Shaquille Quarterman and Miami could make a big statement in their season opener
Outside of Clemson, parity reigns supreme in the ACC. Yes, Syracuse returns 13 starters from a 10-win team and Louisville is trying to rebound from a winless league season. But most of the teams look very similar.
As a result, in the ACC, what exactly is an upset? Anyone can beat anyone at any time. Regardless, there will be surprises that occur in the league because there always are. Here are six games where an upset may happen.
6. Ohio over Pittsburgh, Sept. 7
The Panthers open the 2019 season with a conference game against Virginia. In week three, they go to Penn State. Wedged right in between is a game against an Ohio team that many have pegged as the favorite in the MAC East. Pitt loses their two 1,000-yard rushers so quarterback Kenny Pickett will have to be able to throw the ball against a Bobcats secondary that returns three starters. Meanwhile, Frank Solich's team has veteran Nathan Rourke ready to quarterback the offense once again.
5. Rutgers over Boston College, Sept. 21
No one is predicting a strong season for Rutgers this fall, but there are some pieces in place for a victory in this game. In week four, Boston College will still be trying to figure out who they are after losing most of their playmakers on defense. The Scarlet Knights' running back duo of Raheem Blackshear and Isaih Pacheco can make plays and take pressure off quarterback Artur Sitkowski (or Texas Tech transfer McLane Carter). The Eagles' AJ Dillon will be tough to handle, but Rutgers had a good pass defense last season and could make BC's offense one-dimensional. Plus, this will be the first road game for many of Boston College's new starters.
4. North Carolina over NC State, Nov. 30
The game is at Carter-Finley Stadium, which makes this a more daunting challenge for the Tar Heels. But UNC head coach Mack Brown will lean heavily on his young players this fall and by the end of the year they should start to mesh, especially quarterback Sam Howell, who may not begin the season under center but will probably be in the starting lineup by Nov. 30. Depth could be a concern for the Wolfpack and that is always more of an issue late in the year as teams wear down. Finally, even though UNC lost the last two games to the Pack during their ugly 5-18 stretch over the past two seasons, both contests were hotly contested and now there is a renewed energy in Chapel Hill.
3. Duke over Syracuse, Nov. 16
After losing quarterback Daniel Jones and linebackers Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys, no one is expecting much from the Blue Devils. But David Cutcliffe's crew is going to get somebody and it could very well be the Orange in mid-November. At that time, the Orange may be fighting for bowl positioning while Duke could be attempting to just get bowl eligible. The middle of the Syracuse defense will be overhauled and Duke's combo of Deon Jackson and Brittain Brown are running threats. On the other side of the ball, a strong Duke secondary, led by now healthy corner Mark Gilbert, will make things difficult for Cuse quarterback Tommy DeVito.
2. Florida State over Virginia, Sept. 14
Virginia enters the season as one of the favorites to win the Coastal Division. But the Cavaliers will get an early-season test from a Florida State group that still has a bad taste in their mouths from last year's 5-7 record. Questions persist about FSU's offensive line but the Cavaliers' weak spot on defense is their defensive line. The Seminoles still have athletes on defense and UVA will need to find replacements for wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus and running back Jordan Ellis. Finally, the Hoos have to shoulder the burden of being labeled a contender and will face an athletic group motivated to return to the top of the league.
1. Miami over Florida, Aug. 24
Coming off a disappointing year, with Manny Diaz as the new head coach and uncertainty at quarterback, no one knows what to expect from the Hurricanes this year. But on the other side, though there is hype surrounding the Gators after a 10-win 2018, there are still questions. Florida lost four guys off of its offensive line and will have a battle going against Miami's experienced linebackers and star end Jonathan Garvin. Miami also will feature a solid running game with DeeJay Dallas and Florida was 10th in the SEC against the run last year.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.