The Washington Times - August 31, 2011, 11:34PM

Well, at long last, it’s here.

Game day (at least in some portions of the country; others have to wait until Saturday or Sunday or Monday or —- yep —- next week).


In any case, the first college football contests at the highest level will be played Thursday, though it’s debatable whether Western Carolina-Georgia Tech really counts. With that in mind, here are the opening week picks (now featuring Navy as well as the entire ACC).

All games on Saturday unless otherwise noted …

* Western Carolina at Georgia Tech (Thursday, 7:30, Yellow Jackets 42-7. Quirky stat: Tevin Washington‘s yards per carry was the same as Joshua Nesbitt‘s last season. That doesn’t mean they were equally effective, but it’s an interesting tidbit nonetheless. Washington, by the way, should have no trouble leading Georgia Tech past coach Paul Johnson‘s alma mater.

* Wake Forest at Syracuse (Thursday, 8, Demon Deacons 28-27. No, there really is no rational reason to think Wake Forest will waltz into the Dome and beat a bowl team from last season. But if anyone in the ACC has incentive going into the season, it’s the Deacons after last year’s 3-9 disaster. Wake should improve this year, and this would be a solid start against a well-coached Orange outfit that was hit hard by graduation.

* Northwestern at Boston College (Noon, ESPNU): Eagles 31-28. The biggest toss-up on paper in the ACC this week. The Wildcats have a superb quarterback in Dan Persa, but he’s returning from injury and his effectiveness is a bit of a mystery. While Montel Harris won’t play for BC, it will be curious to see how much quarterback Chase Rettig has improved under new offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers. Here’s guessing it’s enough to help the Eagles win their opener.

* Appalachian State at Virginia Tech (12:30, ACC Network): Hokies 34-10. Logan Thomas time in Blacksburg starts with a comfortable victory over the Mountaineers. Don’t expect Virginia Tech to trifle with Appalachian State too much, not after last year’s opening loss to James Madison.

* Delaware at Navy (3:30, CBS Sports Network): Midshipmen 27-14. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo makes no secret of how scary a date with the Blue Hens can be. Delaware was the runner-up in the former Division I-AA last year, and has the talent to keep this close. Questions at quarterback, though, make the Blue Hens a slightly less likely upset candidate than at other times in the recent past.

* James Madison at North Carolina (3:30, CSN): Tar Heels 35-17. No upset of an ACC team for the Dukes this year as Everett Withers opens his run as Carolina’s interim coach with a victory.

* Troy at Clemson (3:30, Tigers 42-20. This could be a tough test for Clemson and its new offensive coordinator, Chad Morris. Or it could be a breakout game for new quarterback Tajh Boyd and freshman receiver Sammy Watkins. As always with Clemson, you never do know.

* UL Monroe at Florida State (3:30, ESPNU): Seminoles 52-3. On paper, it is the least watchable opening week game in the league, which is saying something. A season of great expectations in Tallahassee will get off without a hitch. The biggest worry for Florida State will be injuries.

* Liberty at N.C. State (6, Wolfpack 35-7. There’s no way to know for sure, but it’s probably safe to assume Tom O’Brien never uttered the phrase “Give me Liberty or give me Russell Wilson.” He did, however, end up with one and not the other as the season commences.

* William & Mary at Virginia (6, Cavaliers 24-20. “Young David Watford” is a true freshman quarterback for Virginia, not a 19th century Scottish golfer. And if he plays as coach Mike London said he would, he’ll take meaningful snaps for Virginia against an exceptionally capable Tribe team that won in Charlottesville two years ago. It should be close this time, too.

* Richmond at Duke (7, Blue Devils 35-10. Sean Renfree‘s step forward from last season’s interception-fest begins with a solid game against the Spiders, a team likely to be a bit unsettled after its head coach resigned last week in the wake of a DWI arrest.

* Miami at Maryland (Monday, 8, ESPN): Terrapins 28-24. Two new coaches, and only one can get off to a good start. And even that’s relative for Al Golden, since the NCAA investigation into Miami will last longer than the suspensions that will keep eight Hurricanes out of the Labor Day opener. Look for the Terps to reverse one of their four setbacks from last season to begin Randy Edsall‘s tenure.

2010 season record: 79-27 (36-12 ACC + 1-0 in title game + 7-2 in bowl games)

—- Patrick Stevens