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ACC Fearless Predictions - Week 1, Part 2

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 29, 2006


Preview and predictions for the week one ACC games.


ACC
Atlantic Boston Coll | ClemsonFlorida St | Maryland | NC State | Wake Forest
Coastal Duke | Georgia Tech | Miami | North Carolina | Virginia | Virginia Tech

ACC Week One Predictions

Syracuse at Wake Forest   6:30 pm EST  Saturday, September 2nd 
Why to Watch:  Looking for a surprise team in either the Big East or the ACC?  These two have to be on the radar. Syracuse didn’t do much offensively behind QB Perry Patterson last year, and that’s being nice, so the key for this offense is how well he’s protected and what he can do when given time. He'll be worth watching if only to see how the offense might be better early on.  Wake, on the other hand, has got talent in the backfield with RB Micah Andrews, son of former Atlanta Falcon William Andrews, running behind a solid line led by Steve Vallos. If the Demon Deacons really plan on being a challenger for a bowl bid, it needs to win this game.
Why Syracuse Might Win:  There are enough decent pieces in place to hope for an immediate turnaround. Patterson has started for four years and if it ‘clicks’ for him this season, he has the potential to make the O night-and-day better. He’s a big, strong quarterback who has to keep the chains moving and keep the defense off the field.  LB Kelvin Smith is one of the nation’s best, but how effective he can be behind a ‘green’ Orange line, especially at DE, is a major question mark this season.
Why Wake Forest Might Win: 
The Deacon running game is difficult for first time opponents to defense, not to mention the fact that Andrews is going to be working behind a strong line that should give the Orange D line fits. If QB Ben Mauk avoids turnovers and gets his receivers involved early on, things will become wide open for the ground attack. The secondary is one of the ACC's most underrated. If Patterson has to throw it around the yard to keep the Orange in the game, they’ll make him pay.
Who to Watch:  Wake Forest CB Alphonso Smith may be unknown nationally, but he won’t be after this season.  He’s one of the best cover corners in the ACC already and  a complete player who should have a big year. Patterson has to know where he is at all times and stay away from him as much as possible.
What Will Happen:  Wake should control the ball on the ground forcing the Orange to roll up a safety into the box to account for the run game.  That should be enough room for Mauk to go over the top for a few big difference-making plays. LB Jon Abbate and the Demon Deacon D will keep the Orange ground game under wraps.

CFN Prediction: Wake Forest 27 ... Syracuse 16 ... Line: Wake Forest -15.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 2.5 
Final Score: 
  

Richmond at Duke  6 pm EST  Saturday, September 2nd 
Why to Watch:  Josh McRoberts should be this season's transcendent college basketball star with the NBA skills to ... oh yeah, it's football time in Durham.  QB Marcus Jones is under the radar in a major way after the Blue Devils lost former starter Zack Asack earlier this summer.  Jones is a multi-talented player who holds the key to the any success in his hand, and he has to prove he can shine right away after having played some WR last year. In offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien’s versatile offensive scheme, it’ll be interesting to watch what the dynamic performer can do with the ball in his hands every play.
Why Richmond Might Win:  Duke won’t overwhelm Richmond with athleticism, which is what happens in most 1AA vs. 1A BCS conference games. Richmond QB Eric Ward will take over the starting spot and should put pressure on Duke’s defense, if he can keep his nerves in check.  The Atlantic 10 champ last year, the Spiders are strong on both lines with just enough talent to hold up all game long.
Why Duke Might Win:  Jones has a significant handle on the offensive playbook and allows O’Brien to keep Richmond off-balance with his play calling. Duke DE Eli Nichols and the rest of the defensive line must pressure the redshirt freshman Ward into turnovers early and often, which they should be able to do from the start.
Who to Watch:  Most ACC teams have learned that going after Duke CB John Talley isn’t a good proposition, and if Richmond falls behind, Ward may learn the same thing.  Talley speaks softly, but he wields a wicked game and needs to make at least one big play to help avoid the upset. Keep an eye on Duke DT Vince Oghobaase, who has the potential to dominate on the inside.
What Will Happen:  With one of the most difficult schedules in Division 1A, Duke must win this game to generate some winning/positive momentum.  It may not be pretty, but the Blue Devils will need the running game to carry the offense. 

CFN Prediction: Duke 21 ... Richmond 16 ... Line: No Line
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 1.5 
Final Score: 
  

Northeastern at Virginia Tech  1:30 pm EST  Saturday, September 2nd 
Why to Watch:  Two words: Enter. Sandman. If the entrance of the Hokies doesn’t fire you up, then you either don’t have a pulse or you don’t appreciate the finer things of college football. That'll be the game's only drama in a light scrimmage for Frank Beamer's bunch before opening the ACC season at North Carolina next week.
Why Northeastern Might Win: Husky running back Maurice Murray has the talent to be a factor in D-IAA play and could provide a little bit of a test for the Hokie defensive front seven. In the first of five straight on the road, the Huskies have a great opportunity to challenge themselves ... and collect a hefty paycheck.
Why Virginia Tech Might Win: The Hokies will show up. Pick an offensive threat and he’ll probably do something solid.  The focus will be on Hokie QB Sean Glennon and what he can bring to the offense.  Maybe more focus will be on what he won’t do, but it won’t matter this week.  The offensive line will share the spotlight with Glennon, but against Northeastern’s defensive line, they should look good and should get the ground game, a concern going into the season, on track for at least this week.  
Who to Watch:  Glennon and WR Eddie Royal played on the same high school team, so it’s time for the two of them to hook up again and establish a rapport at the D-I level.  Royal can give the Hokie offense and special teams return game an added burst with his playmaking skills, but his role as Glennon's go-to guy will be the biggest key to the post-Marcus Vick passing attack early on.
What Will Happen:
  Virginia Tech RB Branden Ore should have a big game and set the stage for a surprising year.  He’s a talented back who should break onto the ACC and national scene this season, but he might only play a half. This one should be over at halftime, even though Rocky Hager’s Huskies will never quit.
CFN Prediction: Virginia Tech 63 ... Northeastern 0 ... Line: No Line
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 1
Final Score: 
  

Rutgers at North Carolina  3:30 pm EST  ABC  Saturday, September 2nd 
Why to Watch:  Rutgers believes that last year wasn’t a fluke and North Carolina thinks that it's headed back to a bowl game in 2006 after a down year. This game will go a long way to determining both and should be a tone-setter. Expect a great deal of power running on both sides with UNC’s Ronnie McGill and Rutgers’ duo of Ray Rice and Brian Leonard good enough all put up huge numbers. The Tar Heel defense has gotten more athletic and more productive the past three years, but stopping the Scarlet Knight two-headed monster is a task and a half. If they can do it, then it might make next week's battle with Virginia Tech more interesting. Rutgers could get off to a hot start with a win with three winnable road games (Illinois, Buffalo and Howard) to follow.
Why Rutgers Might Win:  Rice is good. Leonard might be a late first/early second round NFL pick. Together they're magnificent and have to combine for at least 200 yards to pull off the road upset. The question mark, though, for the offense is whether QB Mike Teel is ready to be The Man. If he is, this offense is flat out scary and North Carolina won't be able to keep up the offensive pace. On defense, Rutgers is small, but quick, so if they can slant/move and frustrate the Heels offensive line, McGill won’t reach 100 yards.
Why North Carolina Might Win: Carolina’s defense has improved mightily over the last few seasons. While it'll have its hands full stopping the Rutgers powerful attack, it's far better equipped than previous years with a solid front seven that should be able to get into the backfield against the shaky Scarlet Knight offensive line. The QB situation, not controversy, can’t play itself out on the field – either Joe Dailey or Cam Sexton has to definitively be the leader.
Who to Watch:  Rutgers DT Ramel Meekins made a number of huge plays in the backfield from his interior position last year and has to be a factor right off the bat  He’s not a 300+ pound, gap stuffer, but he's quick and can disrupt the Carolina blocking schemes. 
What Will Happen:  The Carolina passing game could be the X factor. WR Jesse Holley will have a big game if someone can get him the ball consistently, but, that’s a tall order for one guy trying to redeem himself (Dailey) and one guy trying to make a name for himself (Sexton).  However, in the end, too much Rice and Leonard could open things up for perhaps the best unknown tight end in the nation Clark Harris.
CFN Prediction: Rutgers 27 ... North Carolina 24 ... Line: North Carolina -5.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 3
Final Score: 
  

Notre Dame at Georgia Tech  8 pm EST ABC  Saturday, September 2nd 
Why to Watch:  Can Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson torch the Irish secondary that's still smarting from the 2006 Fiesta Bowl? Is Notre Dame WR Jeff Samardzija the real deal?  Can Notre Dame QB/cover boy Brady Quinn make a big statement in the Heisman race? Is Notre Dame worth all the hype? Can the slightly-maligned defense play close to as well as the offense? Can Georgia Tech pull off an opening day shocker like it did last year beating Auburn 32-14? Do you need any more reasons to watch? Notre Dame's upcoming games against Penn State and Michigan might be getting more hype, but this could turn out to be the most dangerous September game. Georgia Tech has two weeks off playing Samford and Troy before starting up the ACC season, so a big win would mean a red-hot start and plenty of national respect.
Why Notre Dame Might Win:  The last time we saw Georgia Tech’s defense it was getting shredded by Utah QB Brett Ratliff in a humiliating 38-10 loss in the Emerald Bowl. Brett Ratliff?!?  Fine, so he's good, but he's not Quinn and Utah's 2005 offense isn't 2006 Notre Dame's. While the focus will be on the offense, Irish fans are more curious to see how the defense has improved. Defensive tackles Derek Landri and Victor Abiamiri are much better than they're getting credit for, and if they can put edge pressure and middle push on Georgia Tech QB Reggie Ball, the Yellow Jacket signal caller will make mistakes. Lots and lots of mistakes.
Why Georgia Tech Might Win:  Three reasons why Tech can pull this upset: 1. Johnson is facing the same secondary that Ohio State torched last year. Unlike last year, Tech has other receiving options to take some of the attention away  2. ND comes to Atlanta with the hype machine clearly in tow. No one's expecting anything less than a run to the BCS Championship game, so the full weight of the national pressure is all on the Irish. Tech should be able to play loose. 3. Johnson is facing…oh, wait, same reason.  Either way, Johnson is the game changer for GT and he must see the ball. Also, don't discount Tech head coach Chan Gailey and his ability to get his team ready for a big game. Charlie Weis might be college football's Really Big Thing right now, but Gailey has NFL experience and is good enough to match Weis move for move and adjustment for adjustment.
Who to Watch:  Georgia Tech CB Kenny Scott has had a chance to face Johnson in practice for the past few years and should be more than ready to take on one of his toughest tasks this season: Samardzija. The Irish might have more weapons than the product of the Chicago Cub farm system, but it needs to get No. 83 rolling to have everything working effectively. ... Love him or hate him, but Ball is a big-game quarterback. Yeah, he sometimes couldn't hit water if he was standing at the bottom of the sea, but he's a four-year veteran who has seen more than his share of pressure moments and won't wilt in the national spotlight. His mobility, his Troy Smith-like mobility, could turn out to be the difference.  
What Will Happen:  Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta will roll the dice in an attempt to put Quinn on his backside for much of the game, which should make RB Darius Walker a major key on screens out of the backfield.  The question for Quinn will be whether he can find the blitzers in the zone scheme and exploit the mismatches. He will, but it won't be enough. Georgia Tech's defense is far better than it gets credit for, while Ball will do just enough to pull off the upset. It won't be pretty, but the Yellow Jackets have the makeup to pull off the shocker ... or get beaten by three touchdowns.
CFN Prediction: Georgia Tech 23 ... Notre Dame 20 ... Line: Notre Dame -7.5  (Note: John Harris does the ACC write-ups and predictions, and in the Staff Picks, selected Notre Dame. I make the final call on picks for the site and am nuts enough to stick with the preseason call of Tech pulling this off. No, we don't play both sides. - Fiu)
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 4.5
Final Score: 
  

ACC Week One Predictions