College football is finally upon us, with the official kickoff this past weekend giving us a glimpse of what’s to come throughout the duration of this season. We will continue looking ahead to week one with several ACC teams kicking off their season on Labor Day weekend.
Here’s a look at this weekend’s most intriguing match-ups:
Duke at UNC Charlotte
Friday night the Charlotte 49ers host, for the first time in program history, a power five conference opponent in Duke. A season ago, the Blue Devils defeated the 49ers, 53-19 in just a 2-win campaign. A year later Duke looks to bounce back after being picked to finish last in the Coastal division. First-year starter Gunnar Holmberg has been poised through several scrimmages with weapons at his disposal, including preseason All-ACC candidate Mataeo Durant (Maxwell watch list), who is ready to take over as a full-time starter in the back-field after leading the team in rushing a season ago. Look for Jake Bobo to be a pivotal piece for the Blue-Devils on 3rd down. Duke has the potential to start the season 2-0 before hosting Northwestern, September 18th at Wallace Wade.
Impact Players: Gunnar Holmberg, Mataeo Durant, Josh Blackwell, Jake Bobo
(5)Georgia vs. (3)Clemson (Bank of America stadium)
This game has national title implications written all over it and is arguably the biggest game ever this early in the season at Bank of America stadium. College GameDay will be featuring this sold-out matchup. A neutral field, the first game of the season, ACC vs SEC, and future first round picks of the NFL draft add to the appeal of this match up. Clemson has replaced Heisman trophy winner and number 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, Trevor Lawrence, with D.J. Uiagalelei (Maxwell watch list). The running game will surely miss fellow first- rounder Travis Etienne as well, which is why some think there could be a drop off with the Tigers this season. Don’t tell D.J. that. When we spoke with him during ACC media day he said he’s ready for the challenge.
Impact Players: D.J. Uiagalelei, E.J. Williams, Braden Galloway
(10)UNC at Virginia Tech
The 10th ranked North Carolina Tar Heels head to Blacksburg, Virginia and a sell out crowd to take on the Hokies in a prime-time matchup Friday at 6:00 PM on ESPN. Sam Howell (Maxwell watch list), who has been listed as a Heisman candidate, lost the best 1-2 backfield combo in the country ( Michael Carter and Javonte Williams) and his top two options on the outside ( Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown) to the NFL. Everyone will have them marked on the calendar. Are the Heels ready to take the next step and contend for not just an ACC title, but a playoff bid? We’ll learn a lot about this team right out of the gates.
Impact Players: Sam Howell, Ty Chandler, Beau Corrales, Garrett Walston, Tony Grimes, Ja’Qurious Conley
South Florida at NC State
The Wolfpack return their top three options at wide receiver, giving starting quarterback Devin Leary consistency and big targets on the outside. State has a nice 1-2 punch in the backfield, returning Ricky Person Jr. and Zonovan Knight (Maxwell watch list) – both who are capable of breaking it open once getting past the interior of defenses. More importantly, cohesiveness among the O-line will be vital with the Pack returning several starters, including Ikem Ekwonu who gives them size and depth. The Pack potentially could start the season 3-0 before a showdown with Clemson in Raleigh.
Impact Players: Devin Leary, Emeka Emezie, Zonovan Knight, Ricky Person Jr.
Wake Forest vs. Old Dominion
The Demon Deacons could potentially start the season 4-0 and it starts with handling business at home against the Monarchs of Old Dominion. Experience, depth and veteran leadership at the skill positions will determine the Deacons’ fate early on. It all starts at the quarterback position where Sam Hartman had a steak of 258 passes without an interception last season. Finishing the season against North Carolina and Clemson will determine how much noise the Demon Deacons will make in pursuing an Atlantic Division title.
Impact Players: Sam Hartman, Jaquarii Roberson, Traveon Redd, Christian Beal-Smith
Miami vs. (1)Alabama
How about making a statement by knocking off the number 1 team in the country and defending national champions Alabama? This will be no small task. D’Eriq King (Maxwell watch list), who many think will win ACC POY over UNC’s Sam Howell, is returning from a season ending knee injury a year ago and says he’s ready more than ever. The receiving core of the Hurricanes could pose a threat early, which is led by Mike Harley and Michael Redding. As D’Eriq King has often stated – it’s vital to start the game fast.
Impact Players: D’Eriq King, Amari Carter, Bubba Bolden, Mike Harley, Michael Redding