The expansion of the Atlantic Coast Conference is no longer just talk. In 2013 new additions will actually take the field for conference play. Syracuse joins the Atlantic division while Pittsburgh joins the Coastal.
Pittsburgh wastes no time jumping into a conference game against Florida State and what should be an improved conference provides some big time match ups right out of the gate. Here is a look:
5) Georgia vs. 8) Clemson (Saturday, 8:00 pm, ABC)
The schedulers makers wasted little time pitting two teams together who have lofty national goals. Both teams have been mentioned as national championship contenders and for Dabo Sweeney's Tigers, it has been a steady progression to the top after Sweeney was sitting firmly on the hot seat a few seasons ago. For Georgia, they have the gauntlet otherwise known as the SEC to get through before entertaining national championship thoughts. But the winner of this game will certainly receive an early leg up towards their goals. The top national game of the week should not disappoint from a talent standpoint featuring two Heisman hopefuls at quarterback. Tahj Boyd of the Tigers will bring his all purpose game while the Bulldogs Aaron Murray will bring his passing attack, which will have him sitting atop the all time passing leaders in the SEC when all is said and done. It is a perfect storm for Georgia who have a bevy of receivers and Mackey Award watch list tight end, Arthur Lynch. The offensive assault will face a Clemson secondary who has been banged up but have plenty of bodies to throw into the mix. For the Tigers, Sammy Watkins is a weapon who will test a Georgia defense who lost a number of key performers from last years squad. But Jordan Jenkins is back at his outside linebacker spot and is licking his chops. He has a chance to be a major disrupter in the game for the Georgia defense. The game will be played at Death Valley in Clemson.
Prediction: Clemson by 3
North Carolina vs. 6)South Carolina (Thursday, 6:00 pm, ESPN)
In another ACC vs. SEC first week matchup, Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks will host the up and coming Tar Heels of North Carolina. In a border war rivalry, Larry Fedora's spread offense will go up against a South Carolina defense led by Jadeveon Clowney, the best defensive player on the college football level in quite sometime. And leave it to Spurrier for a few subtle barbs, suggesting that he is still a "Dukie", so it is still special to face North Carolina. The Tar Heels bring in an experienced and productive quarterback into the game, in Bryn Renner. Renner has thrown 54 touchdown passes in the last two seasons, so Clowney will need to be a factor when the Heels have the ball. Carolina returns 14 starters off of an 8-4 team. In year two of the Fedora era, look for improvement as players he has recruited fit into his style of offense. The Gamecocks return 11 starters from a team that went 11-2 last season culminating with a bowl victory over Michigan. Quarterback Connor Shaw returns along with wide receiver Bruce Ellington. Shaw threw 17 touchdowns in 2012 while Ellington pulled down 7 touchdown catches along with 600 yards receiving.
Prediction: South Carolina by 6
1)Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Saturday 5:30 pm, ESPN)
In the third ACC versus SEC game of the week, the Hokies of Virginia Tech meet the two time defending National Champions, Alabama. The cupboard is certainly not bare for the Crimson Tide who are led by returning quarterback A.J. McCarron who threw 30 touchdown passes last season.. He will be throwing the ball to solid receiver Amari Cooper who racked up 1000 receiving yards last season. The Tide returns T.J. Yeldon at running back who rushed for over 1100 yards in 2012, Virginia Tech will have a difficult time with the Alabama offensive depth. The Hokies are hoping quarterback Logan Thomas shakes off a disappointing season at quarterback last season when he threw 16 interceptions to just 18 touchdown passes. He was projected as one of the top quarterbacks in the Country going into last season. Thomas will be facing the best linebacking corps in the Country with Alabama. To make matters worse, injuries have set in on an already thin running back stable for the Hokies. J.C. Coleman is recovering from spraining both ankles while Tony Gregory tore his ACL and is gone for the season. The game is the 2013 'Chick-fil-a Kickoff' from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Prediction: Alabama by 20
BEST OF THE REST
Syracuse vs. Penn State (Saturday 3:30 pm, ESPNU)
The Orange still have a question mark at the quarterback position. Senior, Charlie Loeb, Drew Allen and Terrel Hunt have competed for the starting job through camp. But one thing is for certain, they will be handing the ball off to Jerome Smith at running back. Smith rushed for 1117 last season and is the Orange's biggest offensive weapon. On defense, they bring in a nice linebacking group which could be the strength of that side of the ball. Penn State has not named a starting quarterback yet, either. Despite sanctions, the Nittany Lions do have some talent on their roster, led by all Big Ten receiver Allen Robinson who accrued over 1000 yards receiving last season. Thousand yard rusher, Zach Zwinak leads a gritty running back stable that returns this season. The Nittany Lions have a lot of holes and question marks on defense, particularly at linebacker but should be fairly solid in their front seven led by Deion Barnes. The game will be played at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey.
Prediction: Penn State by 4
BYU vs. Virginia (Saturday, 3:30 pm, ESPNU)
Quarterback Taysom Hill will lead the Cougars into battle in Virginia. Hill earned the start following high praise as a freshman . He is a duel threat quarterback and will be throwing the football to Cody Hoffman who grabbed 100 receptions and 1248 yards last season. Kyle Van Noy leads the defense at linebacker where he racked up 53 tackles and 13 sacks in 2012 on a team who won the Poinsetta Bowl. The Cavaliers return 16 starters from a disappointing 4-8 2012 season. Former Boston College and N.C. State head coach, Tom O'Brien has joined the Virginia staff at offensive coordinator. He should have an impact on a team who returns 9 starters on offense.
Prediction: BYU by 1
11)Florida State vs. Pittsburgh (Monday, 8:00 pm, ESPN)
Jameis Winston steps into the big shoes left by E.J. Manuel at quarterback for the Seminoles and his play will be key as to how successful this season will be. There should be no worries on the defensive side of the ball, the Seminoles should be very solid. Timmy Jernigan will lead a very talented defense that includes Demonte McAllister who had 33 tackles in 2012. The defense should take a lot of pressure off of the offense this season. The Panthers will be led by their defense, particularly their secondary. On offense, Tom Savage takes the reins at quarterback. The game will be played at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
Prediction: Florida State by 14
AND THEN THERE IS:
Presbyterian vs. Wake Forest (Thursday, 6:30 pm, ESPN3)
Running back Josh Harris was given eligibility to play this season. Harris led the Deacs in rushing last season. Tanner Price returns at quarterback for Wake Forest and the Deacs return 8 starters on defense.
Prediction: Wake Forest by 20
Florida Atlantic vs. Miami (Friday, 8:00 pm, ESPNU)
Stephen Morris at quarterback and Duke Johnson at running back, lead a Hurricanes team that brings back 20 of 22 starters from 2012. Al Golden's squad could be one to keep an eye on this season.
Prediction: Miami by 30
Elon vs. Georgia Tech (Saturday, 12:00 pm, ESPN3)
Quarterback Vad Lee takes over for the Yellow Jackets this season and Georgia Tech is one of many teams who will battle for a spot in the ACC Championship Game.
Prediction: Georgia Tech by 37
Villanova vs. Boston College (Saturday, 12:00 pm ESPN3)
Quarterback Chase Rettig returns to lead the Eagles at quarterback. The game will be played in Chestnut Hill.
Prediction: Boston College by 17
Florida International vs. Maryland (Saturday, 12:30 pm, ESPN3)
The Terps are hopeful that an improved effort from their defense will lead to more wins in 2013.
Prediction: Maryland by 20
Louisiana Tech vs. N.C. State (Saturday, 12:30 pm, ESPN3)
Dave Doeren takes over as head coach at N.C. State. The Wolfpack are a team in transition but still have some talent left in the cupboards.
Prediction: N.C. State by 12
N.C. Central vs. Duke (Saturday, 4:00 pm, ESPN3)
The Blue Devils look to follow up their first bowl appearance in 17 years with another successful season. Anthony Boone will take over for Sean Renfree at quarterback. Renfree will go down as one of the greatest Blue Devil quarterbacks.
Prediction: Duke by 30