Can The ACC Dethrone The SEC?
By Dan Harralson
The opening weekend showcases three marquee matchups between the SEC and the ACC. Can North Carolina, Virginia Tech or Clemson pull off an upset against three SEC teams eying the crystal ball?
I talked to the three ACC coaches about taking on the challenge of going against the stellar SEC teams. Here they are:
South Carolina vs. North Carolina (Thursday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN)
North Carolina travels to Columbia to renew their rivalry. Believe it or not, but the Tar Heels hold an all-time series edge over the Gamecocks with an overall record of 34-17-4. The Tar Heels' quarterback, Brynn Renner, will have to play calm and collective against the big, fast, and athletic South Carolina defense.
"You have Virginia Tech and Alabama, Clemson and Georgia playing. But we are a big part of that (going against the SEC), there's no doubt about that. And if we are going to accomplish the things that we want to accomplish as a league, these are the kind of games we have got to play in and these are the kind of games that they have to have success in," North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora told Football.com.
:You know, would I prefer that it be three or four years into the program and the changes that we get into place? Hey, it is what it is. We are playing in year two, and it's the opening game of college football, and so let's throw it out there and let's roll."
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Saturday, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN; Georgia Dome)
We all know about Nick Saban's Alabama defenses. That is the task for Virginia Tech senior quarterback Logan Thomas. Thomas fell just shy of throwing for 3,000 yards last year (2,976). The problem with Thomas: The Hokies quarterback threw 16 interceptions, two fewer than his 18 passing touchdowns.. Here's what Virginia Tech head coach, Frank Beamer, t:
"That's his plan (to reduce his INTs). That's our plan," Virginia Tech head coach told Football.com. "I think we put him in too many third and long, second and long situations. When you get in those long yardage situations, that's not good for a quarterback or your team.
"And then I think Logan felt like, hey, I need to take this team on my back a little bit, try to make some plays, and gave up the ball when we'd be better off just kicking the ball. He's a smart guy, and then very much in control of situations. I think Logan's probably learned from last year and he's just got to play within the framework of the game. I feel good about him.
Georgia at Clemson (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC)
Mark Richt is not a stranger to having his Georgia program ranked high in the polls. Georgia will look to rebound after the devastating loss to Alabama and will also look to tune up the defense that gave up 357 yards per game last year. Tajh Boyd will have to lead Clemson if they want to defeat two consecutive SEC teams.
"Well, I'm really glad we got Tajh Boyd back for another year. He's a very experienced player. He's been in a lot of big games and he's going to have to draw on that experience and play very well for us to have a chance against a team like this, there's no doubt about it," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told Football.com.