Conference Stock Report

The first week of the season is in the books and we got a glimpse at what the ACC will look like this season. For some teams it was just a controlled scrimmage as they faced off with a FCS opponent to start the season. Others faced stiffer competition in showcase games to highlight the opening weekend of football.

As is always the case, the league is wide open this year. Every conference game will be important. The non-conference games will also play a big role in deciding the final bowl pairings as well as the league's reputation. Last weekend we got a little of both.

The Buys

North Carolina (1-0, 0-0): The Tar Heels opened up against The Citadel and quickly dispatched the undermanned opponent. They racked up 375 yards of offense on their way to a 34-point victory. It was not a perfect performance. A rash of dropped passes kept the Heels from running up the score in the first half.

Asked about the dropsies, Coach Davis said, "You've just got to be positive and tell them to focus on the little things. It's like somebody that's missing three-foot putts – you don't just want to stand there and say, ‘Well, make it' and just starting screaming at the guy. You want to talk about guys getting the yips. It's, ‘Hey, you want to focus on the X of the ball... You want to see the X come into your hands. You want to see the ball and tuck it away and secure it.' And a little bit of it is the relaxation part of it. "

Next up for the Heels is a trip to Connecticut to take on the Huskies, a team they beat handily last season. The Tar Heels beat UConn 38-to-12, handing the Huskies their first loss of the season.

Asked about the game this weekend, Davis said, "The challenge is dramatically different than a week ago. Randy Edsall has done a great job. In 11 years, to take that program from I-AA to division I-A and still be knocking on the door to win the Big East Conference championship and going to bowl games is a phenomenal job.

"They were sixth in the nation last year in total defense. One of those reasons is they have three terrific linebackers who are fast, athletic and really fit into their scheme well. Last year we felt as though they were one of the most sound defenses we faced and there is really no drop off this year. "

Clemson (1-0, 0-0): Clemson had a lot of questions going into their first season under Dabo Swinney. Some of those questions were answered when Clemson dispatched Middle Tennessee State 37-to-14. The score, however, was a bit deceiving. MTSU put up 299 yards, 207 through the air. The offense also made some mistakes, negating several drives.

"Finishing drives offensively is number one and we must take advantage of opportunities. You can't win many games if you miss the many opportunities we had in the first half. We had four drops that would have been a first down or a touch down and then we had the two miscues by Willy. One where we are on the 20-yard line getting ready to score and we had Xavier Dye wide open, and it was just a fluke thing, the ball comes out of Willy's (Korn) hand. Those are things you have to eliminate if you are going to be a good football team because those are things we control."

Clemson gets their first major test of the season when they face off with Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The last time they beat them was in 2006 and the last time they won on the road was 2003.

"That is just a good rivalry. We are just a hop-skip-and-jump away from each other. A lot of these kids have been in tight games with them. That is pretty interesting, 10 out of last 13 games have been by five points or less. It is just a good college match-up. One of those good rivalries like Alabama Tennessee are usually pretty good games. I don't know why, but it is a good game every year. We are a good program and they are a good program. "

Georgia Tech (1-0, 0-0): The Yellow Jackets started the season by roughing up Jacksonville State. They amassed a 24-point lead at half-time and then called off the dogs. JSU was able to make it respectable with ten points against the third and fourth string guys.

"We have a little problem with killer instinct and our intensity levels and playing hard," Johnson said. "That is something we have to work on. The good thing is that we won the game. We have to learn from this, but we will have to be 100 times better on Thursday night or we will get run out of our own stadium."

Thursday night is their game against Clemson, a regional rival that they have had the better of the last few years. For a team with designs on the conference title, winning this one at home is paramount.

"When you watch them on tape, without a question they have as good athletes, or maybe better, than anyone we play in the league. I am extremely impressed with them after their first game. They made some mistakes that they will correct. They flew around and play hard. They play about eight to nine defensive linemen that all look the same and are a chore.

"On offense they have [C.J.] Spiller, who can go the distance any time he touches the ball. They have Jacoby Ford at receiver and some big running backs as well. It will be a formidable challenge for us this week."

Miami (1-0, 1-0): For the 'Canes, beating Florida State is one of the benchmarks of a successful season. Monday night, they did just that in a thriller that showcased their young talent, including quarterback Jacory Harris.

"Winning against Florida State is a tremendous victory for the university since I have been the head coach here for three years. It was also good for the ACC. It was probably one of the most exciting games of the weekend and that helps the league as a whole."

According to the ACC's Mike Finn, "Miami and FSU drew a sterling 5.89 rating for the 38-34 Miami victory. That made this year's FSU-Miami game, with over 8.4 million viewers, ESPN's second most-viewed regular season college football game ever behind only the 2006 FSU-Miami game. "

Miami is off this weekend. Their next game is on the 17th against Georgia Tech.

The Holds

Wake Forest (0-1, 0-0): The opener for Wake was a bit of a downer as they lost to Baylor, a perennial Big 12 doormat. That loss may not look so bad as the Bears are a much improved program at this point. Regardless, it was not the way they wanted to start the season.

"We've got to play better, there's no question about that. It was a team effort, we turned the ball over four times on offense and then defensively gave up a couple of big plays for scores and those are things you can't do if you want to win a football game. One of the things we've been good at in the past is taking care of the ball and actually forcing turnovers defensively. So we've got to get back to that and as soon as we do we'll start winning games. "

Things do not get much easier as the next opponent is Stanford, a program that is expected to be much better this season. Stanford opened the season with a big win over Washington State.

"They are a good, well coached football team. A team that probably should have been in a bowl game last year. They are a little different than what we saw last week. This is a big, physical, tough football team. They'll get down the hill, knock you down and have good play action passes. They have a quarterback, a very talented freshman, who reminds me a lot of Jevan Snead at Ole Miss, a tall kid that can throw it and has good mobility. They have a big tailback that is All-Pac 10 and a really good player. They have a really good players on both sides of the football and it should be a really good challenge for us."

Florida State (0-1, 0-1): The consensus pick to win the Atlantic Division, FSU opened the season with a rare home loss. As with Miami, this is a game with importance beyond conference standings. It is a signature game each season.

"We probably out "mistaked" them... I've said it many times, you don't win games you lose them...you can take this game and go back and say that's where we lost the game. There were a whole lot of those. The one that hurt the most was when we had a six point lead down on about the 30... and we fumbled.

"Those first game mistakes...we scored a touchdown and what happens, the extra point team runs out on the field. But we're not going for one, we're going to go for two and we had to use a timeout. Boy we could have used that timeout!"

Florida State gets a break this week as they host Jacksonville State. That will give the staff a chance to work on some things and maybe tinker with the lineup.

"After a loss, it's easier to make changes because you have good reason. There probably won't be as much of that because a lot of it was the technique was bad or we didn't get enough pressure on the passer or this or that. We'll make some changes and see how it goes on Saturday."

Boston College (1-0, 0-0): No one knew what to expect from the Eagles in week one. With so many changes in the off-season, expectations are justifiably low for the defending Atlantic Division champs. Blowing out Northeastern in a near flawless performance was a good as anyone should have expected.

"Obviously we are very happy with the win. The main objective was to win and obviously we accomplished that. We're going to take a look at some things and get a better idea on what we have to do to move forward over the course of the season.

"So we're through with last week's game; it's over with and now we have Kent State coming in. We were on the field with them last year and they gave us all we could handle. They have about 15 starters returning and they returned all their specialists. Obviously they lost a very good quarterback but they have a red-shirt freshman that played a lot last year so we obviously have to get better."

With Kent coming in, BC got some good news on the injury front. Rich Lapham will be back on the line. Linemates Anthony Castonzo and Matt Tennent were both named to the Lombardi Watch List. With the full compliment of starters, BC will have one of the biggest lines in the country, averaging 6'6" and 306 pounds.

Virginia Tech (0-1, 0-0): For the second year in a row the Hokies opened the season with a loss. Unlike last year, this one was not against a non-BCS team. Losing to Alabama is no shame, given that they may be the second best team in the country.

"In our meetings I told them I was proud of their effort. If we continue to defend our opponents the way we did against Alabama, and give the effort we had against Alabama, then I think we will be a good football team. We played hard throughout and a good football team beat us.

"I said after the game I think they are deserving of their ranking, and they performed well. They are a tough, rugged football team that has got all the parts. You look at their defense, they played great, you look at their kicking, they have senior people doing that, offensively, they have a receiver that can make a difference and a quarterback that can make a difference. They got all the parts to have a heck of a year."

Things get a bit easier as the Hokies host Marshall. For Saturday's game, the Virginia Tech football team will honor Tech great Frank Loria by wearing maroon helmets with orange and white stripes and the old T within the V logo. The helmet is a replica of the one worn by Loria during a brilliant Tech career. At Marshall, Loria coached under Rick Tolley, a 1960 letter winner at Tech. Both died in the tragic Marshall plane crash in 1970 following a trip home from a game at East Carolina.

The Sells

NC State (0-1, 0-0): Some were making the case for the Wolkpack as a contender for the ACC title. Perhaps they are, but they will need to improve a lot over their opening day performance against South Carolina. In that game, they managed just three points and lost to a team that will struggle to make a bowl.

Coach O'Brien attributes much of the fault on offense to the loss of Jake Vermiglio.

"When we set up the line, we thought we had our best five up there. When you have to start shuffling the third series of the game, that doesn't help you up front. "

Things do not get any easier this weekend as the Wolfpack play host to the Murray State Racers. Given the performance in the opener, Coach O'Brien is well aware of what faces his team this weekend.

"They scored a lot of points. They scored everywhere possible. They ran a fumble back, two safeties, punt return, kickoff return. They've got nine guys that are three-year lettermen. Matt Griffin went there three years ago. His first year they were 0-8 in conference, 1- 7 the next year, and 4-4 last year. They have progressively gotten better. There are no free Saturdays. You better show up ready to play no matter who you are playing."

Virginia (0-1, 0-0): Al Groh was already on the hot seat after last season's dismal performance. Many regard this as a make or break year for the coach. Starting off with an embarrassing loss to William & Mary did not help with the fans, many of whom are demanding his head.

"One of the things that we tell the players before the season ever starts is a team collectively and the players individually have to be prepared to handle both the love and the hate, because both of them come during the course of the season.

"The players and the team need -- everybody needs to talk to themselves and the team needs to talk to itself because every week the team is going to get one or the other. Every week. If you're 12-0, the team has to be able to tune out the love. And if you're 0-12, a team has to be able to tune out the hate. Because either way that affects how the players think and all the players can think about is what they need to do to do their job."

Things do not get any easier for them as they face perennial Mountain West power TCU. This is the first game of the season for the Horn Frogs and that makes preparing for them more difficult.

"We are limited by the amount of practices we can have on the game because our focus really didn't turn toward this game until Sunday and then many players were off on Monday as is normally the case as is part of our preparation for the game as well as their recovery from the previous game. So there's the possibility that the opponent could have anywhere as many as twice as many practices for the game as we do. So we have to factor that into our thinking a little bit."

Duke (0-1, 0-0): Another team suffering an embarrassing loss to open the season was Duke. They dropped their opener to Richmond, a team few think will finish in the top half of their conference. Duke managed just 19 yards rushing against the Spiders.

'We have to be way more physical on both sides of the ball. We were physical at times in the kicking game (against Richmond), but we were not near as physical as our opponent in the last game, and that's got to be a driving force in this game. As you can imagine, Army is extremely physical. Those of you that have watched the academies play before, those guys will flat-out mix it up with you. Lastly, we have to be consistent on offense in our third down conversions. We work awfully hard on that all the time, and we've got to be really, really good there. That's huge."

This week things get tougher as they travel to West Point to play Army. The Black Knights opened the season with a win against Eastern Michigan.

'We went out today and had an excellent practice, prepared for the triple option on defense, prepared for the Desert Storm version of [Army's] own defense and all of the things they do. Army's offense is led by a freshman quarterback, who did a tremendous job, and they've got some speed and some very effective fullbacks. It creates some unusual match-ups, and that's how they deal with you. This team can run the triple option and power football, and they have some unique, fast kids at receiver. "

Maryland (0-1, 0-0): Probably the ugliest loss of the weekend for the ACC was Maryland's obliteration on the road at Cal. The Bears ran up and down the field on the Terp's defense, giving up 54 points and 549 yards of offense.

"I felt that it was a situation where we played a very good team who played their best and we did not play our best, but what we need to do is use this as an experience and learn from it. It's the first time a lot of our players have been in that venue and hopefully they will get better for the next time they are in the venue."

The Terps gets a chance to regroup this weekend. They play host to James Madison. Despite the loss, the experience and home cooking should result in a rebound. In the Cal game, 18 of the 26 players listed in the two-deep say their first action as college players.


Eagle Insider Top Stories