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ACC Rooting Guide: Week One

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The rest of the ACC will get started with some key games this week. Here’s who to root for.

NCAA Football: Florida at Miami Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The college football season kicks off this week for nearly every program across the country. Despite it only being week one, there are key games for Miami to watch as the race for the Coastal Division title begins. The ACC begins the season with just two teams ranked in the Top 25, so this week also bears significant importance for the conference as it tries to prove its’ strength.

Thursday, August 29th

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets @ No.1 Clemson Tigers, 8:00 P.M. Eastern, ACC Network

This game marks several new beginnings. It is the first game that will be solely broadcast on the brand new ACC Network. Additionally, it is the first game for new Georgia Tech Head Coach Geoff Collins.

Unfortunately for Collins, he’ll try to install a brand new offense against one of the best defenses in the country. Clemson has to replace much of their defensive line, but the new starters will play an offensive line that is completely new to pass-blocking as the Yellow Jackets transition out of the triple-option offense.

Root for Clemson in this game. Georgia Tech is in the Coastal Division which means any in-conference loss for them benefits Miami.

Friday, August 30th

Utah State Aggies @ Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 8:00 P.M. Eastern, ACC Network

Wake Forest comes into this season hoping to make a fourth consecutive bowl game and continue the program’s recent run of success. They’ll face a tough test in week one, as they take on a tough Group of Five program that finished with an 11-2 record last season.

Wake Forest has long hoped to have more than just a 6-6 or 7-5 season, and a win in week one could give them the momentum boost they need to exceed expectations this year. Root for the Demon Deacons to win this out-of-conference game this week.

Saturday, August 31st

East Carolina Pirates @ N.C. State Wolfpack, 12:00 P.M. Eastern, ACC Network

Dave Doeren enters his seventh season in charge of the Wolfpack looking for a way to replace Ryan Finley at quarterback. This week Doeren chose Matt McKay as the new starter for N.C. State, and he’ll have big shoes to fill against their opponents from their neighboring state.

Expectations are lowered for the Wolfpack as they try to reset their roster after losing a lot of experience across the team this season. However, their talent should outclass East Carolina’s in a game Miami fans should root for N.C. State to win.

Duke Blue Devils @ No.2 Alabama Crimson Tide, (Atlanta, Georgia), 3:30 P.M. Eastern, ABC

2019 should be a rebuilding year for Duke. The Blue Devils have to replace first-round draft pick Daniel Jones. New starter Quentin Harris will be throwing to a receiving corps that has very little experience, and things could get ugly against a ridiculously talented Alabama defense.

To make matters worse for the Devils they could be without their most experienced returning linebacker, Koby Quansah, after he had surgery to stabilize a broken thumb. Duke’s defense will have to face Heisman hopeful Tua Tagovailoa, and a talented stable of receivers, and they could end up just hoping to cover the spread Saturday.

Root for Duke, but realistically its’ smart to just hope the ACC doesn’t get embarrassed during this game Saturday afternoon.

South Carolina Gamecocks vs North Carolina Tar Heels, (Charlotte, North Carolina), 3:30 P.M. Eastern, ESPN

Mack Brown will return to coaching in an interesting matchup against an SEC opponent to start the year. After a quarterback carousel hampered the Tar Heels last year freshman Sam Howell will hope to come in and lock down the starting role. He’ll face a talented South Carolina defense in his first ever college start.

For the Gamecocks, this season will come down to how they can navigate a brutal schedule. They have a lot of talent, but the schedule could end up forcing them into the bottom half of the SEC. A season with a lot of losses could hurt Will Muschamp’s job security, as some feel he hasn’t made the most of his talent over the last few years.

Miami fans should keep their eyes on UNC in this game since the ‘Canes will be on the road to face them next week. Root for the Tar Heels in this game, as a win for them would boost the reputation of the ACC.

Virginia Tech Hokies @ Boston College Eagles, 4:00 P.M. Eastern, ACC Network

Justin Fuente looks to get his program back on track with an opening weekend game against an in-conference opponent. Virginia Tech will hope to have a bounce back year after their season fell off the rails in 2018. Additionally, the Hokies will be hoping to send off long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster with a successful season.

For the Eagles they’ll hope to build upon a 7-5 season last year and make a jump forward behind star running back, and dark horse Heisman contender, AJ Dillon. The biggest test for BC will be to see if they can finally push past the seven win plateau, which has been unbreakable for the program in recent years.

Root for Boston College in this game. An early ACC loss for Virginia Tech would help Miami’s pursuit of the Coastal Division title.

No.22 Syracuse Orange @ Liberty Flames, 6:00 P.M. Eastern, ESPN+

Bizarrely, Syracuse goes on the road to Lynchburg, Virginia to start their season. The Orange are the only ACC team ranked in the preseason besides Clemson, and the hype is building around what could be one of the best Syracuse teams in recent memory. However, the Orange have a significant question at quarterback, as they must replace standout QB Eric Dungey. Tommy DeVito has been the heir apparent to Dungey since he was recruited into the program. This year DeVito will be hoping he can lead the Orange to a season that lives up to the hype and shocks the college football world.

Root for Syracuse to win big in this game and dominate a lesser opponent on the road.

Boise State Broncos vs Florida State Seminoles, (Jacksonville, Florida), 7:00 P.M. Eastern, ESPN

Florida State and Willie Taggart start their season against a Group of Five program that has been perennially successful over the last 10 years. This will not be an easy game for the ‘Noles, and Taggart must avoid a loss similar to the one FSU suffered to Virginia Tech in week one of last season. James Blackman will return to the starting role for the Seminoles in Kendal Briles’ new offense, and he’ll face an immediate test against a solid Boise State defense.

Meanwhile, Boise State is hoping to start the year with a marquee win in a season where they hope to find themselves selected for a New Year’s Six Bowl in December. The Broncos are very talented, and they’ll hope to recapture some of the success they had over big-time programs in the early 2010s.

Root for FSU in this game if it is played, which seems increasingly unlikely as Hurricane Dorian bears down on Florida. More importantly, hopefully both fanbases and the entire state stay safe over the next week.

Virginia Cavaliers @ Pittsburgh Panthers, 7:30 P.M. Eastern, ACC Network

Miami’s biggest competition in the race for the Coastal Division gets their season started with a game against an in-conference opponent Saturday night. Star QB Bryce Perkins will hope to get his season started on the right foot as the Cavaliers look to make a run at the ACC Championship Game in December.

For Pitt, this could be a rebuilding year. The Panthers have solid talent on the roster, but there’s a lot of inexperience to be found. Junior QB Kenny Pickett will hope to take a step forward for Pitt, but it seems unlikely that they’ll get past the Coastal Division favorite with a win in week one.

Root for Pitt in this game, since UVA figures to be Miami’s biggest competition for the division. However, it’s well known that the Coastal Division is a place to expect the unexpected, so use this game as a measuring stick of both teams’ talent.

Monday, September 2nd

No.9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ Louisville Cardinals, 8:00 P.M. Eastern, ESPN

Notre Dame comes into this season off of a successful 2018 that saw them make their first College Football Playoff appearance. However, many expect the Irish to take a step back in 2019 due to an extremely tough schedule, despite returning QB Ian Book. Unfortunately for Book and UND, the Irish rank near the bottom in returning production ahead of this season. There could be some growing pains as new talent fills in vacant roles.

For Louisville, Head Coach Scott Satterfield will hope to pull off the miracle upset in week one. More realistically, he’ll hope to stabilize and begin reestablishing a program that fell apart last season. UL returns starting QB Jawon Pass this season, but a new system and inexperience across the roster figure to doom the Cardinals to a rough year.

Root for Notre Dame in this game. Since they are a semi-member of the ACC for football (the Irish must play five ACC opponents per year) a win for them would help maintain the stature of the conference and give later ACC opponents a chance for a big win.


The ACC gets off to a fast start with a big slate of games in week one. The conference has a chance for several statement wins that could help recover the reputation of the conference after a rough 2018.