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Monday, August 27, 2012
Lots to be learned in ACC's Week 1

By Heather Dinich

It’s early -- way too early -- to crown a Coastal Division winner … isn’t it?

Not if history repeats itself.

It’s only the first week of the college football season, but the winner of the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game has gone on to win the division every season since the ACC was split into divisions.

This year, they just happen to be playing on Labor Day.

Frank Spaziani
Frank Spaziani's Boston College team hosts Miami on Saturday in a game that could say plenty about where each program is headed.
The ACC could have one of the most revealing openings in college football this year, as league play starts early and there will be two marquee matchups against SEC teams. The Labor Day game in Blacksburg, Va., will produce a leader in the Coastal Division standings, and Miami will face Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on Saturday in a game that will be pivotal in determining which direction both of those programs are heading this season. The entire league could make a statement, though, with victories in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta, where NC State will face Tennessee on Friday night and Clemson will face Auburn on Saturday night.

After only one week of football, we should know oh-so-much more about Virginia Tech’s offensive questions, and just how seriously Georgia Tech should be taken in the Coastal Division race. We should learn more about Boston College’s ability to overcome an injury-laden summer, and if coach Frank Spaziani can keep the pressure at bay with a win in the opener. Watching Miami play will be like Meet the Team Day for many ACC fans, as the Canes had to replace 12 starters from last year’s six-win team. This game will tell us how well the Miami staff prepared the rookies for an ACC road test, and if the Canes or BC might be better this season than many expect.

Nationally, NC State will try to start 2012 right where it left off -- with nonconference momentum. The Wolfpack looked like a top-25 team in last year’s 31-24 win over Louisville in the Belk Bowl, and coach Tom O’Brien has said this is the deepest and most talented team he has had since he was hired in Raleigh. Clemson, the defending ACC champs, will try to represent the league against Auburn without star receiver Sammy Watkins, who was suspended for the first two games of the season. We’ll learn just how good the Tigers can be without their super sophomore, and how much progress they made this summer on the offensive and defensive lines.

We’ll learn if the ACC can start out with a winning record over the SEC -- a feat that would be a huge boost for the league’s image, especially after a 2011 season that ended with two BCS bowl losses, including Clemson’s defensive disaster in the Orange Bowl. A sweep in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff would mean instant credibility for the ACC in 2012.

It’s only Week 1, but half of the teams in the conference will be playing games in the national spotlight that carry weight either in the conference race or in terms of national relevance.

It’s early -- way too early -- to say they’re must-win games … isn’t it?