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What to watch in the ACC: Week 1

9/2/2009

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

There are plenty of things worth watching in Week 1 of the ACC, but here are the ones that top my list:

1. Virginia Tech’s backfield. Without star running back Darren Evans, coach Frank Beamer intends on playing Josh Oglesby, Ryan Williams and David Wilson. They’ll face one of the best defenses in the country, and all of them have been nicked up at some point this summer.

2. Alabama senior nose guard Terrance Cody vs. Virginia Tech junior center Beau Warren. At 6-foot-5, 354 pounds, Cody is massive compared to Warren, who checks in at 6-foot-3, 288 pounds. Beamer’s advice to his new starter? “Make sure you’ve got that head gear on tight and move those feet.”

3. Boston College quarterback Dave Shinskie. He’s expected to be playing through the pain of a broken rib, plus he hasn’t thrown a football in a game since he was in high school. And considering he’s 25 years old, that was a while ago. How will the former minor league pitcher look in his debut, and how long will he last?

4. Maryland’s defense vs. Cal’s Jahvid Best. Maryland will be bringing a new defensive coordinator and a new scheme out West, and one of their biggest challenges will be stopping Best, who averaged an astounding 8.14 yards every time he touched the ball.

5. Virginia’s quarterback situation. As of Wednesday, the Cavaliers had yet to name a starting quarterback, and coach Al Groh said a “thin line” separated Jameel Seweel, Marc Verica and Vic Hall. Keep an eye on Hall, though. He’ll also be returning punts.

6. NC State’s weakside linebacker position. And so life begins without Nate Irving, and it starts with a South Carolina team intent on running the ball. Dwayne Maddox, a sophomore who has experience at the position, is next is line, but it’s a situation that could fluctuate throughout the season.

7. NC State running back Toney Baker. He’s rushed for 1,272 yards in his career, but he hasn’t played since 2007 and earned his position in the starting lineup over Jamelle Eugene this summer. Coach Tom O’Brien said Baker is about 90 percent back to his 2007 form.

8. Miami’s defensive line vs. Florida State’s offensive line. The Canes will be without defensive ends Eric Moncur and Adewale Ojomo, and they’ll be going against the same rock solid offensive line that paved the way for 310 rushing yards last year.

9. Wake Forest’s defense vs. RG3. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin will test every unit on the Deacs’ defense, and it will give Wake a good idea of the progress it made this summer after rebuilding its entire linebacking corps and replacing three starters in the secondary.

10. New receivers. Several teams across the conference –- namely North Carolina, Duke, Maryland, Clemson, Virginia and Wake Forest –- will be counting on inexperienced young players to catch the ball. Two of them –- Clemson and Virginia –- will be working under first-year coordinators.