The ACC came into week 3 of the football season looking to return from a disastrous week 2 in which every ranked team in the conference lost their matchup. Week 3 included several key matchups against ranked opponents, including a lopsided matchup between Duke and No. 1 Alabama.
NC State started the weekend off with a bang on Thursday night as they dominated a game against back-to-back Big East Champions, Cincinnati. Russell Wilson threw for over 300 yards in a 30-19 win in the national spotlight. This was a big win for the Wolfpack coming off of a short week after a win on the road against Central Florida last weekend. NC State has started 3-0 for the first time since the Philip Rivers-era and have now emerged as a dark horse to make a run in conference play.
Georgia Tech visited Chapel Hill this weekend to take on short-staffed North Carolina. UNC surprised a lot of people with a comeback that fell a few yards short in week 1 against SEC foe LSU. Coming into week 3 off of a bye last weekend, UNC remained shorthanded, only returning one of the thirteen players who were ineligible during their week 1 matchup. T.J. Yates played well, going 18-24 for 209 yards and a touchdown, while running for another. But in the end, the Georgia Tech running game was too much to handle, putting up 372 yards on the Tar Heel defense. This was a solid win for the Yellow Jackets after a disappointing loss against Kansas last week, and another solid game for a North Carolina team who continues to put up a fight.
With a tough matchup on the road against No. 16 Auburn, Clemson came out ready to play. Jumping to a quick 17-3 lead at halftime, it looked as if the Tigers and the ACC were on their way to a very respectable victory against a top 25 team. That is, until Auburn came out firing after the half, scoring 21 straight points in the third quarter to take the lead. Clemson kicked a field goal in the fourth quarter to tie the game back up and eventually lead the game into overtime. During overtime, Auburn got the ball first and their possession resulted in a field goal. Clemson matched Auburn with a field goal on their possession, but due to a false start penalty on the center for double clutching the ball, they had to redo the down and kick again. The second kick went wide right and gave Clemson a tough loss to swallow. Despite not turning the ball over once, while forcing Auburn to give up the ball twice, Clemson fell short in a win that could have vaulted a potential 3-0 team into the top 25.
Three other matchups against top 25 teams resulted in lopsided victories by those on the outside of the ACC. Maryland lost to No. 21 West Virginia 31-17, while Duke and Wake Forest got trounced by No. 1 Alabama and No. 19 Stanford, respectively. It’s hard to come up with much positive to say about Duke’s 62-13 loss to Alabama and Wake Forest’s 68-24 loss to Stanford as the opposing offenses seemed to score at will.
Virginia Tech got back on track this week after unexpectedly opening their season 0-2. With a reassuring win against back-to-back Conference USA Champion ECU, VT hopes to return to their winning ways as they return to conference play next week in a road matchup against Boston College. Florida State also shook off their embarrassing loss from last week as they won convincingly 34-10 against last year’s end of season No. 12, BYU.
After an embarrassing week 2, the ACC came back with a few good wins and good matchups while only suffering a few bad losses by the lesser teams of the conference. Overall, it was not a great week for the conference, but it was a good one and the ACC did some work in rectifying the putrid display it put on in the first two weeks of the season.