Petrino and Louisville host Miami on Labor Day. (Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports)
Six down, six to go.
The opening weekend of college football has already begun, and Atlantic Coast Conference football has a number of interesting matchups — even if not on paper — lined up for its fans. Part one featured tonight’s Wake Forest-ULM tilt, along with Villanova-Syracuse, Delaware-Pitt, UCLA-Virginia, Wofford-Georgia Tech and Florida State-Oklahoma State. In this piece, we’ll take trips to North Carolina, Massachusetts and two Commonwealths. Also, as a reminder, if you’re looking for the Georgia-Clemson preview, you’ll find it in part two of this week’s SEC Clear Your Schedule. Also, our Top of the Ratings game (Florida State-Oklahoma State) received a breakdown in part one of our ACC preview.
There are still miles to go before we (proverbially) sleep, so let’s start with a trivia question!
ACC Trivia, Week 1, Part 1 (answer at the end of the column): How many ACC teams will start the same quarterback in week one this year that they started in the final week of last season?
Keyword Search (all records listed are 2013 records)
Georgia Southern (7-4 (FCS)) at NC State (3-9)
12:30pm ET, ACC Network
New league, new leader: Georgia Southern begins their voyage into FBS football and the Sun Belt Conference by welcoming a new coach into the fold. Former Sam Houston State coach Willie Fritz takes over for the Eagles after going 40-14 in four seasons for the Bearkats, including two FCS national championship appearances (three playoff bids overall).
New season, new leader: Former Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett takes over as the Wolfpack’s signal-caller for the 2014 season. Brissett went 41-for-74 for 455 yards with three touchdowns and four picks in parts of two seasons in Gainesville before transferring.
Practicing consistency: Georgia Southern has won six of their last seven season openers, with their only loss coming to then-top-ranked Georgia in a 45-21 decision on August 30, 2008. In a season of youth and turnover in Raleigh, NC State brings back one of the most talented special teams tandems in the ACC. Kicker Niklas Sade converted 19-of-23 field goals in 2013, with punter Wil Baumann punting to greater than a 42-yard average per punt. Both senior specialists will be heavily leaned upon by Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren.
Boston College (7-6) at UMass (1-11)
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
3:00pm ET, ESPN3
Returning to the scene: UMass has a new coach in Mark Whipple, though he’s not exactly unfamiliar with the program. Whipple compiled a 49-26 record in six previous seasons at the school (1998-2003), including a national championship at the I-AA (now FCS) level in his first season. Whipple’s Minutemen made three playoff appearances before his departure to join the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ex-Gators biting the ACC: We just mentioned that Jacoby Brissett would take over as the NC State quarterback in 2014, but he is not the only former Florida quarterback to take over an ACC squad. Fellow former Gator Tyler Murphy will take over for Chase Rettig in Chestnut Hill this season. Murphy completed 112-of-185 passes in nine games for the Gators in 2013, throwing for six scores and five interceptions. He will have one year of eligibility as a graduate student at BC.
Gigantic shoes to fill: All four of Boston College’s major statistical leaders (passing, rushing, receiving, tackling) from 2013 are no longer part of the team. In addition to Rettig, running back Andre Williams (the nation’s rushing leader), wide receiver Alex Amidon and linebacker Steele Divitto led those respective categories. Amidon’s story is particularly fascinating, as he reportedly abandoned football to consider a career as a Navy SEAL.
#19 (FCS)William & Mary (7-5) at Virginia Tech (8-5)
3:30pm ET, ESPNEWS
Spirit of ’76: Aside from the Bicentennial, William & Mary fans had something else to celebrate in 1976. That year marked the last time the Tribe notched a victory over the Hokies. Jimmy Sharpe coached the Hokies to a 6-5 record that season. Frank Beamer was one year away from becoming the defensive coordinator at The Citadel during the 1976 season. William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock also coached at The Citadel with Beamer three years prior. The schools have played 62 times in their history, with Virginia Tech winning 40 of those games.
The best offense is a strong defense: The Tribe ranked in the top ten in the FCS last season in both scoring and total defense. William & Mary feature three preseason all-conference (Colonial Athletic Association) players on the defensive side of the ball, led by defensive end Mike Reilly. Reilly was named an All-American last season.
Youth movement: The Hokies’ two-deep shows just five seniors on the defensive side of the football. Rover Kyshoen Jarrett leads the defensive backfield. Just six seniors reside on the offensive two-deep, with three of those players on the offensive line. Sixth-year senior David Wang will man the left guard position for Virginia Tech.
Elon (2-10 (FCS)) at Duke (10-4)
6:00pm ET, ESPN3
The newest Phoenix: Rich Skrosky returns to Elon to take over the Phoenix football team, replacing Jason Swepson. Skrosky came from Ball State, where he coached alongside former Phoenix head coach Pete Lembo. Skrosky was an Elon assistant from 2006-2010 before leaving with Lembo. The Phoenix have also left the Southern Conference of the FCS to join the Colonial Athletic Association.
Long time, no see: Despite the two schools being just 40 miles from each other, they went nearly 80 years without playing. Duke defeated the then-Fightin’ Christians 45-0 in 1932, followed by a 41-27 Blue Devil victory in Durham in 2010.
A big loss: Duke linebacker Kelby Brown will miss the season with an ACL injury suffered in a team scrimmage. Brown finished third in the ACC last season with 114 total tackles. Redshirt senior C.J. France will be heavily leaned upon to shoulder some of the load in Brown’s absence, along with fellow linebacker — and the ACC’s leading tackler in 2013 — David Helton.
Liberty (8-4 (FCS)) at North Carolina (7-6)
6:00pm ET, ESPN3
Higher aspirations: While Liberty has notched FBS victories against Eastern Michigan and Ball State in their history, they have never defeated an ACC school. NC State beat Liberty in their only contest, while Wake Forest has two wins over the Flames, including a 20-17 victory in 2012.
Suspensions taking a toll: North Carolina announced the suspension of four players for the game as a result of an investigation into alleged hazing. Cornerbacks Des Lawrence, Brian Walker and M.J. Stewart were suspended, as was linebacker Donnie Miles. This would appear to create an advantage for Liberty quarterback Josh Woodrum, who paced all Big South passers in 2013 with 2,581 yards and 19 scores.
Dominating FCS competition: Lynchburg News & Advance Liberty beat writer (and incredible Twitter follow) Chris Lang points out that Larry Fedora’s teams have defeated all five FCS opponents they have faced, with an average margin of victory of 49.4 points. The Tar Heels are 5-2 in their last seven season-opening contests, with all five of those wins coming against FCS teams.
Miami (9-4) at Louisville (12-1)
8:00pm ET (Monday), ESPN
Welcoming Petrino back: Louisville coach Bobby Petrino’s first game — this time, anyway — will be a memorable one in Cardinal lore. Petrino took over for Charlie Strong after his departure for the University of Texas, coming over after one year at Western Kentucky. This game will mark the first ACC outing for the Cardinals, starting their season with a conference game in a similar fashion to new conference member Pittsburgh in 2013.
Replacing Bridgewater: As everyone is aware, Cardinal quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is now donning purple, backing up Matt Cassel with the Minnesota Vikings. This led the Cardinals to turn to Will Gardner, who interestingly came from the same state (Georgia) and recruiting class as new UVa quarterback Greyson Lambert. Gardner completed 8-of-12 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns in limited action as a freshman last season.
Bye, Felicia: Before ESPN tells you 50 times on Monday night, we should remind everyone that true freshman Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya’s mother had a movie career years ago. One of her primary roles was as the bothersome Felicia in the movie “Friday”, a favorite of many in your humble correspondent’s generation. She became part of a catch phrase for ESPN talent, as well. For his part, Kaaya was a top-ten quarterback recruit from Chaminade High School in California, and the focus will hopefully stay on Kaaya’s on-field exploits.
Be on the lookout for a new feature in this space next week. To give you a bit of a hint, we will give you a shorter way to get ready for each game in the midst of a long-form piece. Until next week…
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: How many ACC teams will start the same quarterback in week one this year that they started in the final week of last season?
Four quarterbacks (Duke’s Anthony Boone, Florida State’s Jameis Winston, North Carolina’s Marquise Williams and Syracuse’s Terrel Hunt) got the start in their team’s final 2013 game and will be back under center to begin 2014.