Last time out: Wake Forest (1-0) began the season with a closer-than-expected 20-17 victory against Liberty on Saturday.
Name to Know: QB Tanner Price. The junior entered the season having attempted 173 passes without throwing an interception. That streak ended on Saturday against Liberty, but Price is still one of the most accurate and efficient passers in the ACC.
He completed 60 percent of his passes a season ago and threw 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Half of those interceptions, though, came in the Deacons’ 49-24 loss at UNC. The performance against the Heels was Price’s worst of the season, and it’s not likely he’s forgotten.
Scouting report: As usual, Wake coach Jim Grobe has assembled a veteran team with an able defense, which is led by All-ACC defensive tackle Nikita Whitlock and Merrill Noel, a cornerback who was the ACC’s defensive rookie of the year a season ago. In all, seven defensive starters return from a season ago, when Wake beat Florida State and went to a bowl game.
The offense is solid, with Price and fellow junior Michael Campanaro, who caught nine passes for 96 yards and a touchdown against Liberty. The offensive line, though, is unproven and returns just one starter from last season. Wake’s running game is usually a strength, but it’s a question mark early in this season.
Brandon Pendergrass led the team in rushing last season as a senior and Josh Harris, who inherited the starting job, left the Liberty game with a concussion in the first quarter and did not return.
Bottom line: There’s a reason why Grobe is one of the most respected coaches in college football. He seems to get more out of less than any coach in the nation, and he has built Wake into a perennial contender in the Atlantic Division. The Deacons won’t intimidate teams with their talent or size, but they have enough of it to be competitive. And they rarely beat themselves with mistakes. Wake has won six consecutive home conference openers, and it will provide UNC with a far greater test than the one the Tar Heels faced against Elon.
Last time out: Stanford Cardinal (1-0) beat San Jose State, 20-17
Name to know: Josh Nunes has the unenviable job of replacing Andrew Luck as Stanford’s quarterback. The senior had a respectable first game as the Cardinal’s starter, completing 16 of 26 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown. He was not intercepted.
While those numbers are solid, Stanford’s passing attack obviously isn’t as dynamic as last season, when Luck passed for 290 yards and four touchdowns against the Blue Devils.
Scouting report: In addition to Nunes, Stanford also incorporated 10 true freshmen into the rotation. That’s one reason why the performance against the Spartans wasn’t the smoothest – Stanford opened up a quick 17-3 lead before allowing San Jose State back into the game. It wasn’t until the Cardinal intercepted the Spartans with 1:10 remaining that the win was secure.
“There are going to be some bumps and bruises,” Stanford coach David Shaw told reporters after the game. “In four or five games, we should be the team we need to be. There are some guys who need to grow up quick.”
Bottom line: With its strong play in its opener and Stanford’s inexperience, Duke will have to feel they have a legitimate chance to surprise the Cardinal. Stanford is a two-touchdown favorite, but as Shaw’s comments indicate, the Blue Devils could be catching the Cardinal at the perfect time.
Jack Daly, Correspondent
Last time out: The Connecticut Huskies (1-0) opened the season with a 37-0 home win over Massachusetts.
Name to Know: Sophomore running back Lyle McCombs ran for 82 yards and a touchdown in the win over UMass, and led the team with 1,151 yards last season.
Scouting report: The Huskies are a run-first team with McCombs as the main weapon. Quarterback Chandler Whitmer threw for 219 yards in his first college start and split time with Scott McCummings, who was more of a single-wing running threat. McCummings had a 1-yard TD run against UMass.
The defense, run by former Maryland coordinator Don Brown, made a strong debut by holding UMass to just 59 yards of total offense. Corner Dwayne Gratz scored on a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Bottom line: UConn went 5-7 in 2011. The Huskies had one of the worst offenses in college football last season but they had one of the best run defenses. They are a year removed from a Big East title and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl under Edsall.
Last time out: The Tar Heels (1-0) opened their season with a 62-0 victory against Elon at Kenan Stadium.
Name to Know: Sophomore running back Giovanni Bernard rolled up 203 all-purpose yards – all by the second quarter – before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury. Bernard said Monday he’ll be ready for the Deacons (while not saying what the injury was).
Scouting report: The Tar Heels are using a spread, no-huddle offense that clicked easily against Elon. Quarterback Bryn Renner threw for 236 yards and three TDs.
Defensively, North Carolina swarmed Elon, allowing the Phoenix into Tar Heels territory just twice. It was North Carolina’s first shutout since 1997.
Bottom line: The Deacons will be much more of a test than FCS Elon was for the Tar Heels, especially when it comes to dealing with North Carolina’s new up-tempo offense. With this being the ACC opener for both teams, the stakes are high for such an early-season game.
Last time out: No. 9 South Carolina (1-0) topped Vanderbilt 17-13 in its season opener.
Name to know: Marcus Lattimore. A unanimous preseason All-American selection at tailback, Lattimore returned to action after ACL surgery on his left knee and rushed 21 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Lattimore, a Heisman hopeful, hurt his knee in the seventh game of the season in 2011 but still gained 818 yards and reached the end zone 11 times.
Scouting report: South Carolina went 11-2 last season and finished the year in the Top 10 in the AP poll for the fist time in school history. The Gamecocks lost some star power from last year’s squad as defensive end Melvin Ingram and wideout Alshon Jeffrey left for the NFL, but with athletes like Lattimore and stud 6-6, 256-pound star sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney back for another year, South Carolina’s expectations are sky-high.
On offense, South Carolina will keep an eye on QB Connor Shaw, who had to leave the first half of the Vanderbilt game with a bruised shoulder. However, Shaw returned in the second half and finished the game completing seven of his 11 pass attempts for 67 yards while rushing 14 times for 92 yards.
On defense, South Carolina finished the 2011 season ranked 11th in scoring defense as it surrendered 18.3 points per game, and that unit looked strong against Vanderbilt, yielding 62 rushing yards and 214 yards through the air.
Bottom line: The Pirates must catch fire early before the physical and athletic nature of the Gamecocks takes hold.
Brian Haines, correspondent