the nail-biter to propel his Cougars to the road victory.
Prediction: BYU 24 … Virginia 16
Line: BYU -1 o/u: 50.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 3

North Carolina Central (0-0) at Duke (0-0) Aug. 31, 4:00, ESPN3.com

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Duke is coming off its first bowl appearance since 1994, while head coach David Cutcliffe has turned the Blue Devils into an entertaining offensive squad. The defense still allows huge plays, a perennial problem that has plagued more than just the current staff. Having broken through in 2012, Duke wants to show in 2013 that it's no one-hit wonder by remaining on a winning track.

Why NC Central Might Win: Have you seen Duke play defense in recent years? The amount of starters coming back is not a good thing, which only adds more pressure to a unit that has struggled so much. If the Blue Devils turn it over a few times, there is a shot an upset occurs. The Eagles return four starting O-linemen, and veteran QB Jordan Reid returns for his senior year.

Why Duke Might Win: The Dukies may win because they are the heavy favorites and the far superior team on paper. Four seasons ago these two matched up, and the Blue Devils handled NC Central, 49-14. Nothing will change, as WR Jamison Crowder should get open at will for new starting QB Anthony Boone.

Who To Watch Out For: Crowder is easily the guy to watch out for. He got Duke bowl-eligible with a tremendous game-winning touchdown catch against the Tar Heels and he is a possession machine that can run circles around any FCS opponent.

What Will Happen: Duke will come through in its opener with the momentum they still have from the 2012 season, plus its offense can torch poor NC Central. Boone is a dual-threat and has a huge body that will help him out towards the goal-line. The defense should be fine once the second half rolls along, so do not be shocked if Duke scores close to 50 on Saturday.

Prediction: Duke 54 … NC Central 17
Line: Duke -33
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 N'Sync at the VMAs) … 1