Football season is back, and one of our best traditions is back along with it: the Streaking The Lawn ACC Pick ‘Em Challenge. If you haven’t signed up yet, you really should. It’s a great opportunity to compete against your fellow readers and our merry staff of STL writers. Learn more about it and sign up here.
Each Wednesday, I’ll use this column to discuss the upcoming ACC games and deliver some "helpful insight" as we all make our picks for the weekend. Let’s get to it for Week 1.
Category 1: Games Against FCS Opponents
Syracuse vs. Rhode Island (no spread)
Clemson vs. Wofford (no spread)
Boston College vs. Maine (no spread)
Pittsburgh vs. Youngstown State (no spread)
Miami vs. Bethune-Cookman (no spread)
Wake Forest vs. Elon (no spread)
Georgia Tech vs. Alcorn State (no spread)
We’re going to see plenty of these games in the next few weeks as most teams ease into their seasons. Did you hear that, John Oliver? Most teams ease into their season. It’s extremely rare that an FCS team will beat an FBS team, but it’s not impossible. Virginia, Duke, Michigan, and others have all lost to FCS teams over the years.
The most intriguing match-up here is Pitt against Youngstown State. The Panthers are breaking in a new coach in former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. Youngstown State comes in ranked 16th in the preseason FCS poll. Pitt finished 4-4 in the league last year and is a trendy pick to compete for the Coastal division crown despite the new coach.
Category 2: FBS Laughers
Florida State is a 29.5-point favorite at home against Texas State
NC State is a 26-point home favorite against Troy
Florida State begins life after Jameis Winston by facing a Bobcat team that went 7-5 last year in the Sun Belt. Traditionally, FSU has covered the spread in these types of early season mismatches. I can’t offer a compelling reason why they wouldn’t do the same this year. Troy was awful in the Sun Belt last season, but NC State has struggled against lower tier opponents. The Wolfpack won 4 of their last 5 in 2014.
Category 3: Games That Will Tell Us Something
North Carolina is a 2.5-point underdog against South Carolina in Charlotte
Duke is a 7.5-point favorite on the road at Tulane
Virginia is a 19.5-point underdog on the road against UCLA
Louisville is a 10.5-point underdog on the road at Auburn
Virginia Tech is a 12-point underdog at home against Ohio State
The Tar Heels are another trendy pick to compete for the Coastal division crown, while South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier faced a chorus of skepticism after a 7-6 campaign in 2014. This would be a statement victory for Larry Fedora’s squad. Duke is facing a bit of a rebuild this season, and we’ll know more about the depth of the rebuilding job after their trip to Tulane on Friday night. The Blue Devils are 11-1 in regular season OOC games over the last 3 years.
Virginia faces a tall task in Pasadena on Saturday, as UCLA returns 16 starters from last year. Still, if UVA’s defense comes anywhere close to approaching last year’s output, it’s tough to see the Hoos getting blown out. I’m not saying Virginia will pull off a shocker in the Rose Bowl, but I think the Wahoos will cover.
Louisville and Virginia Tech face a couple of national champion picks in Auburn and Ohio State, respectively. Louisville still needs to pick a quarterback, but the Cardinals could be better as they enter year 2 under Bobby Petrino. Blacksburg will be jumping as the Buckeyes come to town, but Ohio State’s players will be out for revenge after last year’s loss. It could be a long afternoon for the Cardinals on Saturday, and a long night for the Hokies on Monday.