College football upset picks: 5 teams on upset alert in Week 1

Kedon Slovis, USC Trojans. (Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
Kedon Slovis, USC Trojans. (Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports) /
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College football upset picks
North Carolina Tar Heels, Sam Howell. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

College Football Upset Pick No. 3: North Carolina Tar Heels

Rank: 10 | Opponent: at Virginia Tech Hokies | Time: Friday, Sept. 3, 6:00 p.m. ET

Mack Brown’s North Carolina Tar Heels are getting a ton of respect coming into the 2021 season as the legendary head coach has quickly rebuilt the program. They come into the year as a top-10 team in college football and as the most obvious challenger to Clemson in the ACC to try and end the Tigers’ dominance in the conference.

While the Heels have earned that respect, this is a team that also still has plenty to prove. Yes, Sam Howell is one of the premier quarterbacks in the country this season but they are replacing his four best weapons from last season. What’s more, the offensive and defensive lines have been improved talent-wise but are young and must show something on the field.

Admittedly, I’m not high on Virginia Tech coming into the 2021 season. Justin Fuente has not been as promised for the Hokies and, frankly, he made a questionable decision with Braxton Burmeister of Hendon Hooker at quarterback. Despite all of that, though, he’s performed well in season-openers and Lane Stadium is still a tough environment.

If North Carolina is as good as advertised, they should have no problem going on the road to a tough place to play and beating a team that’s inferior. But if they aren’t as far along in Brown’s rebuild as some would have you to believe, then this is an early game in which they could get tripped up.