Week 1 college preview: Charlotte the center of college football universe

By Richard Walker

After a handful of games last week, the college football universe descends on Charlotte for three days in the first full week of the 2021 college football season.

The Appalachian State logo in the end zone at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium in preparation for Thursday’s game with East Carolina.

On Thurday, Appalachian State and East Carolina meet at the NFL Carolina Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium.

On Friday, the Charlotte 49ers host their first ACC opponent when Duke visits Richardson Stadium.

Finally, on Saturday, No. 3 Clemson meets No. 5 Georgia at the Panthers’ BoA Stadium in the week’s marquee matchup of ranked teams.

Here’s a look at the NCAA Division I games involving Carolinas teams this weekend by conference:

South Florida at N.C. State, 7:30 p.m.
Storyline: Lots of expectations for the host Wolfpack as they open the season against a South Florida that will start North Carolina transfer Cade Fortin at quarterback.

North Carolina at Virginia Tech, 6 p.m.
Storyline: Huge game for both teams as very well could be the game that ultimately decides the ACC’s Coastal Division. The last meeting at Virginia Tech was a 43-41 six-overtime Hokies’ win over North Carolina in what remains the longest game in league history.

Duke at Charlotte, 7 p.m.
Storyline: The 49ers have been routed in three previous matchups with ACC teams – all on the road – that include a 53-18 loss at Duke last season. Now, Charlotte hosts an ACC team for the first time

Old Dominion at Wake Forest, 7 p.m.
Storyline: Old Dominion returns to the gridiron after sitting out the 2020 season while Wake Forest looks for a solid start to 2021 as it seeks a sixth straight bowl appearance.

The Citadel at Coastal Carolina, 7 p.m.
Storyline: Only the third all-time meeting of what would seem a natural rivalry – they are tied – with Coastal Carolina entering with a No. 22 national ranking.

Davidson at VMI, 1:30 p.m.
Storyline: VMI leads a longtime rivalry 39-17-3 and Davidson enters coming off its first-ever FCS playoff appearance in the abbreviated 2021 winter/spring season.

North Carolina A&T at Furman, 2 p.m.
Storyline: After playing in either the CIAA or MEAC for its entire athletic existence, A&T plays its first-ever game as a full-fledged Big South member.

Wofford at Elon, 2 p.m.
Storyline: Longtime rivals as NAIA, NCAA Division II and now Football Championship Series schools meet again with Wofford holding 27-11 all-time series advantage.

Campbell at Liberty, 6 p.m.
Storyline: Campbell coach Mike Minter has long played challenging schedules. That’ll continue with this game at one of the top FBS independents.

Eastern Kentucky at Western Carolina, 6 p.m.
Storyline: Western Carolina breaks in its seventh head coach since the legendary Bob Waters retired after the 1988 season. The newest coach is Kerwin Bell, a former Florida and NFL quarterback who comes to WCU with 17 years head coaching experience in high school and college.

Gardner-Webb at Georgia Southern, 6 p.m.
Storyline: G-W coach Tre Lamb starts his second season on the road against an opponent with which the Bulldogs actually hold a 2-1 all-time series lead.

Eastern Illinois at South Carolina, 7 p.m.
Storyline: Former Iowa State and North Dakota State quarterback Zeb Noland, who came to Columbia, S.C., in the spring to be a graduate assistant, will be the starter in head coach Shane Beamer’s debut.

South Carolina State at Alabama A&M, 7 p.m.
Storyline: The preseason MEAC favorite Bulldogs open their challenging 2021 schedule at defending SWAC champion Alabama A&M.

Clemson vs. Georgia in Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.
Storyline: ESPN’s College GameDay will be on hand for college football’s highest-ranked matchup of the weekend. Clemson is 6-1 all-time at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium that includes ACC championship game wins in 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Here’s the Division II schedule:

Shaw at Wingate, 6 p.m.
Chowan at Mars Hill, 7 p.m.
Erskine at Catawba, 1 p.m.
Tusculum at St. Augustine’s, 1 p.m.
Clark-Atlanta at Livingstone, 1:30 p.m.
Newberry at Barton, 2 p.m.
Fayetteville State at Elizabeth City State, 4 p.m.
Lenoir-Rhyne at Virginia State, 6 p.m.
Limestone at North Greenville, 7 p.m.
UNC-Pembroke at Winston-Salem State, cancelled