Things to watch in the Atlantic Coast Conference in Week 1:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 19 Florida State hosts No. 20 Virginia Tech. The lone conference matchup of the opening weekend matches two of the league’s four Top 25 teams. Willie Taggart makes his debut as Seminoles coach, returning to the state of Florida after a year at Oregon, and with a challenging Atlantic Division schedule ahead can ill afford to start with a loss in ACC play. Defense has been the Hokies‘ trademark for decades with coordinator Bud Foster, but Virginia Tech has some holes after losing six starters from last year.
Louisville’s offense vs. Alabama’s defense. So much for Jawon Pass easing into the starter’s role at quarterback for the Cardinals. The replacement for 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson makes his first-string debut against the top-ranked Crimson Tide and a defense that is once again reloading after losing a bounty of talent to the NFL. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino always has an offensive wrinkle or two in his playbook, but this figures to be his toughest test until the Cardinals visit Clemson in November.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Three ACC teams open with non-conference opponents from the Power Five — No. 8 Miami faces LSU, Louisville plays Alabama and North Carolina visits California. That gives the ACC some early chances to improve on its performance last season. ACC schools went just 10-14 against the other four major conferences, and their winning percentage of .417 was the lowest among those five leagues.
Six ACC teams open with FCS opponents and North Carolina State welcomes the best of that bunch in James Madison. This looks like the best Wolfpack team in coach Dave Doeren’s six seasons, but it could all come crashing down with a loss to JMU. The Dukes are ranked No. 2 in the FCS coaches’ poll and routed East Carolina to open 2017.
Boston College running back AJ Dillon will have some chances to put up big numbers with the Eagles opening with a pair of lower-tier regional opponents in Massachusetts and Holy Cross. The ACC’s preseason player of the year rushed for nearly 1,600 yards as a freshman and the Eagles need a repeat from him to continue their climb in the tough Atlantic Division.