Upset watch: Week 1

We are keeping up with the long-standing tradition Heather started a few years back with yet another edition of (loud, booming voice):

Upset Watch


Only this week, we here are the ACC blog think the potential exists for several league teams to pull off a few nonconference upsets in Week 1. No doomsday scenarios here. Nope. At least not for opening weekend. Let's take a look at the top three games in which the ACC has a good shot at pulling the upset:

1. No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson. The Bulldogs go into the game as the higher-ranked team, from the more respected conference and as a slight favorite. So if Clemson is able to win, not only would its own image be enhanced, the league image would be enhanced, too. Plus, Clemson would be considered a serious national championship contender. Not only that: Clemson would be the first non-SEC team to beat top-10 SEC teams in consecutive games, following the win over LSU in the bowl game. What should give the Tigers the advantage: playing in Death Valley, at night, with one of the best offenses in the nation against a rebuilding D. No pressure.

2. BYU at Virginia. The Cougars are only a very small favorite over the Hoos. Conventional wisdom says they should win because they come in with the better defense and the best player on the field in Kyle Van Noy. But I'm not going to discount what should be a home-field advantage for Virginia. BYU has to travel 2,000 milies east for this game. Now, I know that did not impact the Cougars much last year at Georgia Tech. But it's still a long way to go. Plus BYU has to prepare for a team that will have a new starter at quarterback, and new offensive and defensive schemes. Coach Bronco Mendenhall said he hasn't watched Virginia tape because, as he said, "there isn't any." Advantage: UVa.

3. Syracuse vs. Penn State. The Nittany Lions are a touchdown favorite over Syracuse, but I think this game is a pick 'em, quite honestly. Both teams go into the season with a large set of unknowns. Penn State had a nice season last year, but so did Syracuse. Both teams have uncertainty at quarterback -- Penn State could end up starting a true freshman; Syracuse could start a senior who has only been on campus for a few months. Both teams have question marks on defense as well. So why do the Orange have a shot? Scott Shafer is bringing a physical mentality to this team, and I think they have an opportunity to establish the run regardless of who starts at quarterback. Penn State's weakness on defense is in its front seven, so if Syracuse can take advantage, the Orange can control the game.