ACC Football: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Weeks 1 and 2
The anticipation nearly killed us all, but after a grueling summer, we successfully made it through the month of August and are now officially two weeks into the 2013 college football season.
The ACC season commenced with a battle of the Carolinas, and the opening week was capped off by a conference showdown between the Florida State Seminoles and Pittsburgh Panthers. The following week offered yet another ACC-SEC matchup that ultimately created buzz across the country.
A freshman sensation, a Heisman hopeful and a clutch kicker have all evolved within the conference after Weeks 1 and 2. Here's an early look at the good, the bad and the ugly of the ACC season to date:
Clemson: Imagine how disastrous it would have been had the Tigers been defeated at home by Georgia, won their following 10 games and then lost to South Carolina to end the regular season. Such a scenario would leave a nasty black eye for the conference.
But that's not how it went down. Quarterback Tajh Boyd found the end zone five total times in a 38-35 victory, and now the redshirt senior is in the middle of Heisman talks.
Oh, and Cole Stoudt put together a record-breaking day against South Carolina State to show off the team's quarterback depth.
Jameis Winston: Nearly as impressive as Clemson's win over the Bulldogs was the night Jameis Winston almost broke Twitter.
E.J. Manuel and Christian Ponder may not have brought home the same national hardware as Chris Weinke and Charlie Ward, but the two signal-callers were both first-round picks and left some large shoes for Winston to fill.
And fill them, he did. Winston's 25-of-27, 356-yard showing was one to remember, and his five total scores added to a special night. While no one should crown him as anything more than Florida State's undisputed starter, all eyes will be on the redshirt freshman in the weeks to come.
Miami: No, The U is not "back." The Hurricanes were outgained by more than 200 yards on their home field against a Florida Gators squad that still has question marks on offense.
Still, it's a notable win, and it's always worth acknowledging any time an ACC school takes down a top-15 SEC program. The Canes are 2-0, and for the first time in more than a decade, it's obvious that they have an excellent coach. There's still uncertainty surrounding looming NCAA sanctions, but look for Miami to win a lot of games this year.
Virginia Tech's Defense: Whenever your team is dropped 35-10 in its opener, finding the silver lining can be a challenge. For the Hokies, however, it was clear; Virginia Tech has one of the best defenses in the country.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster fielded a unit that yielded only two touchdowns to defending national champion Alabama. If not for some special teams miscues and a quarterback who struggles completing passes to his own team, Tech could have been in this game.
The Hokies played the same game a week later, just against an easier opponent. The only thing standing between Virginia Tech and a shutout was a muffed punt that gave the Catamounts good enough field position to set up a field goal.
Logan Thomas: The senior quarterback converted on only five of 26 passes against Alabama, and his only touchdown pass was thrown to the wrong team. He also failed to show any recognizable progress against an FCS program in Week 2.
The Newcomers: Pitt and Syracuse represent the only winless teams left in the ACC. Furthermore, the former Big East schools have been outscored 112-57 in three games this year.
Sure, Syracuse showed some fight against Penn State. But it's nothing to brag about when you "almost" beat a Nittany Lions team that's crushed by scholarship reductions and led by a true freshman under center.
Anthony Boone's Injury: I don't care what Brandon Connette did in the fourth quarter. This is not good for the Blue Devils. After Duke claimed its first shutout since 1989 in a 45-0 thrashing of North Carolina Central, the Devils lost their starting quarterback to a broken collarbone in the second quarter of their Week 2 game at Memphis.
Boone is a considerably better passer than Connette, so it's easy to see why this could threaten a program that's been pass-happy for the last 30 years. David Cutcliffe has implemented some read-option plays into his offense this year, but it's doubtful that will be enough to cancel out the loss of his starter.
N.C. State's Win over Richmond: Coming back from a double-digit deficit to beat an FCS team? Check. Nearly 100 yards in penalties? Check. Winning the game solely because of your kicker? Check.
The Wolfpack's win over Richmond had all the makings of a horrifically ugly win. But let's keep things in perspective; they won the game and are undefeated. Niklas Sade has been named the national Placekicker of the Week two consecutive times now, and all jokes aside, that's not a bad thing.
Quarterback play, on the other hand, has been a bad thing. The Pack have knocked off top-10 opponents at home in each of their last two tries, but it's tough to envision a continuation of that trend with Pete Thomas at the helm against Clemson Sept. 19.
Follow me on Twitter @MarkCCarroll
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