- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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The ACC coaches aren’t the only ones aiming for a high winning percentage this season.
I’m looking to make a statement. On the national level. Bring some respect to this conference.
It all starts today.
Every Thursday during the season, I’ll give you my predictions for each game. I’ll also update you with my weekly winning percentage. Think you can do better? Feel free to play along, but do so at your own risk.
The only predictable thing about the ACC is just how unpredictable it can be.
Here’s to starting the season strong, ACC:
Boston College 24, Northwestern 21: The Eagles will prove that their offense has indeed gotten better, and quarterback Chase Rettig will look much better than he did a year ago. Northwestern will give BC problems, but the Achilles injury to quarterback Dan Persa will be a factor.
Clemson 45, Troy 10: The Tigers’ new offense won’t look flawless, but Troy’s marginal defense will make it a successful debut for first-year starting quarterback Tajh Boyd. Troy has had five straight winning seasons but needs to replace its top five receivers from 2010.
Florida State 42, Louisiana-Monroe 7: FSU coach Jimbo Fisher doesn’t mess around. He’ll score as many points as the clock allows, and get as many guys experience as he can. During its time in the ACC, FSU has never lost a season opener to a nonconference opponent (8-0), and that streak won’t end this weekend.
Miami 28, Maryland 24: Yes, Miami will be without eight suspended players, but the Canes will come out fired up and using the NCAA investigation as motivation. While not an ideal situation, the backups are capable of a win, and quarterback Stephen Morris will help take some pressure off a depleted defense.
NC State 35, Liberty 10: The Wolfpack has won 20 straight games against FCS competition, and first-year starting quarterback Mike Glennon should keep that streak alive. NC State’s defense can’t overlook Liberty, though, as the Flames were second in total offense and third in scoring in the FCS last year.
Wake Forest 21, Syracuse 17: Jim Grobe is 5-1 against the Big East during his tenure at Wake Forest, but Syracuse is coming off its first winning season since 2001. The Deacs will have to win the battle up front, as Syracuse returns four starting offensive linemen.
Duke 35, Richmond 17: Duke coach David Cutcliffe will have the edge in coaching and talent, but the Blue Devils can expect Richmond’s best shot. Former Richmond coach Latrell Scott resigned on Tuesday morning and Wayne Lineburg has been appointed interim.
Georgia Tech 42, Western Carolina 10: When Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson was head coach at Georgia Southern, he went 5-0 against Western Carolina and outscored the FCS opponent by an average of 44-15. That trend should continue, as Georgia Tech’s spread option offense should be too much for the Catamounts’ defense, which was one of the worst in the FCS last year.
North Carolina 35, James Madison 21: Interim coach Everett Withers will have a successful debut, despite a strong effort by JMU. Regardless of how first-year starting quarterback Bryn Renner fares, the difference will be up front, where North Carolina will dominate on both lines.
Virginia 17, William & Mary 10: Close call, eh? Virginia’s defense will be the difference in this game, as quarterback Michael Rocco works out the kinks and the jitters in his debut. Expectations are high for the Tribe this fall, but experienced quarterback and ACC transfer Mike Paulus will be forced into one or two critical mistakes by the Hoos’ D.
Virginia Tech 35, Appalachian State 21: App State made a name for itself with one of college football’s most memorable upsets, but the Hokies have been down that road before and will take a different route this fall. Frank Beamer will start his 25th season at his alma mater with a win -- and an exhale.