The Washington Times - September 25, 2008, 08:45AM

Now the fun of really changing picks from the preseason starts.

It’s clear some teams (Miami) are in better shape than others (North Carolina). Some (Duke) are simply better than others (Virginia). And a team without its quarterback and top linebacker is in trouble no matter where it plays a ranked team (N.C. State).

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Not to mention ultra-dicey games in key locales – Maryland-Clemson and Colorado-Florida State.

Of the eight games in the ACC, all but one required some thought to make a pick, which probably means the record won’t look all that great at the end of night on Saturday.

But here’s a crack at it anyway:

* Maryland at Clemson (Noon, Chs. 20, 13): Tigers 21-20. I’m convinced this will be a close game. Clemson is not the juggernaut it was once believed to be, mainly because a top-10 team needs an offensive line it can rely on and the Tigers don’t have one. You never know which Maryland team will show up, but Clemson traditionally lays an egg or two every season. It would come as no surprise if Maryland won its ACC opener for only the second time in seven years.

* North Carolina at Miami (Noon, ESPN2): Hurricanes 27-14. Miami makes its ACC debut at Dolphin Stadium, which doesn’t really mean all that much. I just felt like mentioning it. Carolina is going to learn quite a bit about quarterbacks Mike Paulus and Cam Sexton during T.J. Yates‘ absence, and the guess here is the early returns won’t be so great. Has Miami proven much just yet? Not really, but a victory here gets the Canes to 3-1 entering their rivalry game with Florida State.

* Virginia at Duke (Noon, ESPNU): Blue Devils 24-9. Virginia is the new Duke, and Duke is the new … well, it doesn’t really matter what the new Duke is, other than that it is much better than the old one. The Blue Devils’ fifth-year seniors are 1-31 in league play and have lost 25 straight ACC games, but the streak will end in Wally Wade World as the Cavaliers continue to break in Marc Verica at quarterback.

* Rhode Island at Boston College (1, ESPN360): Eagles 35-3. Boston College has not met the boys from Kingston since the time of the Great War – 1917. Don’t really have much else to add to that, but the Eagles should handle a 1-3 team from the former Division I-AA.

* Colorado vs. Florida State (3:30 ABC regional): Seminoles 12-10. Well, Florida State was wretched offensively against Wake Forest. But Colorado is traversing the country, and the Seminoles can’t be nearly as bad as they were last week again. Right?

* Navy at Wake Forest (3:45, ESPNU): Demon Deacons 34-20. The Midshipmen remain a bit dubious on defense, and Wake Forest has the goods to come close to a repeat of last year’s 44-24 victory in Annapolis. Some analysts would like to dip into the Big Bag of Sportswriters’ Cliches and wonder if the Demon Deacons are looking ahead to Clemson. Don’t bet on a Jim Grobe-coached team doing that.

* South Florida at N.C. State (7:30, ESPNU):Bulls 20-6. After a grueling three-year wait, South Florida shall finally exact vengeance for the 2005 Meineke Car Care Bowl whitewashing N.C. State inflicted upon them. Well, not really, but that meeting in Charlotte constitutes the entire series history. The Wolfpack will be without quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Nate Irving. State’s offense isn’t fantastic with Wilson but will struggle against the stingy Bulls with Harrison Beck starting at QB.

* Virginia Tech at Nebraska (8, ABC regional): Cornhuskers 21-17. Honestly, I have no clue what to expect here. That’s mainly because Nebraska grazed on three lightweights to start the season, and it’s difficult to tell if Bo Pelini has quickly turned things around or simply exploited a lame schedule. As for the Hokies, well, at some point that one-dimensional offense is going to come back and bite them. Maybe Lincoln is the place that will happen.

Last week’s record: 6-2 (1-1 conference games)
Season record: 27-9 (3-2 conference)
Preseason picks record: 27-9 (4-1 conference)
Preseason picks changed for this week: Virginia-Duke, North Carolina-Miami,South Florida-N.C. State

Patrick Stevens