ACC Weekend Football Preview: Week 1

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Chris Miller previews this weekend’s ACC football games. Three ACC
teams will take on 1-AA opponents on Saturday, while UVA will face a
highly-touted USC team. In the weekend’s biggest game, ACC favorite
Clemson meets Alabama in the Georgia Dome.

Pu Pu Platter

Delaware vs. Maryland, 3:45pm, ESPNU

Why Delaware can win: Looking back the past five seasons, Maryland has
not exactly been throttling any of their early season “cream puffs”.
Delaware is a top ten FCS team, so they have the ability to hang around. The
deeper the game goes with a close margin the more pressure mounts on the Terps
and Jordan Steffy. Heading into this season, Maryland’s defense is a huge
question mark. Delaware should have some success through the air against a
Terrapin secondary that is breaking in 3 new starters.

Why Maryland can win: Chew on these numbers, 6’4 and 316lbs…that is
the average height and weight of Maryland’s offensive line, 10th biggest
in IA football. The line returns seven players that have starting experience.
Maryland will let their big uglies lean on Delaware’s smaller defensive front
all game; by the start of the 4th the overall depth of FCS teams will come into
play. The Blue Hens should be gassed. In somewhat of a surprise move, Jordan
Steffy will be the starting QB for the Terps. In his five starts last year he
averaged 98 ypg. That tells me he’s not looking long, which is a problem
seeing how they have one of the most explosive WRs in the ACC in Darius
Heyward-Bey. Look for Darius to get behind the Blue Hens secondary a time or
two; it will just be a matter of Steffy squeezing the trigger.

Maryland 38, Delaware 24

McNeese State vs. North Carolina, 6pm

Why McNeese St can win: The ACC squares off with another top ten FCS team
in McNeese State. (Did we not learn anything from App St./Michigan?) McNeese
State’s best chance of keeping this game close is to get solid pressure on T.J.
Yates. Don’t let him get comfortable, as he is prone to tossing the ball to
the other team from time to time (18 INT’s last year). McNeese State QB Derrick
Fourroux is very good, as he put up 16 TD’s to only 5 interceptions last
season. He is a very efficient passer that will test UNC’s secondary.

Why North Carolina can win: Everybody’s sexy pick to win the Coastal
this season needs to find a running game quickly to have the type of success
everyone is predicting. An improved offensive line with a trio of true sophomore
RB’s (Greg Little, Anthony Elzy and Ryan Houston) should do the trick. The
depth will allow them to wear teams down late in the game. Once the Heels have
the Cowboys playing the run, they can slip future NFL receiver Hakeem Nicks in
the secondary and let him do his thing. It will be interesting to see how much
freedom they give TJ Yates in this game, it may be a precursor of things to
come.

North Carolina 35, McNeese State 17

James Madison vs. Duke, 7pm

Why James Madison can win: Duke football has won a grand total of 2
football games (VMI & Northwestern) in the last 3 seasons. Point blank, the
Blue Devils do not know how to win because they conceivably could have won 4
games last season and came up short in all but 1. James Madison is returning 15
starters from a team that all but had Appalachian State beat in the FCS playoffs
last season. The Dukes possess a potent three headed running monster in QB
Rodney Landers, RB Griff Yancey and RB Antoinne Bolton. JMU has been ranked as
high as #1 in preseason magazines, so I expect this one to be a battle to the
very end.

Why Duke can win: Under the guidance of new Head Coach David Cutcliffe I
expect a new attitude in the program with a little more pep in their step.
Cutcliffe won at an Ole Miss program that has not recovered since firing him
after his 1st losing season. This year’s Duke team is the 2nd most experienced
in the ACC. Duke’s defensive strength is up the middle with DT Vince Oghobaase
(12 tackles for loss last year) and LB’s Mike Tauiliili and Vincent Rey. The
Blue Devils definitely prefer to face a run oriented offense, as their talent on
defense matches up well in that facet of the game. Cutcliffe knows he needs to
develop a fan base, or a fan, so I expect him to try and open it up and be
aggressive on offense. QB Thaddeus Lewis and WR Eron Riley are experienced and
more than capable of putting up big numbers in this game and season. Duke ranked
117 in rushing last season, and while they can only improve on that number don’t
look for drastic improvements.

Duke 27, JMU 24

Heavy Hors d’oeuvres

Kent State vs. Boston College, 7:30pm, ESPNU

Why Kent State can win: A mobile QB (Julian Edelman) is one way to
generate some yards on the ground, and it might be enough to keep the BC front
from being overly aggressive with their rush because I can’t see them lining
up and attacking BC with a 5’5 RB. Boston College has never been known for
having great skill players or an overly athletic secondary, and after losing
three starters from last year’s secondary this will be the preferred way to
attack them. The Golden Flashes receivers will have to come up huge in this
game, unfortunately for them their leading receiver last year was also their
vertically challenged RB Jarvis (306yds).

Why Boston College can win: Defense, Defense, Defense. Or maybe I should
be more specific. BC’s front seven should be just as stout against the run as
they were in 2007. They bring back BJ Raji (listed at 325, let’s just say
maybe in the 9th grade) and LB Brian Toal, two premier players that missed the
entire season last year. Kent State’s offensive strength is running the ball
with 5’5 Eugene Jarvis(139 ypg in ‘07) and QB Julian Edelman, but it will be
tough sledding against this defensive front. Offensively BC is breaking in new
QB Chris Crane, a SR with 40 career passes to his name. Luckily, one of BC’s
offensive strengths (Wideouts) will be matched up with the weakness of Kent
State’s defense, their secondary. Boston College is returning three receivers
that had 50+ receptions a year ago, which should help Crane’s transition.

Boston College 30, Kent State 10

Southern California vs. UVA, 3:30pm, ABC

Why USC can win: Seriously where do I start? USC is loaded at tailback
with Stafon Johnson, Joe McKnight and C.J. Gable, they will all get their
touches and stay fresh throughout the contest. If UVA’s defensive line can’t
keep the USC lineman from getting to the second level, this will be a very long
night. UVA’s linebackers are good and are absolutely the strength of their
defense, but if they have to constantly fight off blocks their effectiveness is
diminished greatly. If UVA can’t stop the run we all know they don’t have a
prayer at stopping the pass. The secondary just isn’t very good and USC has a
couple studs at wide receiver, Patrick Turner (6’5 220) and Vidal Hazelton (6’3
210). UVA CB Vic Hall (5’9 185) is giving up some serious size to those two.
USC’s defense is better than their offense, with 5 preseason 1st team players,
and 4 preseason 2nd team players in one publication. I don’t really see any
match-ups that don’t favor USC, but that’s why they play the game.

Why UVA can win: Quick sidebar: Did anyone else chuckle when Al Groh
refused to name his starting quarterback this week because he wanted to keep USC
guessing? Really??? You have so many unique/good options that USC is devising
game plans for each? Really? God, I love Al Groh. Since 1985 UVA is 20-3 in
season openers and Al Groh coached teams are 34-10 at home. They have home field
advantage in their favor, which I think will have to carry them a long way. They
absolutely need to make a big play early and ride that emotional wave as long as
possible. UVA does have two talented running backs in Cedric Peerman and Mikel
Simpson, but their interior offensive line is inexperienced and USC’s front 7
is the real deal. Whoever starts at quarterback will be facing a talented
secondary and have limited success.

USC 48, UVA 14

MAIN COURSE:

Clemson vs. Alabama, 8pm, ABC

Why Clemson can win: An extremely important game for the ACC conference.
Too many times recently the conference has been coming up short in the games vs.
marquee teams from BCS conferences. The preseason ACC favorite needs to defeat a
middle of the pack SEC team point blank. Clemson is returning loads of
playmakers at the skill positions, led by seniors QB Cullen Harper, RB James
Davis and WR Aaron Kelly. The Alabama linebackers are going to get tested this
game, and other then Roland McClain, they lack game experience. Expect a heavy
dose of Thunder (Davis) and Lightning (C.J. Spiller) early. Once Clemson has
softened them up, Harper will have a field day with his explosive receiving
corps and a not so great defensive secondary. Clemson brings back a very good
defense from last year (8 starters). A good defensive line coupled with a top
defensive backfield equals a long night for QB John Parker Wilson. Look for
defensive ends Ricky Sapp and “all-everything” true frosh Da’Quan Bowers
to pressure John Parker into a few turnovers.

Why Alabama can win: Nick Saban > Tommy Bowden. It’s a minor miracle
that Bowden is in his 10th season at Clemson, because his teams have come up
small in big games (ex. VT and BC last year, both at home). The other monkey
wrench in this game and season is Clemson’s offensive line. I think too many
football analysts have glossed over this potential disaster. The o-line is
returning 34 career starts among the five starting linemen, 14th lowest in the
NCAA. It is imperative that Bama’s front seven spends the evening in Clemson’s
backfield. VT fans know all too well what a porous offensive line can do to an
offense’s ability to score. Offensively Bama will rely heavily on Sr QB John
Parker Wilson. Alabama is not loaded at the skill positions, but they do hold a
potential ace up their sleeve in true frosh WR Julio Jones. Julio is 6’4,
210lbs runs a 4.48 with a 40 inch vertical. That is a mismatch even for Clemson’s
experienced defensive backfield.

Clemson 31 Alabama 20

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