- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Last week, the ACC went down the runway in a pair of Wranglers. Comfortable? Yes. Style points? No.
Let’s dress it up a little bit this week, shall we, guys?
Week 1 was good but not great for the conference. NC State was outplayed by a faster Tennessee team, but Clemson looked impressive in its victory over Auburn. Miami and Boston College entertained us, while Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech lulled us to sleep before a surprisingly fantastic finish in the first overtime game in Lane Stadium history. Wake Forest, though, barely beat Liberty, and Maryland mucked its way to a 7-6 win over FCS William & Mary with four turnovers along the way.
In Week 2 -- which is mostly a dud as far as the national spotlight is concerned -- ACC teams need to leave no doubt they’re the best on the field.
Boston College needs a convincing win over Maine. NC State needs a no-nonsense rebound at Connecticut. Duke needs to maintain the momentum it gained by beating Florida International on the road against an unimpressive Stanford team. Virginia needs to stay focused against Penn State. And Maryland? Well, it would be nice if the Terps could just score in Philly.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the first week was filled with mistakes and near-upsets as teams figured themselves out and worked their way through the kinks and opening-day jitters. The ACC was hardly alone in its lackluster start, as Wisconsin got a scare from Northern Iowa, Stanford snuck past mighty San Jose State, 20-17, and Pittsburgh lost to Youngstown State. The offenses we saw in Blacksburg on Monday night were underwhelming, as the defenses stole the show until late in the fourth quarter. Both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech can and will get better as the season goes on, and both will have glorified practices against unheralded opponents this weekend in Presbyterian and Austin Peay, respectively. There’s no reason either should be on upset alert.
In fact, it should be an uneventful weekend for the ACC. With the exception of Duke’s trip to Stanford and Miami’s trip to Kansas State, the ACC should come out a winner against its nonconference opponents again. That’s not to say Duke or Miami won’t win -- but those games aren’t gimmes like, say, Florida State-Savannah State. Virginia could have a tough time at home against Penn State, which is trying to avoid an 0-2 start in its first road trip under Bill O’Brien, and NC State might struggle at Connecticut, but they’re hardly matchups against ranked opponents.
While it was a disappointing loss for NC State, the ACC doesn’t have anything to be ashamed about in Week 1. The league went 7-0 against its nonconference opponents Saturday, and 7-1 overall. Clearly, though, there is room for improvement. Even Virginia left something to be desired in its 43-19 victory over Richmond. This week’s lineup is less about making a statement on the national level -- there aren’t enough ranked opponents on the schedule to do that -- and more about playing polished. Wake Forest will host North Carolina in the only league game of the week, and coach Jim Grobe knows that 42 total yards of offense midway through the second quarter won’t cut it against the Heels. UNC put up 62 points against Elon -- and did it with style, as running back Giovani Bernard scored on a reception, a run and a punt return.
“There were a handful of FBS teams that lost to FCS teams this weekend, so we’re fortunate to get a win,” Grobe said. “But we need to play better. I don’t want to take anything away from Liberty; I thought they had a great plan and a great coaching staff with a lot of good players. We were fortunate to get a win, but we’ve got a lot of improvements to make.”
Winning ugly is better than not winning at all, but with four FCS schools, one MAC school and two Big East schools on the schedule this week, the ACC shouldn’t have to cut it close.
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