The Picks * Week-1 *
•N.C. State vs. Tennessee, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Atlanta
Why are the Volunteers favored by 3 points? Please spare me the Southeastern Conference explanation.
For the past few seasons Tennessee has fit the ACC football profile a lot more than displaying any likeness to Alabama, LSU, Auburn, etc. Given enough time, Derek Dooley will make improvements but the Vols aren’t likely to challenge for a national championship for years.
If the Wolfpack’s largely rebuilt receiving corps can get open and make catches and the linebackers are ready, State should be fine. Pack, 30-21.
•Florida International at Duke, 7 p.m. Saturday
This isn’t the ACC vs. the SEC. It’s the ACC vs. the Sun Belt, and it is hardly a gimme.
While no one was watching, FIU closed 2011 by beating Central Florida (17-10), Louisville (24-17) and North Texas (41-16) and returns 18 starters.
I guess you have to give the Blue Devils some benefit of the doubt but not by much. Duke, 28-24.
•Elon at UNC, 12:30 p.m. Saturday
With the weather forecast calling for temperatures in the mid 90s, the Tar Heels’ fast-break offense may leave both teams breathless by the start of the fourth quarter.
Otherwise, the dawn of the Larry Fedora era should be a breeze. Tar Heels, 42-10.
•Appalachian State at ECU, noon, Saturday
The Mountaineers almost won the 2009 game in Greenville and no doubt will be a tough out again.
There’ll be a lot for Pirate fans to follow: new quarterback Rio Johnson, a defense billed as deeper and better and probably more emphasis on the run game. The 2011 offense attempted 397 rushes, compared to 524 passes.
If the Pirates fall, they’ll likely go 0-for-September. That shouldn’t happen, though. ECU, 35-21.
*Clemson vs. Auburn, 7 p.m., Saturday, Atlanta
If incentive decides the outcome, Clemson should win. Dabo Swinney and his players have had 8 months to live with that 70-33 Orange Bowl catastrophe against West Virginia.
On the other hand, Auburn has had 8 months to savor a 43-24 Chick-fil-A win over Virginia that took place in the Georgia Dome. What goes around goes around again. Sammy Watkins’ suspension will be obvious. Auburn, 38-28.