This is Part Two of this week’s Previews & Predictions feature. Also check out Part One.
Miami Hurricanes at Boston College Eagles: One of two league games on the schedule this week is actually a repeat of each of these team’s final games of 2011. Both were in better shape then, and come into 2012 trying to answer some major questions. Miami replaces nearly their entire starting lineup (on both sides) from last year, while BC tries to get past a rash of preseason injuries. I’m giving the edge to the Eagles, however, due to their experience and (surprisingly) QB Chase Rettig, who may be reborn with a new O-coordinator this season. Prepare for a rough season, Miami. Prediction: Boston College 20, Miami 16
Murray State Racers at Florida State Seminoles: I honestly feel bad for the Racers here, because they were actually a pretty good team last year. They scored 37 points per game, and threw for 308 yards per game, and had an all-around fun time. Unfortunately, that’s all going to end against Florida State this Saturday. The ‘Noles appear to be on a mission, and with the opining masses starting to include them in the National Championship conversation, it’s getting harder to see how anyone could get in this team’s way. Expect the starters out by halftime. Prediction: Florida St. 51, Murray St. 10
Youngstown State Penguins at Pittsburgh Panthers: The Penguins are no slouches, operating with efficiency on both sides of the ball. But at the same time, just imagine an actual Penguin fighting an actual Penguin. YSU actually kept it pretty “close” last year when they faced Michigan State (28-6), but they also scored 49 points or more three separate times. If Pitt’s Ray Graham had to miss time, the team will be fine without him here — the running game and defense should carry them through, no problem. Prediction: Pitt 45, YSU 20
Liberty Flames at Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Another sound passing team from the FCS level, Liberty comes into Wake Forest thinking itself capable of an upset. The likelihood of it happening, just the same however, are slim. The only time the Flames faced a quarterback remotely comparable to Tanner Price last year, they fell to Mike Glennon and NC State, 43-21. Given the similarities between this year’s Wake team and last year’s State team (strong passing, solid DBs, mediocre run-game), I’d say it’s a good bet we’ll see a result like that one. Prediction: Wake 39, Liberty 21
Florida International Golden Panthers at Duke Blue Devils: This is one of the trendiest “dog bites man” upset picks of week one, with many folks picking FIU to knock off the disaster-prone Blue Devils. It’s not without merit, either. The Golden Panthers were 14th in scoring defense in the entire FBS, and managed to knock off Louisville last season, too. If QB Sean Renfree wasn’t heading into his third year as the starter, I’d be just as tempted as others to pick FIU and its 35 sacks (!!) to drop him repeatedly. But behind his veteran presence, I believe Duke can manage themselves a win here, albeit barely. Prediction: Duke 23, FIU 20
Clemson Tigers vs. Auburn Tigers (in Atlanta): Since we found out that Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins will not be participating in this game (or the next one), the all-Tigers matchup appears to have lost a bit of its luster. Regardless of personnel though, reawakening this old rivalry should still make for a great show down in Atlanta. Tajh Boyd managed to come up big against the conference’s two quickest defenses last year. But how does that compare to SEC speed? Since I’m not entirely sold on either defense, nor do I believe in Auburn’s offensive attack, it appears we have our winner. This has been another “upset” flagged over the past week, but I just don’t see it. The Clemson offense is just too fast and too deep to let the loss of Watkins hurt them on this stage. Prediction: Clemson 41, Auburn 35