- Associated Press - Thursday, September 3, 2015

A look at things to watch in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the opening week of the season:

GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech. This marks the first time the reigning national champion opens on the road since USC visited Hawaii to open the 2005 season and only the third time in 20 seasons, according to STATS. Throw in the fact that the Hokies handed the Buckeyes their only loss last season - a curious result since Virginia Tech finished 7-6 - and this Labor Day tilt has plenty of national interest. “The whole country will be watching,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. “People will have an opinion of Virginia Tech after that game, so we’re going to determine whether it’s a good opinion or not.”

BEST MATCHUP: Louisville’s defense vs. No. 6 Auburn’s ground game. The Cardinals’ defense, which lost half its starters, must try to slow the Southeastern Conference favorite in Atlanta on Saturday. Louisville had the nation’s No. 6 total defense last year (309.5 yards), while the Tigers must replace SEC top rusher Cameron Artis-Payne in a ground attack that ranked 13th nationally.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: ACC player of the year James Conner is back at Pittsburgh and ready to put up more impressive numbers. The junior ranked among the nation’s rushing leaders with 1,765 yards and an ACC-record 26 touchdowns. He enters Saturday’s game against Youngstown State already ranked 10th in program history in rushing yards (2,564).

LONG SHOT: Virginia travels to No. 13 UCLA on Saturday as a roughly 20-point underdog. The Cavaliers can at least take some hope from last year’s season-opening meeting. Virginia hung around with then-No. 7 UCLA at home before falling 28-20. The trick now is trying to play tough again after traveling to the West Coast.

PLAYER TO WATCH: North Carolina State’s Matt Dayes. With top rusher Shadrach Thornton suspended for two games, the junior running back will start Saturday against Troy. He’s in an offense that averaged 204.5 yards rushing last year in the program’s best total since 1992. Dayes thrived once before when Thornton was suspended in 2013, running for 84 yards and three touchdowns in his college debut against Louisiana Tech.


Compiled by AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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