|N.C. State @ South Carolina||USC||USC|
|Virginia Tech vs. ECU||VT||VT|
|Clemson vs. Alabama||Clemson||Clemson|
|James Madison @ Duke||Duke||JMU|
|Utah @ Michigan||Michigan||Utah|
|Washington @ Oregon||Oregon||Wash|
Football season starts tonight. Finally.
(Programming note: We'll be in Columbia tonight, check ACC Now during and after the game for full coverage.)
To kick off the new season we'll start a new feature. Columnist Caulton Tudor picks selected games in the print edition every week. In addition, Tudor and J.P. Giglio will pick six games each week on ACC Now.
We'll have a guest picker each Thursday, starting next week. If you beat either Tudor or me, you'll get free rant (or plug for your blog or whatever you want to say, within reason, in this space) in the next week's Pick Six post.
Think you can do better? Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell me why you should be the guest picker. I will randomly choose one guest each week.
Note: Picks are straight up. Lines are included here for informational purposes.
On with the Week 1 picks. Oh, and don't forget to watch The Podcast.
N.C. State @ South Carolina
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.
Line: South Carolina by 14
Year 2 has started lot like Year 1 for Tom O'Brien at N.C. State. The No. 1 running back (Jamelle Eugene) is hurt, the No. 1 receiving option (Donald Bowens) is out for the season and there's uncertainty at quarterback.
On the other hand, South Carolina enters the game with a five-game losing streak. The Gamecocks do have a strong defense, with 10 returning starters. One good enough to confuse a rookie QB (State's Russell Wilson in his first college start) and limit a depleted State offense.
Bottom line, Steve Spurrier in Year 4 > TOB in Year 2.
Picks: Tudor (South Carolina), Giglio (South Carolina)
No. 17 Virginia Tech vs. ECU
When: Saturday, noon
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
Line: Virginia Tech by 9.5
Take away the name-brand value of Virginia Tech and Frank Beamer and the Hokies look like a hot mess. They took heavy personnel losses on defense, have scrambled options at receiver and running back and decided to redshirt their best gamebreaker, quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Still, they have been the best team, by a mile, in the "new" ACC and Beamer deserves respect, and the benefit of the doubt, despite the uncertainty.
ECU almost won at Blacksburg last season, losing 17-10 in the opener. The Pirates have no such personnel turnover on defense, which should be the team's forte, and a veteran group on offense. The key missing cog is Chris Johnson, who rushed for 1,423 yards and scored 23 touchdowns in 2007. He's in the NFL.
Maybe we're ACC homers, but we'll believe the demise of Virginia Tech when we see it.
Picks: Tudor (Virginia Tech), Giglio (Virginia Tech)
No. 24 Alabama vs. No. 9 Clemson
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Line: Clemson by 4.5
Clemson's two biggest problems are the offensive line and Tommy Bowden. The latter is more pressing for the Tigers, who haven't won an ACC title since 1991 and haven't won the Atlantic Division, period, under Bowden, whose teams are prone to wild swings of greatness and mediocrity.
With James Davis, C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford, Aaron Kelly, Cullen Harper, Ricky Sapp, Michael Hamlin and De'Quan Bowers (did I miss anyone?) this Clemson team should be consistently great, starting in Week 1 against a good SEC team.
You have to have gamebreakers in football, guys that can take it to the house on any play. Clemson has that in spades. The Tide's still searching for its home-run hitters.
Picks: Tudor (Clemson), Giglio (Clemson)
James Madison @ Duke
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham
Line: Duke by 1.5
This game is rife with storylines, from Duke's new coach to the I-A vs. I-AA argument.
The Blue Devils appear to be primed for a strong start under David Cutcliffe, with four home games and four beatable opponents.
Except, Duke has been the worst team in Division I-A for the last decade. James Madison made the I-AA playoffs in 2007 and almost beat Appalachian State.
Tudor thinks Duke will win. I think Duke will lose, not as an anti-Duke pick but a pro-James Madison, and its spead-option offense, pick. Duke should have opened with Campbell.
Picks: Tudor (Duke), Giglio (James Madison)
Utah @ Michigan
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
TV: ABC regional
Line: Michigan by 4.5
Lost in all of the App State hoopla from last season was Michigan lost the next week, too, at home to Oregon.
What do App State, Oregon and Utah have in common? They all run the spread-option.
Even in Michigan's win over a spread-option team, in the Citrus Bowl over Florida last season, the defense allowed 35 points.
This Michigan team, under new coach Rich Rodriguez, is not a even a shell of what last year's flawed team was. Tudor still likes the home team. I say Utah is this year's Utah. Remember, Hawaii was last year's Boise State and Boise State was the Utah of 2006. Utah being the first non-BCS member to play in a BCS bowl in 2004.
Picks: Tudor (Michigan), Giglio (Utah)
Washington @ No. 21 Oregon
When: Saturday, 10 p.m.
Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.
Line: Oregon by 14
I just don't get the Oregon ranking. After Dennis Dixon blew out his knee, the Ducks collapsed. Dixon threw for 2,136 yards and 20 touchdowns in nine games. He also ran for 583 yards and nine touchdowns. Dixon is gone.
Oh by the way, running back Jonathan Stewart, who ran for 1,722 yards and 11 touchdowns, is gone, too.
But Oregon went 9-4 and Washington went 4-9, so you're supposed to take Oregon. Tudor did. I like Washington, but you already knew that. Sometime you have to zig when everyone else zags.
Picks: Tudor (Oregon), Giglio (Washington)