Don't sleep on the ACC being represented in the national championship game this year. If anything Week 1 proves, it is that the ACC is a conference to be reckoned with.
The conference went 9-3, stole one from the SEC (almost two) and showed America what college football can be like on a Monday night.
Week 1 wasn't full of many surprises. Many teams scheduled glorified practices against FCS teams, but others (Sammy Watkins-less Clemson) proved they shouldn't be taken lightly.
I give you my conference recap and look ahead to what Week 2 has in store for the ACC.
Andre Ellington carries Clemson to a win over Auburn with 26 carries for 231 yards.
Game Recap: And they thought Clemson would be in trouble without Sammy Watkins. (Chuckle).
Breaking news from Death Valley—this Clemson offense is stacked with weapons. Not only do the Tigers have the best quarterback in the ACC in Tajh Boyd, who accounted for 266 offensive yards, but they also have Deandre Hopkins, who set a school record with 13 receptions, and Andre Ellington, who rushed for 231 yards on 26 carries.
Clemson put up a total of 538 under the lights of the Georgia Dome, erasing memories of its embarrassing end to last season. The defense was able to hold Auburn to fewer than 200 yards passing and created two turnovers.
Could this foreshadow what's to come? ACC over SEC?
It's only Week 1 and we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves, but in years past Clemson has consistently come up short in big games (against Georgia Tech in 2009 and 2011, and Auburn in 2010). But this year is different.
In the Tigers' first game, they were able to beat a quality opponent. But, according to FoxSports.com, offensive coordinator Chad Morris knows there are more games to be played. ''All it was, [it] was a great start,'' Morris said. ''It was a really good first game and, `whoop-dee-do,' now we've got to go on to the next one.''
A Look Ahead: Ellington wasn't the only one college back to rush for 200 yards last week. Ball State's Jahwan Edwards had 30 carries for 200 yards and three touchdowns against Eastern Michigan. The competition Clemson and Ball State had last week doesn't even compare.
However, this isn't a time for Clemson to get comfortable. Everyone remembers Appalachian State and Michigan. The unthinkable happened.
So it's time for Clemson to stay focused and get the job done. You can call Ball State a gimme game. You can call it a glorified practice. Whatever you do, don't call it easy.
Everyone is chomping at the bit to take down a powerhouse, so don't be surprised if Ball State gives Clemson all it can handle.
Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3.
Cody Journell kicks Virginia Tech to an overtime victory.
Game Recap: Since the ACC began staging a championship game, one of these two teams has competed for the title. With the lone prime-time spot on Monday night, these teams slugged it out in a game that can be best described as quarterback versus offensive system.
The quarterback, Logan Thomas, is coming off a record-setting season as a sophomore for Virginia Tech. The offensive system run by Georgia Tech led the nation in rushing last year.
Which one would prevail? Neither. Virginia Tech kicker Cody Journell won the game in overtime after a mindless throw by Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington that was intercepted by cornerback Kyle Fuller.
The Yellow Jackets almost proved an offensive system could outplay overall talent. To be honest, Frank Beamer's crew deserved to lose, but with 44 seconds to go, Thomas was able to beautifully construct a 51-yard drive to set up Journell's field goal that sent the game into overtime.
Take away the last minute, however, and Thomas' play was disappointing. Even though he threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns, the Hokies' offense was 5-for-16 on 3rd down. That allowed Georgia Tech to eat up the clock with its rushing attack and keep the game close.
Thomas made errant throws throughout the game and never quite looked comfortable. Nonetheless, according to HokieSports.com, Beamer still believes this game was huge for his football team. "Things have a way of working out for guys who keep on believing and keep on playing.'' Beamer said. "I’m really proud.''
Virginia Tech Look Ahead: All night ESPN showed Virginia Tech's empty trophy case that is reserved for a national championship trophy. That's great motivation, but if Beamer really wants to win a title, his team will have to go undefeated and win the ACC. That journey starts in Week 2 against Austin Peay.
Thomas has tremendous work to do. The offense must execute to keep the defense off the field. Thomas needs to figure out his weapons and how to use them. Monday night he had no idea.
But Austin Peay should give him ample opportunity to do just that.
Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3.
Georgia Tech Look Ahead: Teams have known for years how the Georgia Tech offense is going to play and still can't stop it. The Yellow Jackets' triple option is one of the most annoying systems in college football to defend, but it works.
For the system to become elite, QB Washington must be able to pass. Let's face it. Georgia Tech's national title hopes are gone, but it can still fight for an ACC title.
Next up for the Yellow Jackets is Presbyterian of the Big South on Saturday night.
Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN3.
Game Recap: Florida State dominated.
Look Ahead: There's really not much to say about Florida State right now. The Seminoles had more than 600 yards of offense and seven rushing touchdowns by three players against Murray State.
As XBOX 360 as that is, I would have rather seen quarterback E.J. Manuel use that glorified practice in Week 1 to improve as a passer. Rather, Manuel threw an interception and only had 188 yards through the air.
The rumors are Florida State is back, but when you're playing in a conference where you have to go undefeated to make it to a national championship game, the Seminoles should take better advantage of their early cake-walk games. Because in less than three weeks, Clemson will be coming to town.
FSU will play Savannah State next. I expect the outcome to be the same as Week 1.
Kickoff is at 6:00 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3.
Duke Johnson was the offensive explosion Miami needed to get the W.
Game Recap: Boston College had more than 500 yards of offense and was looking like a Matt Ryan-esque offense of old Saturday against the Miami Hurricanes. But two fourth-quarter turnovers were the difference in a 41-31 Miami victory.
The Eagles had put themselves in position to win, but mental errors proved to be too costly. According to Boston.com, head coach Frank Spaziani defined the game as a “lost victory.” With those kinds of offensive numbers, there’s no better way to put it.
There are a lot of unknowns going into the first game and you find out a lot more about yourself. Winning minimizes the problems and losing magnifies them. The problems are always there, you’ve just got to manage your way through them.
All the attention in this game will go to BC’s gaffes. But Miami deserves some credit. You can call the Hurricanes lucky, but I’d call them opportunistic.
It was the Hurricanes' 17 points off of three BC turnovers that proved to be the difference.
Quarterback Stephen Morris was able to have a—well, let’s just say he didn’t lose the game for the Hurricanes. He went 28 of 45 for 207 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
Running back Duke Johnson gave them the extra push they needed offensively, breaking off 54- and 56-yard touchdown runs. He finished with 135 rushing yards on seven carries, giving him a ridiculous 19.3-yard average per carry.
The Hurricanes were able to win, but they can’t live off others' mistakes for the entire season. There will come a time when they will play quality opponents (Kansas State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Florida State) who won't just give them the game.
Miami's offense will have to get Morris going if it plans to do anything in the ACC this year.
BC Look Ahead: There were questions about the offensive output, but wide receivers Alex Amidon and Tahj Kimble answered them. They combined for 18 catches for 279 yards and a touchdown.
Against Miami, BC quarterback Chase Rettig had career highs in pass attempts (51), pass completions (32) and passing yards (441).
Boston College will have another shot at getting its first home victory against No. 21 FCS opponent Maine
Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3.
Miami Look Ahead: Miami will be the second "hurricane" to travel to the Midwest in a week when it travels to Manhattan, Kansas, to face No. 21 Kansas State. For the Hurricanes to not become just another tropical storm, they will have to get it done through the air.
Johnson was able to have his way last week, but against the No. 35 rushing defense in the country, it's Morris' time to step up. According to the Miami Herald, Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder knows Johnson's speed is a big part of Miami's offense.
The key to this game will be Morris' ability to keep the Wildcats' defense on its heels and out of the box, so Johnson will have room to work.
Kickoff is at 12 p.m. ET Saturday on FX.
Game Recap: From the beginning, it was clear Tennessee came to play. The Wolfpack defense allowed the Volunteers to walk all over them, accumulating 524 yards of total offense. Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (remember the name) exploded on the scene with a 41-yard touchdown catch and a 67-yard touchdown run.
Offensively for N.C. State, it wasn't any better. Mike Glennon had the worst game of his career, throwing four interceptions. Yet N.C. State only lost by two touchdowns.
Losing the turnover battle against an opponent with a high-powered offense makes it difficult to win. The Wolfpack learned that lesson the hard way.
I hate to play the what-if game, but it wasn't like N.C. State got slaughtered. Midway through the third quarter, Tony Creecy had a six-yard touchdown run that narrowed Tennessee's lead to eight. With one fewer interception and one more stop, N.C. State is in this game. Unfortunately for them, that didn't happen.
Look Ahead: According to StarNewsOnline.com, head coach Tom O'Brien plans to use the three-headed monster approach at running back in N.C. State's next game against Connecticut. The Huskies are coming off a 37-0 victory over Massachusetts, a game in which they held the Minutemen to three yards rushing.
There's a big difference between MAC and ACC football, but throwing three running backs at a defense might be a good way to attack it. If anything, it should keep Connecticut's defense in the box and open up passing lanes for Glennon.
N.C. State should win this one, but Glennon will have to settle down and minimize turnovers in order for that to happen.
Kickoff is at 12 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3.
Gio Bernard had three first half touchdowns in North Carolina's week 1 62-0 victory over Elon.
Game Recap: Tar Heel Nation wanted offensive improvement and got it. First-year coach Larry Fedora brought his offensive expertise to North Carolina and in his first game he was able to make a statement, telling TarHeels.com:
Good first game and great to get it under our belt. You go into the game as a new head coach and your first game you want to make minimal mistakes. Until we have to face some adversity, it’s hard to find out who you really are, but we started to.
The Tar Heels had it all. Bryn Renner threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns, and Gio Bernard had a 59-yard rushing touchdown, six-yard receiving touchdown and a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown. Last week, North Carolina had its highest point total and first shutout this century.
It was a great way to usher in the Fedora era.
Look Ahead: Fedora's new offensive system has instilled confidence in Renner and the Tar Heels. Fedora looks to get his first ACC win this week against Wake Forest, and there's a good chance he will do it.
It will all come down to Renner's ability to pick the right throws and minimize turnovers. I don't expect the margin of victory to be quite as lopsided, but look for North Carolina to still pile on the points.
Kickoff is at 3 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3.
Game Recap: Liberty gave Wake Forest everything and then some. Give all the credit to A.J. Marshall's pick-six return that not only tied the game late in the third quarter but also saved the Wake Forest from an embarrassing season-opening to an FCS team.
Late in the fourth, quarterback Deandre Martin was able to score the go-ahead touchdown. The Demon Deacons were fortunate to not start their season in shambles and, according to WakeForestSports.com, head coach Jim Grobe knows it. "There were a handful of FBS teams that lost to FCS teams this weekend...but we need to play better. We were fortunate to get a win."
Look Ahead: Wake Forest can't afford to have another subpar effort this week against North Carolina. It will come down to Wake Forest's ability to get to quarterback Bryn Renner and disrupt UNC head coach Larry Fedora's offensive system.
Marshall, who earned ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors, will also have to come to play. This will have to be a full team effort. If the Demon Deacons are expecting to get lucky again, they're going to lose.
Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN3.
Game Recap: Despite having 100 fewer yards and 13 fewer first downs, Duke still found a way to win against Florida International. Both Duke quarterbacks were valuable in this game.
Sean Renfree was 21-for-30 for 290 yards and two touchdowns, and Brandon Connette had touchdowns through the air and on the ground.
The game took a massive swing in Duke's favor when the Blue Devils blocked a field goal and ran it back for a touchdown at the end of the first half. From that point on, the game was out of reach for FIU, as Duke was able to snap its seven-game losing streak.
Look Ahead: This week Duke will go coast to coast to play No. 25 Stanford. Last year when these teams faced each other, Stanford won 44-14, But this year is a different story.
Andrew Luck is gone and the Cardinal are coming off a 20-17 win against San Jose State. Stanford senior quarterback Josh Nunes struggled in his first start, going 16-for-26 for only 125 yards.
Duke figures to look for its quarterback play to be the difference in this game, but, according to CBSSports.com, Duke center Brian Moore says the key will be the running game. "I think it's going to be on the offensive line to set the tone," Moore said. "[We need to] make sure that we can still run the ball, but really attack the secondary when we get the chance."
Kickoff is at 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday.
Michael Rocco leads Virginia to rout over Richmond
It was nice to see Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco throw the ball 25 times for more than 300 yards and not have a single interception against Richmond on Saturday. In games against FCS opponents, FBS teams are looking for only one thing—execution.
And according to Rivals.com, Virginia head coach Mike London wasn't completely satisfied with his season-opening win. "I was really disappointed that we had a red-zone drive that failed with the 4th-down conversion," he said. "There were a couple of other red-zone drives that we ended up kicking field goals and we'll address that."D
Despite the coach's criticism, the Cavaliers still put up 43 points and held Richmond to only 28 yards rushing. And Richmond quarterback John Laub was only able to throw 178 yards, completing less than 50 percent of his passes.
Virginia's quarterback play is going to be the difference for this team. If Rocco is able to get the ball to weapons like wide receiver Darius Jennings (five receptions, 84 yards, 1 TD) and running back Kevin Parks (14 carries, 49 yards, two TDs), Virginia will be able to compete in every game this year.
Look Ahead: It seems like no matter who Penn State plays this year, a media circus will follow. It's Virginia's turn this week. Penn State struggled to do anything on offense—or defense for that matter—in its opening loss to Ohio. And the Nittany Lions will face a Virginia team that knows it can put up points.
Look for Rocco to have another 300-yard passing game as Virginia wins another out-of-conference game.
Kickoff is at 12 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC.
Game Recap: When a team has four turnovers and a short missed field goal, it should expect to lose. Luckily for Maryland, the Terrapins were playing FCS William and Mary in their season opener and were able to still come away with the win.
True freshman QB Perry Hills won the game for the Terps, leading a 10-play, 69-yard drive that was capped by a Justus Pickett touchdown to put the Terrapins up 7-6 early in the fourth quarter. According to the Washington Post, head coach Randy Edsall was impressed that his team found a way to win.
They very easily could have folded their tents, but they kept persevering, fighting and clawing, and they found a way to win. To overcome all of the adversity that we had in that game is a great credit to our players.
Terrapin fans can drink the Kool-Aid if they want, but with the kind of effort we saw on the field Saturday, Maryland will be lucky to win another game this season.
I'll give some credit to the defense that came up with stops when it mattered, holding William and Mary to two field goals. But Edsall's crew has its work cut out for it his season.
Close your eyes, 'cause it's not going to be pretty.
Look Ahead: Maryland heads to Philadelphia to face Temple, which blasted Villanova 41-10 in its opener. If Temple makes it a shootout, there's no question Maryland will lose.
The only chance for a Terrapin win is if two things happen: 1) The defense makes stops against an Owls running game that rushed for more than 300 yards last week; and 2) The Maryland offense steps up to take pressure off rookie quarterback Hills.
Hey, it's football, so there's always a chance.
Kickoff is at 12 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU.