• Clemson coach Dabo Swinney speaks for everyone when he says: “It seems like it has been a long offseason.”
And all Swinney has had to do is deal with the hype for his team, which closed last season with a bowl win over LSU, not any suspensions (like the one for star receiver Sammy Watkins last season) or NCAA issues (like those at Texas A&M).
Georgia will be challenge enough for Swinney’s crew, which will be pushed on defense. The Dawgs feature two of the best running backs in the SEC – Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are products of North Carolina – and senior quarterback Aaron Murray is one of the best in the country.
“When you look at what they did last year with 37 passing touchdowns and 32 rushing, you can tell that they know what they’re doing,” Swinney said.
• While UNC’s matchup with South Carolina and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney received plenty of attention in these parts, Virginia’s offense will get all it wants from BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Van Noy finished 2012 with 13 sacks and six forced fumbles, which is impressive enough. He also blocked two kicks and scored two touchdowns.
The Cougars, 8-5 a year ago, ranked third nationally in scoring defense last season. Virginia was 93rd nationally in scoring offense.
• Maryland’s last lap in the ACC begins with a home date with Florida International. The Terps have been relatively quiet, after two difficult seasons under coach Randy Edsall, but Edsall believes sophomore receiver Stefon Diggs is in for a big season and not just because he won’t have a converted linebacker as his quarterback.
“I just hope (Diggs) can stay healthy because he’s as good as I’ve ever been around,” Edsall said.
Three to watch
1) No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson, 8 p.m. (WTVD)
The Tigers, the ACC preseason favorites, open with their third straight game against a ranked SEC opponent. Clemson has won 14 of its past 15 home games.
2) Virginia Tech vs. No. 1 Alabama, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Nick Saban’s first championship season at Alabama started with a 34-24 win over the Hokies in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta in 2009. The programs meet again with Saban in pursuit of his fourth title with the top-ranked Tide.
3) Louisiana Tech at N.C. State, 12:30 p.m. (WRAZ)
Dave Doeren’s debut with the Wolfpack is the first of eight home games this season. Former ECU coach Skip Holtz brings the Bulldogs to Raleigh in his first season back in Conference USA.
Number to know
2-6 The ACC’s record vs. ranked SEC teams since 2011. Both wins, over No. 8 LSU in ’12 and No. 21 Auburn in ’11, were by Clemson. The Tigers also accounted for two of the losses, both to South Carolina.