We are just one day away from the start of the season, with a huge opening weekend on tap for the ACC. Three games against SEC opponents have set the stage.
So, naturally the three coaches involved in those games were asked for their take on how important the contests are for the ACC's perception during the coaches' conference call on Wednesday.
Start with North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, whose team opens up Week 1 on Thursday night against No. 6 South Carolina.
"If you want national respect, you’ve gotta beat ranked opponents," Fedora said. "This is a performance-based sport. If you do it, you start gaining that respect."
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is in the biggest game of the weekend, as his No. 8 Tigers host No. 5 Georgia with College GameDay on site. Swinney tried to downplay the mega battle between conferences.
"Regardless of what conference they’re from, you’ve got the No. 5 team in the country coming to your stadium, that’s all that really matters," Swinney said. "As far as the SEC goes, we’ve been playing SEC teams every year and been in a lot of battles with that league. Our guys have a good understanding of what it takes to beat a very good team, regardless of what conference they come from. It’s more about Clemson-Georgia than anything else."
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, whose team plays No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, brought a big-picture perspective. "You judge that over the long haul, not just one Saturday," Beamer said. "I think it’s important that all of us do well.
Here are a few other notes from around the league:
Pitt coach Paul Chryst was asked was his running back rotation would look like against Florida State on Monday, given recent injuries to Isaac Bennett and James Conner. "Don’t know exactly," Chryst said. He hopes Bennett and Conner can play, but Rachid Ibrahim and Malcolm Crockett have gotten the bulk of the reps in practice.
Beamer also was asked about his running back situation. He said the team would disclose J.C. Coleman's status when it releases its injury report Thursday. If he can't play, Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus would be the top two backs. Both are redshirt freshmen. "We went from too many tailbacks to not enough tailbacks, really," Beamer said.
Syracuse coach Scott Shafer and NC State coach Dave Doeren were asked about their quarterback situations headed into their respective openers. Neither plans on disclosing who will start before Saturday. Shafer is choosing between Terrel Hunt and Drew Allen; Doeren will go with either Pete Thomas or Brandon Mitchell. Shafer did say he wants to try and go with one quarterback and stick with him against Penn State on Saturday. "I don’t want to be in a yo-yo situation," Shafer said. "Once we get it going we’ll see how it plays out." Doeren said he already knows who will start against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, and has told both his quarterbacks to be ready to play.
Virginia coach Mike London also has a plan for freshman Taquan "Smoke" Mizzell. The ESPNU150 player from a year ago is poised to play against BYU. "There’s a lot of things he’s learned but there's a lot of things he’s yet to learn," London said. "We know he’s a dynamic player, but we have to make sure we don’t try to do give too much to him in order to see those abilities. It’s going to be important for us to package some things he can do and then go from there."
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson expects quarterback Justin Thomas to practice Wednesday and play Saturday against Elon. Thomas has been slightly banged up and missed a few practices. The plan is to play both Thomas and Vad Lee. "We’ll play it by feel," Johnson said. "I have no plans to rotate series or take guys in and out. We’ll do whatever we feel gives us a chance to win the game."
Fedora also said he plans on using Jack Tabb at both tight end and linebacker against the Gamecocks. Tabb began training at linebacker after the Tar Heels lost a few players to injury, thinning out depth. "He’s got a lot of football savvy, he really understands the game," Fedora said. "Jack is one of those guys, he doesn’t need a lot of reps. He can run it once and then he understands what needs to be done. We’re fortunate in that aspect."