Eagles, Vols Jump Right In

By Adam Caparell - August 31, 2007

Jeff Jagodzinski certainly isn't easing into his head coaching career at Boston College and Philip Fulmer has a doozy of game to kick off year No. 16 at Tennessee.

The Eagles and the Vols are two teams who won't be playing patsies this Saturday as BC takes on the defending ACC champs in Wake Forest and No. 15 Tennessee travels to Berkeley to take on No. 12 Cal.

Both Jagodzinski and Fulmer, in an ideal world, would be facing much easier opponents this weekend, preferably a non-BCS team that would allow a much wider margin for error in the first game of the season. But as Fulmer said earlier this week, "we're going to play them as we schedule them."

"I would have liked to have opened up with a non-conference game," Jagodzinski said, who will be making his head coaching debut Saturday. "That's just the way it fell this season. I'm glad we're opening up with the conference champion. I told our guys if you want to be the best you have to go beat the best and Wake Forest is the best team in the ACC."

Boston College historically has opened the year against a non-conference opponent while Tennessee, other than last year's game with the Bears who were ranked ninth in the nation at the time, has only opened the season against a ranked team one other time since 2000.

"We've done it both ways," Fulmer said. "If I had my druthers, I'd rather open with a lesser opponent, particularly with how our schedule as it stands this year with Southern Miss and Florida in the first three. Those are three really good football teams. I'd like to probably have it differently."

But there are major payoffs for playing such a tough opponent in your first game. For starters, playing Cal on national television gives both the Vols and Bears phenomenal exposure and an edge in recruiting. And a win in the game can really propel a team out of the starting gates.

Coming off of their disappointing 5-6 campaign in 2005, Fulmer said his team's big win over the Bears last year helped them quickly get back on track.

Weekly Picks

Boston College (-6) over Wake Forest
This is the first of the two big ACC showdowns in the Atlantic Division this weekend. Two stellar offenses and underrated defenses meet. Wake Forest handed the Eagles a seven point loss last season in early November that showed the Demon Deacons were for real. Now can they pull off a similar feat when everyone is doubting they can win the Atlantic again? It's not without question, but it should be interesting to see the BC offense tailored around quarterback Matt Ryan. If the offensive line does its job, the Eagles will be too much for the Demon Deacons.

Missouri (-4.5) over Illinois
An overlooked matchup this weekend. Missouri is right on the cusp of being a Top 25 team and features one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12 in Chase Daniel. Illinois should feature a solid defense and defenses are almost always a step ahead of offenses early in the season. There's upset potential in this one for sure, but until Juice Williams proves otherwise, you can't trust the Illini offense and that's why the Tigers are the pick in this one.

Georgia Tech (+2.5) over Notre Dame
The fact that Notre Dame is favored in this game is laughable. They're getting way too much respect for a team that lost all its skill position players and still features a sub par defense. Charlie Weis still hasn't named a starter (it figures to be Evan Sharpley), but is it going to matter? The Yellow Jackets are sound defensively and should move the ball against the Irish just fine. Here's an upset, if you can even call it that.

Cal (-6) over Tennessee
Tennessee should be a very good team and they're going to give the Bears a run for their money in this one, but I like Cal to exact a little revenge for the spanking they were handed in last season's opener. Tennessee has some holes on defense that I think Nate Longshore and company can really exploit. I would expect a big effort out of running back Justin Forsett.

Clemson (+3.5) over Florida State
The other ACC Atlantic showdown. This game almost always go down to the wire and Clemson has had the upper hand in the past two meetings. Two fairly evenly matched defenses, it's just a question of which offense shows us something first. I want to pick the Seminoles, I really do, but the more I think about it tells me to go with Clemson. Bobby Bowden expects his team to struggle and the game is on the road. Not a good combination. Still think this one goes down to the wire.

Posted by Adam Caparell at 02:48 PM on August 31, 2007

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