Orange Watch: Strength of opponents radically different for 2021 ACC football openers

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Tommy DeVito looks to throw against North Carolina in the game's first overtime. Syracuse would win 40-37. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: In an exciting sign of the return to normalcy when it comes to ACC and Syracuse football, the league last week announced it will return to an in-person, pre-season media event in Charlotte July 21-22, and it released the initial game times and TV coverage of the Labor Day weekend matchups in September involving all 14 conference teams plus quasi-member Notre Dame.

We have always marveled at the start differences to the opening week of the college football season, the one game that sets the tone for the entirety of the three-month regular season.

This year, for example, North Carolina and Virginia Tech face each other right off the bat, putting one team at 0-1 overall and in the Coastal Division. Four ACC teams play Power 5 opponents, while on the other end of the scale Boston College and Virginia face FCS opponents Colgate and William & Mary, respectively.

Quite a difference in caliber of opponent.

Below we rate (late spring timeline) the strength of the opponent in the opening game matchup for each ACC team (in chronological order) using a three-tiered ranking:

  • Red=Top shelf opponent, leaning towards a loss.

  • Orange=Extreme caution needed to record a win.

  • Green=Looking like a win.

Thursday, Sept. 2

  • South Florida at NC State-USF won one game last season.

Friday, Sept. 3

  • North Carolina at Virginia Tech-A conference game to open up play=Red (for either team).

  • Old Dominion at Wake Forest-ODU had its 2020 season canceled

» Related: Previewing Syracuse’s ACC matchup against Wake Forest

Saturday, Sept. 4

  • Miami vs. Alabama (Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, Atlanta, Ga.)-ALABAMA. Need we say more?
  • Clemson vs. Georgia (Duke’s Mayo Classic, Charlotte, N.C.)-GEORGIA. Need we say more?
  • Colgate at Boston College=This is how you schedule part I
  • Duke at Charlotte-The Blue Devils won last year 53-19
  • Northern Illinois at Georgia Tech=The Salukis were 0-6 last season
  • UMass at Pitt-The Minutemen scored 12 points in four games last season
  • Syracuse at Ohio-The most important season in the Dino Babers era begins on the road with a challenge
  • William & Mary at Virginia-This is how you schedule-part II

Sunday, Sept. 5

  • Notre Dame at Florida State, 7:30 p.m.-Tallahassee will be rocking in a rare Sunday night game

Monday, Sept. 6

  • Louisville vs. Ole Miss (Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, Atlanta, Ga.)-The neutral field helps, a little, against an SEC foe

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About Brad Bierman 762 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.