The entire ACC will be pulling for Swinney and Clemson at Auburn
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
Virginia Tech was supposed to prove that they were a legitimate top ten power by beating Boise State, then beat up on a cupcake. Instead, they chose to throw on third and eight with 1:30 remaining, giving Boise enough time to score and steal the opener. Then, in a huge departure from "Beamer Ball," they lost their breather game to James Madison.
Highly regarded Miami and Florida State both were easily handled in week two, by Ohio State and Miami, respectively.
North Carolina was competitive for a half but still lost to LSU. It remains to be seen who will actually return for the Tarheels, who had 13 players suspended for the opener.
ACC champion lost to Kansas, a team who generated a mere three points in the opener against perennial powerhouse North Dakota State.
To this point, the best non-conference win for the ACC has been Maryland over Navy. That speaks volumes about where the conference is at, at least for this week.
However, there is a chance for redemption. Dabo Swinney leads his Clemson Tigers into Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn next Saturday night. ESPN will be there so all the nation can see what transpires as the ACC gets its last real chance to restore its tarnished image.
Clemson won't be favored when they visit SEC country. They lack experience at many offensive skill positions, and there are questions at linebacker. Auburn was impressive in their opener, then added another victory over SEC West rival Mississippi State on Thursday night.
On the other hand, Clemson has explosive potential like few other teams in the nation. Running backs Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington would be capable of carrying the load on any team in the nation. Ellington spent most of 2009 in the shadow of phenom C.J. Spiller. He is a very similar player and is capable of scoring on just about any touch he gets.
At wide receiver, youth is again the the issue. Bryce McNeal and DeAndre Hopkins are both freshmen. Brandon Clear and Jaron Brown have played only sparingly in the past. There are a lot of names in the mix, and it remains to be seen who the difference makers will be. However, the potential is there, especially with sophomore quarterback throwing their way.
If defensive coordinator Kevin Steele can get his linebackers in the right gaps, it may be time for an upset on the plains. With that being said, the events of the past weekend have just raised the stakes. Clemson has a chance to help the ACC save face with a win over a good team from the nation's best conference. It won't be easy to come by at Auburn, but let's not miss this one.