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Clemson Tigers host top ACC game of opening weekend

The 14-member ACC is unveiled this weekend, with the two new schools playing intriguing games.

But the most intriguing game of the weekend will be played by Clemson, the league's preseason favorite. The Tigers welcome Georgia into "Death Valley" for a showdown of top-10 teams.

Another ACC-SEC showdown comes Thursday evening, when North Carolina plays at South Carolina. The ACC's battered national image can be polished if either of its teams beats its SEC foe.

New members Pittsburgh (which plays host to Florida State on Monday night) and Syracuse (which plays the Big Ten's Penn State in East Rutherford, N.J., on Saturday) get to prove their worth right out of the gate.

Here's a look at each game involving an ACC member this week:

13. North Carolina Central at Duke, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 4 p.m. ET

Rating: 0 stars

The skinny: Both schools are located in Durham, N.C. Uhhh ... that's all we got.

12. Presbyterian at Wake Forest, Thursday, Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m. ET

Rating: 0 stars

The skinny: Presbyterian (whose nickname is "Blue Hose," by the way) has won eight games in the past four seasons. Presbyterian surrendered an average of 38 points and 502.5 yards per game last season; the Blue Hose played two FBS programs last season and lost by a combined 117-3. All those numbers should make Wake QB Tanner Price, TB Josh Harris and especially star WR Michael Campanaro giddy.

11. Elon at Georgia Tech, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 12 p.m. ET

Rating: 0 stars

The skinny: Elon played an ACC school last season (North Carolina) and lost by 62. Elon junior LB Jonathan Spain (6-feet-2, 242 pounds) made 120 tackles last season, and given Tech's triple-option offense, he should finish with tackle numbers in the mid-teens Saturday. Fun fact: While Elon's nickname now is Phoenix, it used to be Fighting Christians (through 2000).

10. FIU at Maryland, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 12:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports regional/ESPN GamePlan

Rating: 1 star

The skinny: Coach Ron Turner makes his FIU debut, but he doesn't have much talent to work with. RB Kedric Rhodes, FIU's best player, was kicked off the team in July, and Willis Wright, the team's best wide receiver, is having academic issues and can't play. DTs Greg Hickman and Isame Faciane head what likely will be a mediocre FIU defense. Maryland WR Stefon Diggs should run wild. This is FIU's first game as a member of Conference USA.

9. Villanova at Boston College, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 12 p.m. ET, ESPN News

Rating: 1.5 stars

The skinny: Villanova is one of the better programs in the FCS ranks and is ranked ninth in the FCS preseason coaches' poll. RB Kevin Monangai (5-8, 215) is a returning 1,000-yard rusher, and senior DT Antoine Lewis (6-2, 290) is a preseason FCS All-American. BC struggled to run the ball last season, and will be in trouble if it can't run Saturday. QB Chase Rettig and WR Alex Amidon could have big days, though.

8. Florida Atlantic at Miami, Friday, Aug. 30 at 8 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Rating: 1.5 stars

The skinny: Miami QB Stephen Morris and TB Duke Johnson should be able to put up big numbers against the Owls. FAU's best player is senior CB Keith Reaser (6-0, 190), who has good size and speed. This is FAU's first game as a member of Conference USA.

7. Louisiana Tech at NC State, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network

Rating: 1.5 stars

The skinny: Coach Dave Doeren makes his NCSU debut; the same goes for Skip Holtz at Louisiana Tech. Tech was 9-3 last season, but has just six starters back. One of those is RB Kenneth Dixon, who rushed for 1,194 yards and 27 TDs last season as a true freshman. Tech's defensive front will pose a test for NCSU's offensive line, which is led by OT Rob Crisp (6-7, 300). Tech's defensive back seven looks bad, so the Wolfpack should find it quite easy to throw the ball effectively.

6. Penn State vs. Syracuse, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC regional/ESPN2

Rating: 3 stars

The skinny: There are two ACC-Big Ten meetings this season, and Syracuse is involved in both (this one, and a game next week at Northwestern). Both teams will have first-time starters at quarterback. Syracuse's shaky secondary will be tested by Penn State WR Allen Robinson and TEs Kyle Carter and Jesse James. Will Syracuse be able to run? A big key will be how well rising-star LT Sean Hickey handles Penn State rising-star DE Deion Barnes. This game will be held in MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.), home of the NFL's Giants and Jets.

5. Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Rating: 3 stars

The skinny: This game -- to be played in Atlanta -- looked like it would be one of the best non-conference games of the season back in January. Now? Ehhh. Virginia Tech has been ravaged by injuries and could end up starting its third-string tailback. Trust us: You can't beat Alabama unless you have some semblance of a running game. The Hokies also have injuries at linebacker and in the secondary. This could get ugly. But if Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas wants to show pro scouts he can bounce back from his bad 2012 season, a solid game against the Tide would be a good start.

4. Florida State at Pittsburgh, Monday, Sept. 2 at 8 p.m., ET, ESPN

Rating: 3 stars

The skinny: Pitt moves into the ACC by welcoming in Florida State. Nothing like saying, "Hey, we're glad to be here" like playing host to the league's best program. Pitt needs a huge game from DT Aaron Donald, a big-play machine who will be going against the ACC's best trio of interior linemen (center Bryan Stork and guards Josue Mattias and Tre Jackson). Pitt CBs Lafayette Pitts and K'Waun Williams could make things difficult for ultra-hyped FSU redshirt freshman QB Jameis Winston. Still, it's hard to see Pitt being able to run effectively, which means Panthers QB Tom Savage -- who makes statues look mobile -- could be under siege.

3. BYU at Virginia, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Rating: 3.5 stars

The skinny: An underrated matchup. BYU thinks it has the talent and tough-enough schedule to play its way into the BCS. Cougars LB Kyle Van Noy is one of the best in the nation, and he heads what should be a salty defense. But the Cougars' offense is a question. Then again, so is Virginia's. The Cavs' defense has some potential stars in DE Eli Harold and DT Brent Urban. Cavs junior CB Demetrious Nicholson (5-11, 185) already is a star, and his one-on-one battles with BYU senior WR Cody Hoffman (6-4, 210) will be worth watching.

2. North Carolina at South Carolina, Thursday, Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. ET, ESPN

Rating: 4 stars

The skinny: The season kicks off with a bang. North Carolina senior OT James Hurst can make himself some money if he can keep South Carolina junior DE Jadeveon Clowney somewhat under control. North Carolina's offense, which features star power in QB Bryn Renner, TE Eric Ebron and WR Quinshad Davis, will be one of the two best in the ACC. The defense, though, is a huge concern. Can the Heels slow South Carolina's rushing attack? If not, it will be a long night, even with all that offensive firepower. And look for the Gamecocks to attack UNC FS Tre Boston, who too often takes unnecessary chances.

1. Georgia at Clemson, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Rating: 4-plus stars

The skinny: The best non-conference game of the season comes in Week 1. Two teams in the preseason top 10, loaded with skill-position talent and with top-flight senior quarterbacks -- and two teams with questionable defenses. It should be a high-scoring shootout. Clemson WRs Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant need to have big games against Georgia's secondary. Outside of Bulldogs CB Damian Swann, Clemson QB Tajh Boyd should feel free to pick on that secondary. The flipside: Clemson's secondary is shaky, too. Sophomore FS Travis Blanks must play well. Georgia's rushing attack likely will prove too much for Clemson.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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