For those of you who follow the blog during the season, you might be familiar with the ACC’s “Upset Watch” post. Every week we list the three games that are most likely to feature an upset. It doesn’t necessarily have to be against a ranked opponent, and they are NOT predictions. It’s simply a list of which teams we think have the best chance to topple unexpectedly. Today we’re going to have a little fun and do a preseason upset watch.
Knowing the ACC, this was not an easy task. Upsets happen on a regular basis in this conference. (This just in: Duke can win.) With that being said, upsets of Alabama and Oregon are not in the forecast. A game like Clemson at Syracuse (Oct. 5) is the scary kind in the ACC. Based on what we know now and factoring in expected preseason rankings, here is your preseason version of the ACC upset watch:
1. Florida State at Pittsburgh, Sept. 2: Colleague Andrea Adelson does not agree with this pick, but she is on vacation and can argue with me when she comes back. To me, this is the ultimate trap for the Seminoles. It’s their first game with a new starting quarterback. It’s on the road. It’s a league game. Am I the only person out there who thinks Florida State is going to face some bumps in the road after having to replace 13 starters and six assistants? This is a completely different team than the one that won the Orange Bowl last season, and there is no time for the Noles to practice and pad their stats the first two weeks against two FCS teams.
2. Georgia at Clemson: Many preseason polls will likely have Georgia ranked ahead of the Tigers, but don’t forget how Clemson finished the 2012 season -- with a win over LSU. Clemson should have the edge at quarterback with Tajh Boyd, and this is the chance for the defense to show it can be elite under Brent Venables. Georgia has its own problems on defense, as it has to replace nine starters, and opening in Death Valley won’t be easy for rookies. Both teams are going to get their points, but having home-field advantage AND Boyd AND Sammy Watkins might be too much for Georgia’s revamped defense to overcome.
3. Florida at Miami, Sept. 7: It’s likely Florida will start the season as the state’s highest-ranked team, but expect Miami to play its way into the Top 25 quickly if it doesn’t start the season there. The Canes would most certainly be ranked after an upset of the Gators in Week 2. This will be an interesting matchup because Miami should have the better offense, but Florida should definitely have the edge on defense. If the Canes are going to have any shot at all, they have to be better defensively than they were last season. With all four starters returning to the defensive line, that’s the expectation in Coral Gables.