There is danger lurking on the Week 1 ACC schedule.
No, it's not Northwestern, or suddenly serious Syracuse.
It's big dogs. James Madison. William & Mary. Richmond. And -- gasp -- Appalachian State.
All three of those programs have done the unthinkable and stunned FBS teams -- the majority of which have been in the ACC (thanks, Michigan). For each of the past two seasons, the ACC has been embarrassed on the national level with a loss to an FCS team. Duke lost to Richmond and Virginia lost to William & Mary in 2009. And last year ... well, we just won't go there.
Will the FCS cripple the ACC's image again?
The ACC faces 12 opponents from the FBS and South Alabama, which is in a transitional year at the FCS level (even better!). This is a dangerous group, I'm telling you. The 12 and South Alabama had a .568 winning percentage last season, with four -- Wofford (10-3), Appalahcian State (10-3), Bethune Cookman (10-2) and South Alabama (10-0) — each having 10 wins. Three of the FCS teams on this year's schedule -- William & Mary, App State and Bethune-Cookman -- played in the FCS championship tournament last season. Liberty had the No. 2 total offense in the FCS nation. These guys mean business.
And yet ...
I dare to predict the ACC will go undefeated against the FCS in 2011.
Virginia has lost to William & Mary before. The odds of it happening again, this time under Mike London in the season opener, are slim. The Hokies open with Appalachian State at home. If they lose that game, I will eat every turkey leg in Lane Stadium before jumping from the top of it proclaiming I was wrong on my way down. North Carolina opens at home with James Madison. The Tar Heels know what happened to the Hokies. They won't let it happen to them.
This is a year of redemption for the ACC, a year where the upsets will be reserved for the likes of Duke and Virginia, not the JMU Dukes and Richmonds of the world.
You would think this is a safe bet in the ACC.
And yet ...