College football last week reminded us all of the many reasons we love the game. There were big-time matchups. There were outstanding performances. There were last-minute drams. There were upset bids averted. By comparison, this week is shaping up to be a snoozer nationally. But we ACC fans will learn a bit more about the lay of the land as more teams dip their toes into conference play.
As always, we'll split this week's games into categories.
1) Projected Blowouts
Virginia is a 43-point home favorite against VMI.
FSU is a 40-point home favorite against Bethune-Cookman.
Miami is a 60-point favorite against Savannah State.
Isn't Savannah State the school that FSU beat so badly last year they ended the game early? Regardless, these lines are just silly. The only things worth watching here are if Virginia's offense can put up 43 points against anyone and if these teams can keep their players healthy as they point towards conference play.
2) Must-wins for the conference
Virginia Tech is an 8-point home favorite against Marshall.
Wake is a 3-point road favorite at Army.
Syracuse is a 14.5-point home favorite against Tulane.
Other than Wake's debacle of a loss against ULM last week (that I hinted at, of course), the ACC has avoided bad losses for the most part. But these three teams will need be careful this week. Tech opened as an 11-point favorite against the Thundering Herd, but that line has gotten tighter. It should be an interesting challenge for the Hokies. They can barely score, and Marshall has scored 30 points or more in all three games this season. Still, these are usually the types of games that Frank Beamer's teams pull out in the second half. Syracuse is still looking for its first FBS win of the season and should get it against Tulane. But really, does anyone have confidence that Wake will go to West Point and beat an Army team that stayed competitive with Stanford? Anyone? Didn't think so.
3) Statement games
Maryland is a 5-point favorite against West Virginia in Baltimore.
The turncoats got their best win of the season last week against UConn. They'll go for an even better win against the Mountaineers. Still better, Maryland is unveiling new uniforms on Thursday! Something about Maryland pride...or something. As much animosity I have for the Terps, they're looking surprisingly strong so far in 2013. A win against WVU on Saturday would make a bowl bid pretty darn likely. I'm taking Maryland until proven otherwise.
4) Two Coastal battles
Pitt is a 4-point road favorite in Durham against Duke.
Georgia Tech is 6.5-point home favorite against North Carolina.
As prickly as he is, apparently, you have to give Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson credit. His teams win the games they're supposed to win. Last week at Duke was another great example of that. Vad Lee threw 4 touchdown passes...because that's apparently a thing at Georgia Tech now...and the Jackets defense solved Duke's offense when it mattered. UNC was the preseason pick by many as the favorite in the Coastal. After losing their opener to South Carolina, the Heels definitely don't want to start the year 0-2. At this point, I'd bet on the Jackets winning another one they're supposed to. Meanwhile, Duke hosts its second ACC home game in as many weeks, and many wonder which Pitt team will show up. In this one, it might be a matter of which team's hype you believe less. I wouldn't be surprised to see Duke pull it out if they can get some decent quarterback play.
5) The most important ACC game of the week
Clemson is a 14-point favorite on the road at NC State.
Not to take away from any of this week's other games, but all eyes will be on Raleigh this week to see if Clemson can "avoid a Clemson" and beat the Wolfpack. The Tigers shouldn't have much trouble, especially if State's quarterback troubles continue. That said, NC State has a history of beating the eventual Atlantic Division champion. The Wolfies shocked FSU in 2010, Clemson in 2011 and FSU again last year. The Tiger faithful certainly won't be taking this one lightly.
6) Opponent special
BYU is a 7-point favorite at home against Utah.
The Cougars ran over, around and through Texas two weeks again in their home opener. Clearly, after facing Virginia's defense, the Longhorns defenders looked more like the Dillon Panthers out there. No reason to think the BYU offense lets up this week unless there's rain and lightning, or if Eli Harold suits up for Utah.
Until next week...