Week 1 games generally make it difficult to gauge how your team will truly fare in the upcoming season. For many, it’s a time of hope and promise as they watch their team beat up on a lesser opponent before their dreams are shattered later in the season and they are brought back to reality as their schedule progresses.
Here’s a breakdown of Week 1 ACC notables and how they compare to the benchmark of success in college football, the SEC:
- Duke University has been the laughing stock of the ACC for as long as many of us can remember, unless you were around for the 1942 Rose Bowl. However, 2nd year coach David Cutcliffe made a splash at the program and in the ACC last year after winning 5 contests. Though 5 wins may be an awful record on many accounts, after winning only 3 games between 2004 and 2007, this is a huge step for the program. Cutcliffe must have seen something he liked as he turned down a suddenly vacant Tennessee program after Lane Kiffin’s departure. Many thought it was a given that Cutcliffe would bolt for the job; who wouldn’t? While many questioned his return to Durham, NC, he proved week 1 that last year was not a fluke with a 41-27 romping of Elon University. This is not to say that Duke is going to upset #1 Alabama when they make their trip up Tobacco Road, but it is a testament that they are determined to return to legitimacy in ACC football.
- With the departure of Tim Tebow, who will steal the spotlight at the QB position in the state of Florida? Heisman hopefuls Jacory Harris and Christian Ponder both made a strong case during their first week of play for the 2010 season. Combined, Harris and Ponder threw for 7 touchdowns, against only 1 interception, completing 24 of 29 pass attempts. Harris (12-15, 210 yds, 3 TD) picked up right where he left off last year and continues to be one of the most exciting players in the ACC. Ponder (12-14, 158 yds, 4 TD, INT) is the more appropriate, NFL prototype QB of the two, however, both QBs will give scouts a reason to continue booking their trips to Florida even when Tebow has moved on to Denver.
- One of the biggest questions coming into the opening weekend was how bad would LSU beat UNC after 13 players were announced to be sidelined due to pending investigations at the University of North Carolina. While UNC was unable to overcome the adversity they have been dealing with recently and escape with a win on the gridiron, they were able to take some satisfaction in their ability to compete with a depleted defense, missing their entire starting DB core as well as NFL prospect Marvin Austin on the defensive line. TJ Yates was also the object of some positivity as he threw for 400+ yards and 3 touchdowns, 2 of which came in the fourth quarter to bring the Tarheels back into the game, forcing LSU to fight to the very last second to earn their win. While UNC fell short as time expired on Saturday night, they proved to the ACC that despite their unfavorable situation, they still plan to play on a high level and compete in every game they play regardless of who’s writing the papers on campus.
- Virginia Tech came into the weekend as the highest Nationally Ranked ACC squad. Playing an always electric #3 Boise State team during the first week is not the cake schedule that most BCS schools are accustomed too. This was a ‘make it or break it’ game for both VT and Boise State, putting their entire seasons on the line week one. Virginia Tech found themselves unable to outlast the Broncos, as Boise St scored with 1:09 left in regulation to take the final lead of the game. For four straight seasons, VT has eliminated themselves from national title contention before hitting the halfway point in the season. Previous losses to Alabama, East Carolina and LSU have been the nail in the coffin for the ACC preseason favorite and dismantled their attempt to compete with the upper echelon teams across the nation on a year-in year-out basis.
Boasting 5 Nationally ranked teams, the ACC went 10-2, with the losses coming from #18 UNC vs. #21 LSU, and #10 VT vs. #3 Boise St. While escaping any possible upsets from the likes of teams such as Jacksonville State, these two games could have been a step in the right direction in terms of earning respect down south as a legitimate threat to the SEC football powerhouses. With VT out of the running, it looks like Miami, FSU or Georgia Tech are going to have to take the load on their shoulders in challenging the SEC for football power in the Southeast. With each team boasting a player on the Heisman watch list, this should make for an interesting season.