ACC Coastal Preview
By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
It’s my favorite time of year again, football season. Seriously, the opening weekend should be declared a national holiday. Lucky for us it coincides with Labor Day weekend, so we get three days of games.
I’m going to break down the matchups of the best conference, the ACC. I’ll focus on the weaker Coastal division.
North Carolina vs. California: The Tar Heels are replacing the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft quarterback Mitch Trubisky. LSU transfer Brandon Harris is his replacement. Frankly, Harris was not a good player in Baton Rouge so I can’t imagine him being great in Chapel Hill.
The Golden Bears were 5-7 in 2016 so they aren’t very good. Sophomore QB Ross Bowers will be making his first collegiate start so I give the advantage to UNC.
Miami vs. Bethune-Cookman: This is a game against an FCS opponent to start the season. The Hurricanes are replacing their all-time passing leader Brad Kaaya. Junior Malik Rosier is hoping to take his place and lead Miami to their first ACC Championship. He’ll have the chance to build a lot of confidence in this game. This will be an easy 40-point win.
Pittsburgh vs. Youngstown State: Youngstown State is also from the FCS but their pretty good, especially against Pitt. They beat the Panthers in 2012 31-17.
They met again in 2015 and lost 45-37. Pitt is coming off of two consecutive 8-5 seasons and their looking to improve. That will be difficult because they lost five players to the NFL Draft including QB Nathan Peterman and running back James Conner.
Sticking with the theme of breaking in a new quarterback Max Browne will make his debut. I expect a close game but Pitt should win.
Virginia vs. William & Mary: The Cavaliers are one of the few teams that return their starting QB, senior Kurt Benkhert. At first glance it seems like he was pretty decent last year, throwing for over 2,500 yards and 21 touchdowns. He set the all-time record for single-game passing against Central Michigan, with 421 yards. Unfortunately, his 56% completion rate was the lowest for a UVA starter since Dan Ellis in 2000.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall is in his second season and looks to improve after a disastrous 2-10 campaign. The Wahoos lost to an FCS opponent (Richmond) to open the 2016 season so it won’t be unheard of for them to lose. I’m expecting them to win by single digits.
Duke vs. North Carolina Central: The Blue Devils got the memo to play an FCS team. They are coming off a 4-8 season and missed the postseason for the first time since 2011. They do return quarterback Daniel Jones and they’ll get a blowout win.
#21 Virginia Tech vs. #22 West Virginia: This game is played Sunday night at the home of the Washington Redskins, FedEx Field. This is actually a rivalry game where the winner gets the Black Diamond Trophy.
This is their first meeting in twelve years and I expect it to be intense. The Hokies will start redshirt freshman QB Josh Jackson. I expect him to struggle against the Mountaineers and Va Tech will lose.
Georgia Tech vs. #25 Tennessee: This is a prime time game on Labor Day at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Both teams are breaking in new starting quarterbacks.
I think Tech’s biggest concern is replacing B-back and leading rusher Dedrick Mills. He was dismissed two weeks ago for violation of unidentified athletic department rules.
Even without Mills I believe the triple option will be too much for Tennessee and the Yellow Jackets will win.