ACC Week 1 picks: Can Florida State upset Alabama?

Herbstreit excited for Alabama-Florida State showdown (1:23)

Kirk Herbstreit is intrigued to see how Alabama's defense gets after Florida State QB Deondre Francois. (1:23)

Florida State-Alabama is this week's headliner, but that’s not the only big game to open the season for the ACC. Six teams are playing Power 5 nonconference opponents, including Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and NC State. The ACC played exceptionally well in nonconference games a year ago, going 10-4 against the SEC and 17-9 overall against Power 5 opponents. Can the ACC keep up the momentum? Here are some predictions for Week 1.

Visit our college football PickCenter page for additional information on these games and many more.

No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 1 Alabama, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

David Hale: Florida State 14, Alabama 13

The prevailing thought for Florida State enthusiasts is that the Seminoles’ defense can shut down an Alabama offense coming off a shaky playoff performance a year ago with a new coordinator calling the shots. But here’s another tidbit: Despite less-than-elite QB play, despite repeated changes at coordinator and despite all the ups and downs, Alabama has been held to fewer than two touchdowns just three times since 2008. So picking FSU because of its D is still a risky proposition, but few defenses have the likes of Derwin James, Derrick Nnadi, Josh Sweat & Co. Are we foolish going against the Tide? Probably. After all, of those three games Alabama was held to fewer than 14 points, it won two.

Andrea Adelson: Florida State 23, Alabama 21

It might be foolish to pick Florida State considering the Noles have never beaten the AP No. 1 away from home, Alabama has won 36 straight nonconference games and Nick Saban is 10-0 all-time against his former assistants. Just to name three. But these teams are as evenly matched as it gets, considering the talent and depth across the board. Florida State obviously has the talent to win on defense, especially with the return of Derwin James. Watch for James to make the decisive play on special teams to help the Seminoles win in a close one.

NC State vs. South Carolina, Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN

David Hale: NC State 35, South Carolina 27

If this was simply about the talent on the roster, it’d be a pretty easy pick. NC State is loaded on defense, has myriad unique playmakers on offense and could be one of the surprise teams of the season. But there’s that nagging little issue of history, particularly this stat: NC State is just 11-24 against Power 5 opponents under Dave Doeren, and just 4-23 against Power 5 teams that finished the season bowl eligible, as South Carolina did a year ago. Never mind all of the history though. This Wolfpack team is for real, and it will show it on opening day with a signature win over an SEC team, serving as a reminder that the ACC Atlantic won’t be a two-team race.

Andrea Adelson: NC State 30, South Carolina 27

NC State has become somewhat of a media darling in the offseason -- a trendy pick to be a dark horse in the ACC. Rather than shy away from the increasing expectations, Doeren and his players have embraced them. They certainly are ready for this moment, considering the experience and depth returning. South Carolina will be able to make plays on a secondary that’s missing cornerback Mike Stevens, but in the end, the Wolfpack will be able to control the line of scrimmage on offense and defense and get a big win for a program looking for a big year.

No. 22 West Virginia vs. No. 21 Virginia Tech, Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC

David Hale: West Virginia 24, Virginia Tech 21

This game comes down to whether or not Josh Jackson is ready to thrive at QB for Virginia Tech. In its 10 wins last season, West Virginia’s opponents completed less than 54 percent of their passes for just 6.7 yards per attempt. In three losses, the Mountaineers allowed 70 percent completions, more than 8.5 yards per pass, nine touchdowns and just one pick. So is Jackson good enough to shred that secondary in his college debut? I like his long-term future as the Hokies’ QB, but I’m not sold he’s ready to put the team on his shoulders just yet.

Andrea Adelson: Virginia Tech 33, West Virginia 30

As a former Big East reporter, this game brings back a bit of nostalgia considering the history and rivalry. Both teams have had to educate their players on that. But the one person best acquainted with the old rivalry and equipped to slow down a West Virginia offense that can score in bunches is on the Virginia Tech sideline. Bud Foster will have a plan for Will Grier & Co., and Josh Jackson will show why he won the Hokies' starting QB job with a good game.

No. 25 Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech, Monday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

David Hale: Tennessee 33, Georgia Tech 27

At Tennessee, folks are lamenting the departure of Josh Dobbs. At Georgia Tech, it’s largely assumed Paul Johnson has another QB ready to go. I’m not sure I buy these theories. The Vols may be missing some big names, but there’s still talent on the roster. And you only need to look back a couple of years to see that the Yellow Jackets’ triple option isn’t quite as “plug and play” as is often advertised. The loss of Dedrick Mills so close to the start of the season is just one of the reasons Georgia Tech might be a bit shaky early, and in the end the Vols probably need this one more.

Andrea Adelson: Tennessee 28, Georgia Tech 24

I was all set to pick Georgia Tech to win, until Dedrick Mills was dismissed from the team. The bottom line is there are too many unknowns about quarterback and B-back for a Georgia Tech offense heavily reliant on those positions to win. Coach Paul Johnson knows he has a young offense coming back, and while I think this team still will have a solid season, I’m not sure everything will come together right away.

Unanimous picks

Wake Forest over Presbyterian

Syracuse over Central Connecticut

Boston College over Northern Illinois

Clemson over Kent State

North Carolina over Cal

Pitt over Youngstown State

Duke over North Carolina Central

Louisville over Purdue

Virginia over William & Mary

Miami over Bethune-Cookman