We finally have some football in the books, and lots more to come. Let's crack open the mailbag for a Kickoff Weekend edition ...
This time of year, we all tend to focus on returning skill players, but Pitt's biggest asset is its grunts in the trenches. Pitt has 99 career starts returning on the offensive line (not to mention a ridiculous number of good backs to run the ball), and the Panthers' D-line may be one of the major undervalued groups in the league. Ejuan Price is already a star and Dewayne Hendrix certainly has the potential to blossom into a force off the edge, too. Meanwhile Pat Narduzzi has raved about the progress of Shakir Soto (6-3, 295) and Tyrique Jarrett (6-3, 335) up the middle. Aside from quarterback, give me talent in the trenches over anything else to build a team around.
@DavidHaleESPN why will Pittsburgh be a true contender in the coastal?- HQ College Football (@whosin2016) August 31, 2016
Let it be known, Ben is an Eastern Carolina student and avowed "NC State hater," so his prediction may be a bit biased. I'm leaning toward 3-5 or 4-4 in conference, with the senior day showdown at home against Miami being the swing game.
@DavidHaleESPN how many conference games does NC State win? I think zero- Ben Eller (@ben_eller) August 31, 2016
In fairness to Marquise Williams, his numbers against teams that won at least nine games were pretty solid. From 2013-15: 60 percent completions, 27 touchdowns, 11 turnovers and an adjusted QBR that matched Baker Mayfield's. But to your point, Mitch Trubisky is a bit more even-keeled than Williams, who often put a lot of pressure on himself on bigger stages (in his hometown of Charlotte, in particular). I'd bet Trubisky has a good game against Georgia, though much like in last year's opener, Elijah Hood should carry the offense.
@DavidHaleESPN UNC pulling off the upset of Georgia? Think Mitch will adjust to the "bigger" games more than Quise did?- Jordan Mitchell (@j3_mitchell3) August 31, 2016
The definition of success there probably isn't about wins and losses but rather Justin Fuente establishing his culture and system. These things take time. The analogy with Frank Beamer was always to Bobby Bowden, and I think it can be extended to Fuente and Jimbo Fisher. Fisher won some games in his early years at Florida State, but it took time to really establish Florida State as a consistent threat -- despite folks outside the program hyping the Seminoles consistently. The ceiling for Fuente this year may be 10 wins, but even if the Hokies hit that total, there will still be work to be done by year's end.
@DavidHaleESPN what's considered successful in Blacksburg? What's the ceiling?- Zach (@zachhrobinson) August 31, 2016
My vote goes to Wake Forest, which has a surprisingly stellar press box setup (food included). I'm quite excited to test out the new digs at Duke this year though.
@DavidHaleESPN best press box pregame spread in the ACC- Nick Coffey (@TheCardConnect) August 31, 2016
Florida State has, arguably, the best secondary in the country, so I wouldn't anticipate routine struggles. But the key will be containing Chad Kelly and maintaining coverage for an extended period. He picked up 13 first downs on third- or fourth-down scrambles last year, and he was deadly as a passer outside the pocket. He's exceptional at keeping plays alive, as evidenced in the win over Alabama last year when the Crimson Tide defense appeared to have him wrapped up again and again only to get burned downfield. A few of those big plays could be the difference in this game, even if overall the secondary plays well.
@DavidHaleESPN do u believe the FSU Secondary will struggle w Kelly and Ole Miss offense?- Left handed Thumber (@bhnoles) August 31, 2016
Syracuse actually scored a respectable 27.3 points per game last year overall, good for 77th -- or middle of the pack -- nationally. Dino Babers' Bowling Green team, on the other hand, racked up 42.2 points per game, good for sixth overall. I'd expect this year's Orange to be closer to last year's average than Bowling Green's mark, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 32 to 33 points per game would be a nice step and would've ranked fourth in the ACC a year ago.
@DavidHaleESPN Where did Syracuse rank in ppg in ACC league games in 2015? Where will Syracuse rank in ppg in ACC league games in 2016?- Steven B (@SwaggaCuse) August 31, 2016
If I hadn't been down this road with the ACC before -- too many times -- I'd be picking the league to go 3-0 against the SEC this week. I think the ACC has the better overall team in all three games. Of course, we've seen this story play out before when it seems like the ACC is on the precipice of national respect, only to flush it away with an ugly loss (see: UNC vs. South Carolina last season). Auburn may give Clemson a game early, but I'm expecting Deshaun Watson and Co. to pull away in the second half and win by at least 10.
@DavidHaleESPN what's more likely, Clemson loses to Auburn or the ACC goes 3-0 over the SEC?- Avian Dentures (@AvianDentures) August 31, 2016
Sorry to burst your bubble, but game times for the first three weeks are set in stone. And I wouldn't hold out much hope on ESPN's College GameDay. Week 3's slate is better than Week 1's: Oregon-Nebraska, Ohio State-Oklahoma, Alabama-Ole Miss, Michigan State-Notre Dame and USC-Stanford are all probably more likely options. Even if we're looking at noon ACC games, I'd love to see the show come to Appalachian State for the Miami game -- by far the biggest game ever on campus there.
@DavidHaleESPN any chance if Louisville and FSU both enter week 3 game unbeaten, the game gets moved from 12? Chances for Gameday?- CHAZ HAMMOND (@REDBURD3322) August 31, 2016
The "going against the best offense" is possibly a bit overblown. Most teams don't do a lot of good-on-good in practice after the season begins, and most teams don't tackle at all once the season starts. I think the two big areas of concern for Clemson's defense are at end and corner. Mackensie Alexander and Shaq Lawson weren't just veteran starters. They were legitimate playmakers. It's tough to replace their contribution. We saw in the national championship game what the D looked like when both players were injured. Clelin Ferrell and Mark Fields will be the two guys to watch early. They've got big shoes to fill.
@DavidHaleESPN is the worry about Clem D overblown? Almost same boat as last year + get to go up against best O in country daily @ practice- //\\ (@Coop_TNP) August 31, 2016