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ACC Week 1 Predictions

Bobby Petrino

Bobby Petrino

With Clemson replacing several key starters from last year’s defense, along with Jameis Winston’s departure from Florida State, two of the ACC’s frontrunners open the 2015 season looking for answers at key positions. The Seminoles plan to turn to former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson to replace Winston, while the Tigers will be focused on building the depth and talent up front before a key conference game against Louisville on Sept. 17.

While the Tigers and Seminoles should have easy wins in Week 1, the spotlight in the conference shifts to Blacksburg, Va. with Ohio State visiting Virginia Tech on Monday night. The Buckeyes-Hokies’ matchup is the marquee game in the ACC for the opening weekend of action, but Louisville has another chance to score a key win for the conference in a neutral site contest against Auburn.

Athlon Sports offers its ACC Week 1 predictions from three editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615) and Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch).

ACC Week 1 Game Power Rankings & Predictions

1. Ohio State at Virginia Tech

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Monday)

TV Channel: ESPN

David Fox:

The Buckeyes will be better prepared for anything Bud Foster throws at them this time around. 

Ohio State 28–14

Steven Lassan:

This is the best game of Week 1, and so many intriguing questions will be answered. Who will start at quarterback for Ohio State? How will the defense perform with end Joey Bosa suspended? How much of an impact will Braxton Miller make at receiver? The Hokies’ defense should keep them in this game, but will the offense consistently move the ball or avoid big mistakes?

Ohio State 30-20

Mitch Light:

In last year’s loss to Virginia Tech at home, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett completed 9-of-29 passes with three interceptions. It’s safe to say Ohio State will get better play at the quarterback position this time around. 

Ohio State 27-13

2. Louisville vs. Auburn (Atlanta)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: CBS

David Fox:

Jeremy Johnson might be the most hyped first-year starting quarterback in a preseason since Tim Tebow. Facing Louisville in an opener is an interesting test.

Auburn 28–21

Steven Lassan:

Easily one of the best games of Week 1 and a great matchup of Auburn’s offense versus Louisville’s defense. The Cardinals should present some problems for the Tigers at the line of scrimmage, but quarterback Jeremy Johnson hits a few plays in the second half to secure the victory.

Auburn 31-20

Mitch Light:

Auburn will turn to Jeremy Johnson, who has completed 73.1 percent of his passes with 11 TDs and two INTs in 11 career games. He will be tested by a Louisville defense that has been rebuilt by impact transfers. 

Auburn 27-20

3. North Carolina vs. South Carolina (Charlotte)

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN

David Fox:

Both teams need to re-boot their defenses under new coordinators. South Carolina has the stiffer test in the opener against Marquise Williams.

North Carolina 28­–21

Steven Lassan:

Not sure what to expect in this one. North Carolina has one of the ACC’s best offenses, and Gene Chizik was hired to improve a struggling defense. South Carolina picked Connor Mitch as its starting quarterback, but he has only six career pass attempts. The Gamecocks also struggled mightily on defense last year.

South Carolina 31-27  

Mitch Light:

South Carolina lacks proven playmakers other than Pharoh Cooper. North Carolina is loaded with offensive weapons.

North Carolina 37-30

4. Virginia at UCLA

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: FOX

David Fox:

The Cavaliers gave UCLA trouble in a 28–20 loss in Charlottesville last season. Can Virginia do it again when it faces a freshman quarterback for the Bruins?  

UCLA 35–21

Steven Lassan:

Last year’s matchup was closer than most anticipated (28-20). Virginia’s defense can keep this one close for a while, but will the offense provide enough of a spark behind new starter Matt Johns to pull off the upset? All eyes will be on true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen for UCLA.

UCLA 31-17

Mitch Light:

UCLA’s 28–20 win in Charlottesville last season was far more difficult than expected. The Bruins, who will be starting true freshman Josh Rosen at quarterback, won’t have to work quite as hard this time around. 

UCLA 34-20

5. Texas State at Florida State

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPNEWS

David Fox:

FSU won’t have much trouble, but Everett Golson’s progress will be worth watching.

Florida State 41–10

Steven Lassan:

Texas State could give the Seminoles a few headaches early, especially with dual-threat quarterback Tyler Jones leading the way on offense. All eyes in Tallahassee will be on Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson at quarterback, as well as a defense that ranked 11th in the ACC in points allowed last season.

Florida State 40-17

Mitch Light:

It’s strange, but it’s true: Everett Golson is the starting quarterback at Florida State. 

Florida State 41-14

6. Duke at Tulane

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

David Fox:

Duke has won the last two matchups by a total score of 95–40.

Duke 38–20

Steven Lassan:

Interested to see new Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk on Thursday night. Think he has a chance to be a breakout star in the ACC this season. Tulane has some promising young talent and could make this one interesting.

Duke 31-20

Mitch Light:

The new-look Blue Devils will lean a bit more on the running game with Thomas Sirk now at quarterback. Tulane begins an important season for Curtis Johnson and his staff. 

Duke 28-17

7. Youngstown State at Pittsburgh

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3

David Fox:

DID YOU KNOW: Pat Narduzzi’s late father, Bill, was a former coach at Youngstown State and the predecessor to Jim Tressel. 

Pittsburgh 28–10

Steven Lassan:

You may have heard: Youngstown State hired Bo Pelini this offseason. And don’t forget, the Penguins won in Pittsburgh 31-17 in 2012. The Panthers won’t have receiver Tyler Boyd, but new coach Pat Narduzzi is a winner in his debut.

Pittsburgh 34-17

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Mitch Light:

The Panthers will be out without All-America wide receiver Tyler Boyd for the first game of the Pat Narduzzi era. It won’t matter against Bo Pelini and the Penguins. 

Pittsburgh 37-7

8. Troy at NC State

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3

David Fox:

NC State and Jacoby Brissett got a lot of mileage out of putting a scare into Florida State. We’ll have to wait until October to know anything new about the Wolfpack.

NC State 45–14

Steven Lassan:

NC State is an interesting team to watch this year. The Wolfpack played better late in 2014 and should continue that momentum into the opener.

NC State 45-17

Mitch Light:

Former Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown has taken over at Troy. His task in Week 1 is simple: Slow down Jacoby Brissett, one of the nation’s most underrated quarterbacks. 

NC State 38-7

9. Wofford at Clemson

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3

David Fox:

Clemson’s rebuilding defense opens against an option team. Georgia Tech gives Clemson trouble Wofford should not. Clemson 42–21

Steven Lassan:

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson’s Heisman campaign begins with a huge performance against Wofford.

Clemson 45-10

Mitch Light:

Deshaun Watson and the Clemson offense will roll up a big number against the Terriers from Spartanburg. 

Clemson 47-10

10. Alcorn State at Georgia Tech

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3

David Fox:

Georgia Tech usually makes easy work of its FCS opponents, but Alcorn State can score a bit.

Georgia Tech 54–28

Steven Lassan:

Quarterback Justin Thomas and his new stable of running backs helps Georgia Tech cruise to an easy win.

Georgia Tech 40-7

Mitch Light:

Georgia Tech should barely break a sweat against Steve McNair’s alma mater.

Georgia Tech 48-10

11. Bethune-Cookman at Miami

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3

David Fox:

Remember when Bethune beat FIU last season? Al Golden’s on the hot seat but not that hot.

Miami 42–10

Steven Lassan:

The Hurricanes open a potential make-or-break season for coach Al Golden with an easy win.

Miami 40-10

Mitch Light:

This is a critical season for Al Golden, who is 16–16 in the ACC in his four seasons at Miami.

Miami 41-13

12. Maine at Boston College

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3

David Fox:

DID YOU KNOW: Other than a two-year stint as an assistant at Boston College, Maine coach Jack Cosgrove has spent more than 40 years at Maine as a player, assistant or head coach. 

Boston College 35–14

Steven Lassan:

Maine and Howard are good opportunities for new Boston College quarterback Darius Wade to build confidence before the Sept. 18 game against Florida State.

Boston College 38-7

Mitch Light:

Boston College has far more “dudes” than Maine. Tailback Jon Hilliman might be the best of the bunch.

Boston College 33-13

13. Elon at Wake Forest

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3

David Fox:

Wake’s not going to win a ton this season, but the Deacs aren’t bad enough to lose to Elon. 

Wake Forest 35–10

Steven Lassan:

The Demon Deacons are headed in the right direction under coach Dave Clawson. But to escape the ACC Atlantic cellar in 2015, Wake Forest must improve in the trenches. This is a good opportunity to build confidence.

Wake Forest 34-10

Mitch Light:

Wake Forest still has some significant issues on offense, but the Demon Deacons will overwhelm Elon. 

Wake Forest 28-7

14. Rhode Island at Syracuse

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3

David Fox:

I wouldn’t put it past Syracuse to lose to a Colonial Athletic Association team, but not Rhody (1–11 last year).

Syracuse 28–7

Steven Lassan:

Having quarterback Terrel Hunt healthy and back in the lineup should provide a little punch to Syracuse’s offense.

Syracuse 38-10

Mitch Light:

Rhode Island went 1–10 last season. This will not be too difficult for the Orange.

Syracuse 48-0