In each of the last two football seasons and three of the last five, an ACC team has lost to a Championship Subdivision (the old Division I-AA) opponent.
Two of the offending coaches — Duke’s Ted Roof (to Richmond in 2006) and Virginia’s Al Groh (to William and Mary in 2009) — eventually were fired. The third — Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer (to James Madison last year) — is headed for the College Football Hall of Fame.
This season, every ACC team plays a FCS opponent. Not very appealing to season-ticket holders or TV networks, but at least most of the FCS teams are credible.
Eight of the 12 had winning records last season and four — William and Mary, Appalachian State, Wofford and Bethune-Cookman — made the playoffs. Richmond, JMU, Appalachian State and Massachusetts are past national champions.
So to kill some time before training camps open next week, let’s rank the possibility of upsets, from least to most likely.
* Charleston Southern at Florida State (Sept. 10): The Buccaneers were 3-8 last season, and the Seminoles are preseason ACC faves. Jimbo Fisher can rest his starters for most of second half to prepare for titanic game the following week against Oklahoma.
* Western Carolina at Georgia Tech (Sept. 1): Bank on the Yellow Jackets taking out their frustrations over offseason NCAA sanctions in their opener against the Catamounts, 2-9 in 2010 and saddled with five consecutive losing seasons.
* Appalachian State at Virginia Tech (Sept. 3): After last season’s flop against JMU, the Hokies have vowed to overlook no one, and overlooking the Mountaineers would be an XXL mistake. App State has reached the playoffs six straight years and returns quarterback DeAndre Presley.
* Bethune-Cookman at Miami (Oct. 1): Yes, the Wildcats are defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions, and yes, the Hurricanes might be gazing ahead to their Oct. 8 test at Virginia Tech. But the talent gap is too wide.
* Wofford at Clemson (Sept. 10): Dangerous game for the Tigers, who in the following three weeks face Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech. The Terriers shared the Southern Conference title last season with Appalachian State and advanced one round in the playoffs.
* Liberty at N.C. State (Sept. 3): A tale of two quarterbacks. The Wolfpack will be debuting a new starter in Mike Glennon, while the Flames will showcase Mike Brown, the two-time Big South offensive player of the year and last season’s national leader in total offense. Liberty likely to enjoy sixth straight winning season.
* Massachusetts at Boston College (Sept. 24): Nothing would affirm the Minutemen’s readiness for their 2012 upgrade to the Bowl Subdivision like upsetting the Eagles. UMass was 6-5 last season and in 2007 gave BC and Matt Ryan fits in a 24-14 loss.
* Gardner-Webb at Wake Forest (Sept. 17): The Deacons lost nine of their final 10 games last season, but with 16 returning starters and a big-play back in Josh Harris, they shouldn’t lose to the Bulldogs, a middle-of-the-pack Big South team that was 4-7 in 2010.
* JMU at North Carolina (Sept. 3): Butch Davis’ firing as the Tar Heels’ coach gooses the probability meter in a big way here. If Carolina rallies around interim coach Everett Withers, its talent should prevail. But if the Tar Heels are still staggered, the Dukes have the chops, especially on defense, to win.
* Richmond at Duke (Sept. 3): The Spiders blanked the Blue Devils in 2006, but with Duke veteran Sean Renfree throwing to receivers such as Conner Vernon, don’t expect a repeat. Still, UR will be a load if USC transfer quarterback Aaron Corp’s knee is healthy.
* William and Mary at Virginia (Sept. 3): The Cavaliers should be better than last season’s 4-8 bunch, but Jimmye Laycock’s Tribe figures to be among the FCS’ best. Whomever Virginia selects to start at quarterback, he’ll encounter a nasty defense led by linebackers Dante Cook and Jake Trantin.
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