Sunday, September 1, 2013
What we learned in the ACC: Week 1
By David M. Hale
With a bunch of big games for the conference, there figured to be some major implications from Week 1. Here's what we learned:
Tajh Boyd accounted for five touchdowns against Georgia in a statement win for Clemson.
Clemson is a legitimate national title contender. This game shouldn't have been a referendum on the Tigers' legitimacy, but the win nevertheless cements them as real contenders to win it all. The game lived up to its advanced billing, and both teams had their runs. In the end, Clemson proved it was just a little better, and that's due in large part to senior quarterback Tajh Boyd, who was exceptional. He accounted for five TDs, while Georgia's Aaron Murray once again struggled against a highly ranked opponent. There's still a lot of football to be played, but for now, Boyd is in line for a Heisman, and Clemson has a clear path to a championship.
The ACC's profile still hasn't changed much. This weekend was supposed to tell us a lot about the ACC, but after five games against teams from other AQ conferences, there's still plenty of room for debate. Yes, Clemson is in the national championship hunt, but that's not a huge surprise. Virginia was on the ropes against BYU, but a late turnover and lateral helped the Cavs eke out a win. Virginia Tech lost handily, but the Hokies did manage to expose some weaknesses in Alabama. And OK, Syracuse and North Carolina didn't do a lot to change hearts and minds. In the end, Clemson offered the big win, Virginia helped the cause, and at the end of the day, there probably weren't a lot of fans who changed their minds about the ACC one way or the other.
The Hokies' D is good. The offense and special teams need some work. The scoreboard showed a blowout, 35-10, but Virginia Tech actually outgained Alabama 212 yards to 206. So how'd things get so ugly? Alabama racked up two long touchdowns on special teams and returned an interception -- thrown by Logan Thomas -- 77 yards for a score. The special-teams breakdowns are galling for a program once known for success in that area, but Thomas' struggles might be an even bigger concern. The senior was a woeful 5-of-26 passing for 59 yards.
Maryland is better with its No. 1 QB than its No. 5 QB. No offense to Shawn Petty, who did a serviceable job in emergency duty down the stretch last year, but Randy Edsall has to be doing cartwheels that he has C.J. Brown back and healthy. After Brown missed all of the 2012 season, he returned to action Saturday and demolished FIU. Brown was 20-of-23 passing for 281 yards and rushed 11 times for 105 yards, and he tallied five touchdowns in the first half alone. It had been a decade since any Maryland quarterback accounted for five touchdowns in the same game. For the game, Maryland racked up 576 yards of total offense.
Some new QBs had a rough Saturday. NC State certainly looked like it had an answer at quarterback as Brandon Mitchell started strong, but a foot injury in the first quarter now means he'll miss the next 4-6 weeks. Meanwhile, Syracuse didn't get the emphatic performance it wanted from new quarterback Drew Allen, who completed just 16 of 37 passes for 189 yards and two interceptions. Virginia got slightly better results from its new quarterback, but David Watford still wasn't overly impressive, completing just 50 percent of his passes for 118 yards, a TD and an INT. The weather in Charlottesville did Watford no favors, but the Cavaliers certainly will expect more moving forward. Of course, the whole group can take solace that they were better than Virginia Tech's Thomas.