We are just two weeks into ACC football action and we've already gotten a handful of examples of how crazy this season is going to be as teams navigate the COVID-19 protocols required to play.
Virginia Tech had its Week 2 opener against NC State moved back to Sept. 26 because of a pause in team activities at NC State, then the Hokies had their own COVID-19 concerns that led to a postponement of this week's game against Virginia, who had its Week 2 opener against VMI canceled when the Keydets postponed all football activities for the fall. Boston College also lost its Week 2 opener against Ohio when the MAC postponed football, but unlike Virginia and Virginia Tech, the Eagles are scheduled to be in action this weekend getting their 2020 season started at Duke.
NC State joins Boston College in making its 2020 debut here in Week 3, hosting Wake Forest after the Demon Deacons opened their season in a 37-13 loss to Clemson. But just down the road, North Carolina saw its Week 3 game against Charlotte canceled on Thursday morning after contact tracing nearly depleted the 49ers offensive line.
Dizzy yet? Imagine being in charge of all these shifting schedules.
So all picks here and otherwise come with the strongly-worded advice to keep tabs on the latest personnel updates for teams as they undergo pregame and postgame COVID-19 testing and implement the contact tracing and quarantine protocols. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get to the picks for games that, for now, are on the schedule for Week 3.
Syracuse at Pitt (-21.5): Do we take the bait after Pitt brought the hammer down on Austin Peay? Syracuse could not capitalize on multiple scoring opportunities against North Carolina, but the game was 10-6 entering the fourth quarter before the Orange defense finally wore down in a 31-6 loss. But even with some potential misleading final score value on Syracuse, it's not enough to back the dog. Instead, let's combine Syracuse's red zone woes with Pitt's elite defense and figure this total stays low. Pick: Under 50
Boston College at Duke (-6): There were times when Duke's offense, led by former Clemson quarterback Chase Brice on the field with David Cutcliffe taking over as the play-caller for 2020, looked outstanding against Notre Dame. Those flashes should be easier to turn into stretches against a Boston College defense that has yet to take the field this season. Without a full nonconference schedule, there are no easy wins for either of these teams so I expect a highly competitive game, with the Blue Devils extra game of experience as a deciding factor. Pick: Duke -6.
USF at No. 7 Notre Dame (-25.5): I have adopted USF as my Group of Five team to follow, root for and generally go all-in on as a homer on the Cover 3 Podcast. There are limits to that #bias, like when the Bulls are traveling to South Bend to face a Notre Dame team that really only found its rhythm in the second half of its win against Duke. The problem is the matchup, as USF's strength defensively is in the secondary and Notre Dame's weakness offensively is its downfield passing attack. So expect the Irish to dominate the line of scrimmage and pull away for an easy win. Pick: Notre Dame -25.5.
No. 14 UCF at Georgia Tech (+7.5): I'm all in on the Jeff Sims era at Georgia Tech and the steps that the Yellow Jackets have and will continue to take here in Year Two with Geoff Collins, but I think this line is an overreaction to last week's win at Florida State. Dillon Gabriel is a more effective downfield passer than James Blackman and I think the Knights offense as a whole presents more of a threat of explosive plays than the Seminoles. Factor in potential letdown factor after an emotional win in a weird game on the road, and I think UCF leaves Atlanta with a double-digit win. Pick: UCF -7.5
The Citadel at No. 1 Clemson (SportsLine consensus -45.5): It's tough to use last week's result against USF as a data point for comparison considering where the Bulls are in year one with Jeff Scott and where Clemson with nearly a decade of ACC dominance under Dabo Swinney. But the fact that The Citadel had its option offense rolling in the first half gives me enough belief in the Bulldogs being able to find a way to cover this number. The most important thing to everyone involved in this contest is that no one gets hurt, so look for a very generous approach to clock management in the second half of a 49-6 Clemson win. Pick: The Citadel (+45.5)
No. 17 Miami at No. 18 Louisville (-2.5): The game of the week in the ACC should deliver the fireworks with two of the league's best quarterbacks, Micale Cunningham and D'Eriq King, going to work in primetime in the first ranked-against-ranked game of the conference season. We saw King and the new-look Miami rushing attack move the ball effectively against UAB's defensive front to the tune of 337 rushing yards on 52 attempts and Cunningham fell right back into rhythm with wide receivers Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick. This line has moved a ton so you've lost some value, but I still think it's the right play to buckle in and root for touchdowns. Pick: Over 64.5
Wake Forest at NC State (-2.5): A real head-scratching line here because I have no idea what to do with NC State. The Wolfpack were young and disappointing on offense last year, but there's talent in the backfield. Plus, this defense is looking for respect after giving up 40-plus points in four games during the six-game losing streak that brought their season to an end after a 4-2 start. Sam Hartman brought fight to the Clemson defense and the Deacs never let up in the second half, so there's a temptation to take the short road underdog that's already knocked some of the rust off instead of the home favorite in its opener. Ultimately, I'm leaning on an old Tobacco Road adage for this series: take Wake in Winston-Salem and back the Pack in Raleigh. Pick: NC State -2.5
Last week: 2-4 | 2020 season: 2-4
What picks can you make with confidence in Week 3, and which surprising underdog will pull off a shocking upset? Visit SportsLine to see which teams win and cover the spread, all from a proven computer model that has returned over $3,500 in profit over the past four seasons.