ACC Study Guide: Week 1
By Eric Russell
Week 1 of the ACC football schedule features a heavyweight showdown, the defending national champion and Bobby Petrino's return with a backdrop of a bowl game rematch. Georgia Tech plays Wofford, too, but we'll get to that much, much later. Here is what you need to know about Week 1:
The Big Boys
(The matchups we've been anticipating)
No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia
A victory by the Bulldogs would likely warrant a jump into the top ten in the rankings. Maybe for Clemson, too. Last season it was a shootout, but this year it could be about the defense.
Georgia enlisted former Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to lead the Bulldogs defense. For head coach Dabo Swinney, it all comes down to execution.
"When you haven't seen them play, there's always that unknown early in the year, especially in the opener," Swinney said Wednesday during the ACC teleconference. "They're still a 3-4 personnel type of scheme, which is what they were prior to. We tried to prepare as hard as we can for everything we can think of. At the end of the day it's really about us, what we do, being confident in our execution."
Georgia will also have to contend with Clemson's defense, which has some of the most talented pieces in the conference. Last season, the Tigers' defensive line was a force in the opener. Defensive end Vic Beasley, who finished the season as a consensus All-American, finished that game with two sacks. Expect more of the same from him and his counterparts again Saturday.
No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State
The summer of Jameis is over. The season of Jameis is an unwritten tale, but the reigning Heisman Trophy winner will lead the defending champions into the house that Jerry Jones built to kick off the season. Is there a better place for the biggest magnet for attention this season to start their season? We don't think so.
We know about the talented players on the Florida State side of the ball. However, one of the underrated storylines could turn out to be the performance of all-purpose back Tyreek Hill. The speedster from Oklahoma State has been raved about all offseason. Now fans will get a chance to see how he performs in his first action with the Cowboys football team. Hill is a track star who Oklahoma State coaches hope to get about 20 touches a game in a multi-purpose offensive role. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher know's that Hill is a threat but is confident in his defense.
"I think you definitely have to know where he's at. He's able to put points on the board at any time," Fisher said Wednesday. "The good thing is we face a lot of guys like that on our team."
Florida State will be fine at linebacker, but they will be missing a few players from the position. Fisher announced Monday freshman Delvin Purifoy will miss the season with a dislocated ankle and broken tibia. Linebacker Matthew Thomas was nowhere to be found on the depth chart for the week. He has also been injured and will likely miss Saturday's game
Miami at Louisville
In the rematch of last year's Russell Athletics bowl, the Hurricanes will look to find more success than they did against the Cardinals to close last season. Miami cornerback Corn Elder has even suggested the 36-9 beatdown and "disrespect" dished out by Louisville is added motivation, a notion head coach Al Golden refuted during Wednesday's ACC coaches conference call.
"No, not at all," Golden said when asked if he sensed any extra motivation going into the game. "I think Louisville played really well. They had an exceptional team. But no, in terms of our program and their program, this is a different team for both, and clearly we have to take care of our business, not worry about anybody else's"
The bigger concern for Miami is what they will get from Brad Kaaya, who was named the starting quarterback. The team feels confident because of his strong understanding of the offense, but he will certainly be put to the test by the likes of defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin and the Cardinals' defense.
As for Louisville, it's all about new things. It's a fresh start in a new conference for the Cardinals, with a new starting quarterback and a somewhat new head coach. Petrino is confident in his cardinals and his new sophomore quarterback Will Gardner.
"I'm looking forward to Will getting in there and getting going. He had a really good spring. From the minute we stepped on campus as a new staff, he has kind of set the tone with the players that he was the leader.
Maybe Kaaya and Gardner will deliver a Labor Day treat for viewers.
Gardner will have one less target on Monday. The Cardinals star receiver DeVante Parker will be out after breaking a bone in his left foot during practice last week. Petrino said running back Michael Dyer is questionable for the game. He has been dealing with a thigh injury.
Al Golden said running back Duke Johnson has gotten stronger and maintained his quickness while recovering from an injury which ended his 2013 season. Golden added that Johnson recently posted his fastest time in the 40 since being at the school. That could spell trouble for the rest of the ACC and delight for viewers.
Worth a Watch
(Seriously, these might be good games to watch for one reason or another. They also might not.)
Virginia vs. UCLA
The main reason to watch this game will be the chance to see UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. Virginia could be in for a long day. Nonetheless, it will be a great measuring stick for the rest of the season.
Syracuse vs. Villanova
On paper, this may not look like much of a matchup on paper, but Terrel Hunt is said to have given the team and coaches confidence at the quarterback position. It could be interesting to see if he has really taken the next step or if it was just the usual preseason coach talk when Shafer praised his quarterback. One thing is for sure after the way the quarterbacks started off last season, it can only be better.
(In case you're in a dire situation where you just need to fill a dull moment with football)
Duke vs. Elon
Everyone wants to know if Duke is the real deal or if last season was a fluke. The matchup with Elon won't do much in terms of answering the question unless the Blue Devils struggle. However, with receiver Jamison Crowder and safety Jeremy Cash back, Duke certainly has the talent in place.
Georgia Tech vs. Wofford
Option galore. Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said the two teams have some similarities in their option-based attack. We'll find out who runs it better on Saturday. Also, quarterback Justin Thomas has been handed the keys to the offense, and Johnson appears to be willing to let him run it. Yes, without any of that two-quarterback system stuff.