The Washington Times - August 31, 2012, 10:04AM

The weekly picks usually come on Thursday mornings.

That should be the case going forward.


But for the opening week, it gets floated on Friday simply because of other commitments yesterday.

Let’s get to this weekend’s 11 games (10 ACC plus one Navy). All games Saturday and times p.m. unless otherwise noted …

* N.C. State vs. Tennessee (Friday, 7:30, ESPNU): Wolfpack 27-20. How about this number: N.C. State hasn’t won a season opener against a I-A school since 2002. Granted, there’s plenty of I-AA wins in there, but also four losses (Virginia Tech 2005, Central Florida 2007, South Carolina 2008 and 2009). The Wolfpack, fresh off a strong finish last season, should end that streak tonight in Atlanta.

* Navy vs. Notre Dame (9 a.m., CBS): Fighting Irish 31-17. Yes, Notre Dame is down its (likely) starting quarterback and its top tailback. To be sure, the Irish’s offense could sputter a bit. But Navy is breaking in a lot of new starters throughout its roster, from quarterback to defensive line to kicker and plenty of places in between. The Midshipmen should be able to become bowl eligible, but playing arguably their toughest opponent in the opener probably won’t end well.

* Elon at North Carolina (12:30, ACC Network): Tar Heels 38-10. North Carolina shouldn’t have any problems in Fedora the Explorer‘s first game in Chapel Hill.

* William & Mary at Maryland (3, ESPN3): Terrapins 24-14. Maryland is short-handed, which tempers any optimism about a possible rout. The Terps will also debut new systems on offense and defense, but while there are questions about a learning curve, their old schemes produced dreadful results. It’ll be interesting to see how Perry Hills handles his first start less than a month after going through his first college practice. Maryland’s no stranger to ho-hum openers against I-AA teams (see 2006 William & Mary, 2007 Villanova and 2008 Delaware). This might fit the pattern.

* Richmond at Virginia (3, CSN): Cavaliers 31-10. If all goes well, Virginia fans will see Phillip Sims sometime in the fourth quarter. But barring injury, this isn’t a game that is going to lead to a change under center in Charlottesville.

* Miami at Boston College (3:30, ABC regional): Eagles 21-20. The only conference game of the day should look vastly more interesting in a sea of games against I-AA teams than this one does. It will be curious to see the Eagles’ offense under new coordinator Doug Martin.

* Murray State at Florida State (6, ESPN3): Seminoles 42-3. Moving along …

* Liberty at Wake Forest (6:30, ESPN3): Demon Deacons 34-7. Wake might struggle to get back to six wins this season, but it can probably count on snagging this one.

* Florida International at Duke (7, ESPN3): Blue Devils 28-24. There isn’t a likely path to bowl eligibility for Duke that doesn’t involve winning four of its first six; the schedule is that backloaded. The best way to do that? Capture the three winnable nonconference home games (FIU, N.C. Central, Memphis) and then split with Wake Forest and Virginia. The problem? FIU is the best team in the Sun Belt and could easily knock off the Blue Devils. This one will be dicey for David Cutcliffe‘s team.

* Clemson vs. Auburn (7, ESPN): Clemson Tigers 34-31. And if Auburn wins, we can just chalk it up to Clemsonliness. And Sammy Watkins‘ suspension. And, perhaps, the Clemson defense.

* Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech (Monday, 8, ESPN): Hokies 27-20. No truth to the rumor Virginia Tech will clinch the Coastal Division crown with a win. It just feels that way with North Carolina ineligible, Miami reeling and Virginia still building. Virginia Tech’s defense, on paper perhaps its best since 2006, had all summer to get ready for the Yellow Jackets’ triple option. That should help the Hokies hold serve at home.

2011 ACC record: 79-26 (33-15 conference regular season, 7-1 bowls)
2011 Navy record: 7-5
2011 total: 86-31

—- Patrick Stevens