Sunday, September 8, 2013
What we learned in the ACC: Week 2
By David M. Hale
For the second straight week, an ACC team knocked off an SEC heavyweight, but that wasn't the only storyline from Week 2. Here's what we learned:
Stephen Morris and Miami picked up another big win for the ACC over the SEC with their victory over Florida.
Miami might be back: After an offensive performance that included just 212 total yards, fewer than 50 percent of passes completed, just 1.8 yards per carry and just one conversion on 11 third-down attempts, there's still some room for doubt about Miami's resurgence. But a win is a win, and it's the second straight week the ACC has unseated an SEC heavyweight. The Hurricanes may not be back to the level of their national-championship past, but they have more offensive talent than they showed against Florida. The real surprise on Saturday was a dominant performance by the defensive front -- a big question mark entering the season that was answered resoundingly in Miami's biggest win in nearly a decade. It's also another feather in the ACC's cap after Clemson knocked off Georgia in Week 1, giving the league at least three teams -- along with Florida State, which was on a bye -- with legitimate hopes of a BCS bowl bid.
Syracuse and Virginia couldn't follow Miami's lead: The top of the conference did its job in the opening weeks of the season, proving that the best of the ACC can stand toe-to-toe with anyone. In the middle of the pack, however, things are a bit more jumbled after Syracuse and Virginia were clobbered in nonconference tilts against ranked opponents. On the heels of strong defensive performances by both schools in Week 1, the two teams combined to allow 107 points to No. 19 Northwestern and No. 2 Oregon. Neither game was close from the outset, with Syracuse trailing the Wildcats 34-7 at the half and Oregon throttling Virginia 28-10 at the half. So while the two big wins for Clemson and Miami offered ample cachet for the ACC in the season's first two weeks, the conference lost its other four games against ranked foes and was just 2-5 against teams from BCS automatic qualifier conferences overall.
Boston College won't be a pushover: After a dismal 2012, it was easy enough to write off the Eagles as a team destined for a rebuilding phase. Add a lackluster effort early against Villanova to start the season, and it seemed appropriate to shrug off the win over FCS competition. But BC dominated Wake Forest this week, looking like a team that knows what it wants to do on both sides of the football, which is to be a physical, punishing group that will not be an easy win for anyone. Andre Williams' 204-yard rushing performance was impressive, and he's now tallied 318 yards rushing already this season. That would account for nearly 30 percent of BC's total rushing offense from all of 2012.
Duke and NC State will live and die with backups: One week after Brandon Mitchell went down with a broken foot at NC State, Duke's Anthony Boone became the second ACC quarterback to suffer a significant injury. Boone left in the second quarter against Memphis with a broken collarbone, leaving backup Brandon Connette to pick up the slack. Connette rallied the Blue Devils to 21 second-half points, including two fourth-quarter TDs to secure the win. Meanwhile, with Mitchell sidelined, NC State nearly fell to FCS foe Richmond before backup Pete Thomas engineered a 48-yard drive in the final two minutes to set up a game-winning field goal. Thomas wasn't exactly stellar -- he completed 24 of 31 passes for 237 yards and two interceptions -- and shared the workload with freshman Bryant Shirreffs, who completed all three of his passes, including one for a TD. But the Wolfpack still escaped with a win. Both NC State and Duke are now 2-0 in spite of their quarterback concerns.
Concerns remain at Virginia Tech, North Carolina: Against clearly overmatched opponents, the Hokies and Tar Heels both rebounded nicely from opening-week losses, but in some key areas, concerns linger. Logan Thomas and the Virginia Tech passing game improved markedly after a dismal performance against Alabama, but against FCS foe Western Carolina, Thomas still threw two interceptions and didn't complete a pass longer than 20 yards. Meanwhile, North Carolina's run defense was torched by South Carolina in its opener, and while the Tar Heels' front found more success against Middle Tennessee -- four sacks, four QB hurries -- it still allowed 183 yards on the ground (not counting sacks), including 109 for tailback Jordan Parker. Through two weeks, UNC ranks 84th nationally in rushing defense.