Week 6 schedule
Friday, Oct. 3
Louisville at Syracuse, 7 p.m., ESPN
Saturday, Oct. 4
NC State at Clemson
Wake Forest at Florida State
Miami at Georgia Tech
Virginia Tech at North Carolina
Pitt at Virginia
Our pick: Louisville at Syracuse AND Virginia Tech at North Carolina.
Why you should come along: Since I get to do the choosing, I am going with a double once again. The last time I was in the Carrier Dome, I saw Syracuse upset Louisville in a Big East game in 2012, ending the Cardinals' undefeated season. The man who orchestrated the terrific defensive performance was Scott Shafer, now the Orange head coach. Much has changed for both programs since that meeting two years ago, but they do get to meet again as conference rivals, this time in the ACC. This is a critical game for both to start October. For Syracuse, the contest falls in the middle of a tough three-game stretch that begins with Notre Dame at MetLife Stadium and ends with Florida State on Oct. 11. Louisville, meanwhile, must play at Clemson after going to the Carrier Dome.
Both teams are trying to be players in the Atlantic, with hopes of catching Florida State and Clemson. Louisville wants to prove its worth in the ACC; Syracuse wants to build on momentum from last season. If any game in October can be labeled "must-win," it is for both of these teams.
The same can be said for the Virginia Tech-North Carolina game, a contest I believe will be critical in shaping the Coastal Division race. North Carolina is an early favorite in the division, while the Hokies are trying to get back to the championship game for the first time since 2011. Virginia Tech won their meeting last year, and midway through the season the Hokies looked like serious contenders to win the Coastal. But they lost four of their final six games. North Carolina, meanwhile, won six of its final seven -- a big reason why the Tar Heels are expected to be Coastal favorites. Virginia Tech might be the hardest team to predict of any in the ACC headed into the season. Despite the last two seasons, this team is capable of winning 10 games. Including this one.