Pittsburgh set to make ACC debut in showcase game against Florida State

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The Pittsburgh Panthers spent nearly two years touting the better life that awaited when the school made the jump from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The talking points always included league stability, academic excellence and – oh by the way – a lucrative TV contract.

The ACC isn’t wasting any time making Pitt earn its keep.

The Panthers will make their long-anticipated ACC debut tonight against No. 11 Florida State in the kind of nationally televised spectacle the program hopes comes with a fair amount of regularity in their new conference home.

“I would rather start off with all big games to tell you the truth,” Pitt tight end J.P. Holtz said. “You come to Pitt that’s what you come to do that’s why you come to play division I football, you come to play the best of the best.”

And nobody in the ACC has been better through the years than the Seminoles, last seen crushing BCS crasher Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl.

While quarterback E.J. Manuel is now in the NFL, Florida State already has his apparent in Jameis Winston, who will become only the third redshirt freshman in program history to start the season opener.

NOTRE DAME: Coach Brian Kelly was rewarded for getting the Fighting Irish to the national championship game in January with a new five-year deal.

Kelly, whose team opened the season with a 28-6 win over Temple on Saturday, said the contract signifies to him that he and the university officials are “all in it together.”

ALABAMA: Christion Jones’ spectacular performance in the opener didn’t come as a surprise to his teammates.

“I’ve seen it in him,” Alabama left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio said of the return man. “He’s been working really hard. You can see how hard he’s been working and it’s starting to come out. … We all see it. We’re not blind.”

Jones returned Virginia Tech’s first punt 72 yards for a touchdown and added a 94-yard kickoff return in the second quarter, with a 38-yard TD catch for good measure.

FLORIDA: The No. 10 Gators know exactly who they are under third-year coach Will Muschamp: a blue-collar, physical group that’s going to try to beat opponents up and wear them down on both sides of the ball.

It’s mostly boring, often predictable and fairly successful. It’s Muschamp’s mark. And it’s Florida’s way these days.

In the season opener, a 24-6 victory over Toledo on Saturday, the Gators looked to be in midseason form.

They ran for 262 yards and two touchdowns, were efficient in the passing game and dominant on defense.

It’s the same formula that helped Florida win 11 games last season and reach the Sugar Bowl.

I had a lot of confidence before today and I feel even more so after today,” Muschamp said after the game. “When we’re able to run the ball that effectively, we’re going to create explosives.”


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