Time to keep it 100 … because there are 100 days left until the season opens and that means one thing for the ACC:
Do not screw up Week 1.
There are big matchups, yes, but this is a league that has a history of scheduling big nonconference games in Week 1. The problem has been an inability to actually win a majority of them. See last season, when the ACC pulled a big oh-fer. North Carolina started things off with a loss to South Carolina that remains mystifying. Louisville lost to Auburn (another winnable game). Virginia (UCLA) and Virginia Tech (Ohio State) also lost.
Since 2012, the ACC is 3-10 against nonconference Power 5 opponents in Week 1. You could argue that the ACC was an underdog in a majority of those games -- including all four to open last season -- and you would be right.
That is what makes 2016 opening weekend so important. The ACC's two College Football Playoff contenders open with big Power 5 tests: Florida State vs. Ole Miss in Orlando, Florida, and Clemson at Auburn. Both should be favored to win. Therefore, these are must-wins for both teams; they are at a point where they are expected to win these types of games. You could make the argument that, if a team is going to lose, it needs to lose early on. But there has been no indication that a one-loss ACC team would get the nod over a one-loss team from another conference based on perceived league strength.
That all could change this year, but Florida State and Clemson need to win to stay in the national conversation through the early part of the season. This is the first year the ACC has two potential playoff contenders. The last thing the league wants is for them to fall flat on their faces. Especially since the ACC has made strides toward improving its football brand over the past three years. The onus is on Florida State and Clemson to deliver, maybe more so this year than ever before.
Then there is North Carolina, the defending Coastal champion and another expected preseason Top 25 team. The Tar Heels open against Georgia and first-year coach Kirby Smart in Atlanta. Considering how the Tar Heels performed last year in Week 1, they are going to need a redemptive-type performance. Factor in the criticism about their strength of schedule a year ago.
Not only did North Carolina play two FCS teams, the Tar Heels beat just five bowl teams in 13 games and got blown out by Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl. North Carolina plays two FCS teams again because of another scheduling mishap, but getting a win over an SEC school to start the year would at least show the team’s potential. And the last time North Carolina beat an SEC school was in the 2010 Music City Bowl against Tennessee.
Every Week 1 is important, especially for the ACC. This marks the fourth straight season the league is playing at least three nonconference games against Power 5 teams to open the year. It is about time the league posted a winning record.