After a pretty uninspiring weekend to open the 2017 college football season, here’s hoping the ACC performs a little bit better this week.
Week One saw the presumptive favorite to win the league — Florida State — get beat down by Alabama and lose their starting quarterback for the rest of the year. Georgia Tech racked up over 500 yards rushing and found a way to collapse against Tennessee. NC State pulled an NC State and lost to a South Carolina team they should have beaten. Louisville struggled against a bad Purdue team but found a way to win. UNC lost to Cal, who won’t win more than three games this year. You get the picture.
The only quality win you can point to is Virginia Tech topping West Virginia.
There are a couple of opportunities this week for the league to earn back some respect. Here’s what’s on tap (all ACC games this week are Saturday):
#3 Clemson vs. #13 Auburn
Clemson Memorial Stadium — Clemson, SC — 7:00pm (ESPN)
Line : Clemson -4.5
This is the headliner for the ACC this week for obvious reasons. With Deondre Francois done for the year and questions surrounding Florida State, Clemson could take advantage of the power vacuum in the Atlantic Division, if you want to call it that. QB Kelly Bryant looked pretty sharp in his debut as he and the Tiger offense rolled up 665 yards on poor Kent State. Conversely, the Clemson D held the Golden Flashes to a pitiful 120 yards of total offense.
They’ll get a much tougher test in Auburn, who gave the eventual national champs all they could handle in a 19-13 win in Week One of 2016. This year is a desperation year for Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who’s been really mediocre since securing a berth in the 2014 BCS title game. Auburn wasn’t tested last week either, pounding Georgia Southern 41-7. While Clemson should win this game at home, if they don’t, the SEC elitists will be insufferable.
Pittsburgh vs. #4 Penn State
Beaver Stadium — State College, PA — 3:30pm (ABC)
Line: Penn State -22
The Nittany Lions are out for revenge after last year’s loss to the Panthers effectively kept them out of the College Football Playoff. James Franklin has gotten things rolling in Happy Valley, but this is one to keep an eye on. 22 points seems like an awfully big spread in a rivalry game like this, and while Pitt fell asleep against Youngstown State last week, I think this one could be more competitive than people think.
Duke vs. Northwestern
Wallace Wade Stadium — Durham, NC — 12:00pm (ESPNU)
Line: Northwestern -3
Two peer programs lock horns in the Bull City. Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcat teams are always well-coached and look to be the favorites here. But don’t sleep on Duke and signal caller Daniel Jones. If the Devils are going to outperform some of the preseason predictions that have them falling short of a bowl, this is the type of win that could go a long way to silence the naysayers.
Wake Forest vs. Boston College
Alumni Stadium — Chestnut Hill, MA — 1:00pm (ACC Network)
Line: BC -1.5
Far from the most important and exciting match-ups this weekend, it is only one of two conference games. BC and Wake are very similar in they usually don’t put up a ton of points. The games are usually really close, too. BC managed to hold on against Northern Illinois on the road last week while Wake pounded Presbyterian.
This one will give us a better idea of where these two Atlantic teams stand in the pecking order.
#17 Louisville vs. North Carolina
Kenan Stadium — Chapel Hill, NC — 12:00pm (ESPN)
Line: Louisville -10
Here’s the other conference game this week. While I think the Pitt-PSU spread is too big, I think Louisville -10 is too small. The undermanned Heels gave up 469 yards of offense to Cal — 363 of which were through the air by a QB who had never played before. Now the defending Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson comes to town. I think the Cardinals get it together and pound Carolina.
The Rest of the League
UL-Monroe @ #10 Florida State (12:00pm – ACC Network)
Jacksonville State @ Georgia Tech (12:30pm – ACC Network)
Delaware @ #18 Virginia Tech (3:30pm – ACC Network)
Indiana @ Virginia (3:30pm – ESPNU)
Middle Tennessee @ Syracuse (3:30pm – ACC Network)
Marshall @ NC State (6:00pm – ACC Network)
#16 Miami @ Arkansas State (CANCELED)