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ACC gets chance to make great 1st impression

Thursday - 8/29/2013, 7:12pm  ET

Clemson NCAA college football quarterback Tajh Boyd discusses the Tigers' season opening game against Georgia at a news conference in Clemson, S.C., Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer) GREENVILLE NEWS OUT, SENECA NEWS OUT

BY RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer

OK, ACC, this is your chance.

The first month or so of the college football season is as much about how conferences fare against each other as it is about which teams win.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, forever trying to shed its reputation as the fifth best of the major football leagues, gets three shots to knock off the neighborhood bully SEC during the opening weekend.

On Thursday night, North Carolina takes on No. 6 South Carolina, one of six Southeastern Conference teams ranked in the Top 12 of the AP preseason poll.

Virginia Tech can pull off a huge upset Saturday when it faces No. 1 Alabama in Atlanta.

The main event comes Saturday night in Death Valley -- the one in South Carolina.

No. 8 Clemson plays No. 5 Georgia. It's the Tigers' third straight game against the SEC after losing to South Carolina to end last regular season and beating LSU in the Chick-fil-A bowl.

"Regardless of what conference they're from, you've got the No. 5 team coming to your stadium," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "That's all that really matters."

Well, maybe to you coach.

Aside from Clemson, the ACC went 0-5 against the SEC last season.

The ACC also gets a crack at Penn State (vs. Syracuse), BYU (at Virginia) and Louisiana Tech (at North Carolina State) during the opening weekend.

Win about half those big games and the ACC gets to boast. Win no more than one, and the when-does-basketball-season-start? jokes begin.

The picks (all games Saturday unless noted).

MAIN EVENT

No. 5 Georgia (minus 2) at No. 8 Clemson

Tajh Boyd, your Heisman front-runner ... CLEMSON 45-38.

MARQUEE MATCH-UPS

North Carolina (plus 11½) at No. 6 South Carolina

Jadeveon Clowney meet Tar Heels QB Bryn Renner. He's not scared ... SOUTH CAROLINA 28-17.

No. 1 Alabama (minus 19½) vs. Virginia Tech at Atlanta

Tide too much for Logan Thomas and banged-up Hokies ... ALABAMA 34-10.

Rice (plus 27) vs. No. 7 Texas A&M

Johnny Football will sit out the first half. Doesn't matter ... TEXAS A&M 48-14.

No. 12 LSU (minus 4½) vs. No. 20 TCU at Arlington, Texas

Lots of new starters, same tenacious LSU defense ... LSU 24-17.

No. 13 Oklahoma State (minus 12½) vs. Mississippi State at Houston

Two quarterbacks equals twice the fun for Cowboys ... OKLAHOMA STATE 42-21.

BEST BET

No. 22 Northwestern (minus 6) at California

Wildcats ruin debut of Cal's Bear Raid offense ... NORTHWESTERN 35-17.

UPSET SPECIAL

No. 19 Boise State (plus 3½) at Washington

Grand re-opening of Husky Stadium, but Broncos are ultimate party poopers ... BOISE STATE 23-20.

PLUCKY UNDERDOGS

Toledo (plus 23½) at No. 10 Florida ... FLORIDA 38-21.

Louisiana-Monroe (plus 22) at No. 16 Oklahoma ... OKLAHOMA 48-17.

Nevada (plus 20½) at No. 21 UCLA ... UCLA 49-31.

Ohio (plus 20½) at No. 9 Louisville, Sunday ... LOUISVILLE 31-17.

No. 11 Florida State (minus 10) at Pittsburgh, Monday ... FLORIDA STATE 23-7.

Eastern Washington (no line) at No. 25 Oregon State ... OREGON STATE 40-21.

The MAC is coming off one of its most successful seasons and Toledo and Ohio are both expected to be championship contenders. ULM was an early-season darling in 2012, knocking off Arkansas and nearly beating Auburn and Baylor. Nevada's pistol offense is potent and Pittsburgh brings a tough defense, though not much offense, to its ACC debut. Eastern Washington is one of the top FCS programs in the country.

MISMATCHES

No. 24 Southern California (minus 21) at Hawaii, Thursday ... USC 50-24.

Buffalo (plus 35) at No. 2 Ohio State ... OHIO STATE 45-7.

Nicholls State (no line) at No. 3 Oregon ... OREGON 60-10.

Temple (plus 29½) at No. 14 Notre Dame ... NOTRE DAME 37-7.

New Mexico State (plus 42½) at No. 15 Texas ...TEXAS 58-10.

Central Michigan (plus 31½) at No. 17 Michigan ... MICHIGAN 38-13.

Wyoming (plus 29) at No. 18 Nebraska ... NEBRASKA 48-16.

UMass (plus 44½) at No. 23 Wisconsin ...WISCONSIN 58-10.

___

Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP


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