Navy at Memphis (-10.5) (8pm, ESPN)
For as bad as the ACC looks, how about Pittsburgh beating the top dog in the AAC? That certainly keeps the Atlantic Coast Conference from dropping into the “Power Six” range (How absurd is that AAC slogan?). That said, Navy and Memphis are pretty solid and the winner will likely be the favorite to eventually make the conference championship game (where they’ll almost certainly play Temple or UCF).
Duke at Virginia Tech (-3) (7pm, ESPN)
Now let’s talk about how brutal the ACC is. Is Virginia Tech really as bad as we’re starting to think? Is Duke about to stroll into Lane Stadium and win? Losing to Boston College (who lost to Kansas) is bad, but at least it was a turnover-laden road game. If you turn around and lost to Duke at home, just light the kindling and burn the program down. We gotta watch and see if things in Blacksburg really implode. I think we should want VT to win and fix things, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Enjoy as you choose.
Texas Tech at #6 Oklahoma (-27) (Noon, FOX)
I’ll be honest, there isn’t much in the noon slot, but I chose this over Northwestern vs. Wisconsin because I want to get another look at Jalen Hurts (and to spite ESPN for leaving off the television provider, FOX, and making me search for it elsewhere). I expected the defense to make dramatic improvements, but I figured that it’d be offset by offsensive regression. If they can avoid the latter, they can make some noise in the playoff.
#1 Clemson (-26.5) at UNC (3:30, ABC)
The Tigers are nearly four TD favorites, but are the No.1 team in the land so they still land on ABC. We’ll get to see former FSU commit Sam Howell under helm at QB for the Tar Heels and likely earn our first win in Kenan Memorial Stadium since 2002. If you check out our Q&A this week, our UNC correspondent said he’s most worried about the Tar Heels slowing Etienne. Maybe he can get back over 100 rushing yards. Conversely, he said to watch how Lawrence performs against what he considers a solid Tar Heel secondary. Lawrence connecting on more deep balls would lend further encouragement about the progression of the passing game.
#18 Virginia at #10 Notre Dame (3:30, NBC)
Notre Dame proved they can play with very, very good teams. Maybe they couldn’t play with the greatest team of all time last year, but the Fighting irish proved it can go into Athens and play well enough to have the ball in the final minute with a chance to win. Virginia struggled with Old Dominion and I have a feeling this one will end with the ACC losing its only ranked team besides Clemson (but don’t fret, Wake Forest will jump into the rankings this week after they win at Boston College).
Ohio State (-17.5) at Nebraska (7:30, ABC)
In the pre-season, we expected this one to be a little more interesting, but Ohio State has exceeded expectations while Nebraska is falling short. As a result, the spread is more than two TDs. Nevertheless, it is a chance to watch a potential playoff team with scary upside go on the road to play a major opponent. At minimum, the first half will be worth watching.
Kentucky at South Carolina (-3) (7:30, SECN)
Why in the world is South Carolina favored? Kentucky has won five straight in the series! It’s a rather remarkable streak, especially considering U of SC had a 10-game win streak in the series from 2000-2009. Kentucky limps in following losses to Florida and Mississippi State. They lost their QB for the season with a knee injury that occurred on a nasty horse collar tackle against Eastern Michigan. Still, the Gamecocks appear to be in worse shape as they were blown out at Missouri (34-14) last week. QB Ryan Hillinski was 13-30. Feaster averaged 2.3 YPC. Dowdle averaged 2.1 YPC. Kelly Bryant threw for 227 and 2 TDs on them, beating them for the second time in his career.
This has to be the most fun South Carolina game to watch all season outside from the Palmetto Bowl. If it’s competitive, you better believe I’m switching over from the Ohio State game.
NC State at Florida State (-6) (7:30, ACCN)
This one is pretty interesting. Both these teams seem pretty down. I’d like to see FSU pick up the home win here and start figuring things out under Taggart. I know that sounds blasphemous, but it’s not. Hear me out.
The best thing that can happen is FSU gets back to respectability and gives us some fun matchups and the ACC some respectability as soon as possible. The fastest route there is with Taggart. Furthermore, do you like the idea of Dino Babers coaching there (5/2 odds via www.betonline.ag). How about Mike Gundy (3/1) or Dave Clawson (4/1)? Yeah, I don’t want to see them get anywhere near where they were in 2013, just back to being decent. Taggart can get them there, but he can’t get them past us. That’s why I want to see Taggart turn them into a nice comfy nine-win program. Perfect for a respectable, but safe annual win for the Tigers.