What we learned in the ACC: Week 1

Every week there are lessons to be learned, insights into the conference and how the season might unfold. Here’s the first edition of what will be a weekly series of what we learned in the ACC:

1. It was an underwhelming start to the season. There were no disastrous performances. Both top 25 teams -- Florida State and Virginia Tech -- won convincingly. In the big picture, though, it was a ho-hum start to the season for the ACC, as the conference lost its only true tests of the weekend against opponents from other BCS conferences. Wake Forest squandered a 15-point lead against Syracuse and Boston College was defeated by Northwestern’s backup quarterback. Duke lost to an FCS team -- the third straight season that has happened in the ACC -- and Clemson trailed Troy in the first half, and NC State trailed Liberty. There were some scares along the way, and some sloppy play, but in the end, the ACC won more than it lost. It just wasn’t all that memorable.

2. Duke still looks like Duke. The Blue Devils have now lost to FCS Richmond three times in the past six seasons. Richmond had recently lost its head coach and Duke was supposed to be the better, more prepared team in David Cutcliffe’s fourth season, but didn’t look it. The expectations were higher this season for quarterback Sean Renfree and a talented group of receivers, but the bowl talk rang hollow as Duke struggled in every phase of the game.

3. North Carolina is to be taken seriously under interim coach Everett Withers. There was no doubting the Tar Heels’ talent this year. The big question was how the team would respond to losing its head coach just a week before summer camp began. So far, so good. It was a strong debut for Withers and his first-year starting quarterback Bryn Renner. The Tar Heels took care of business and showed that once again, they can overcome off-field distractions and obstacles. If UNC continues to play the way it did against James Madison, there’s no reason they can’t contend for the Coastal Division title.

4. Georgia Tech can pass the ball. Stop the presses. One of the most shocking storylines of the opening week was that Georgia Tech passed the ball more than it ran it. This from the nation’s leading rushing offense in 2010. The Yellow Jackets piled up 662 yards of total offense in a romp against Western Carolina, and 365 of those were passing yards. Tevin Washington and Stephen Hill showed the potential to open up the Jackets’ playbook this fall if they can continue that success against higher-caliber teams and everyone can hold onto the ball.

5. Russell Wilson’s shadow will be tough to shake. NC State quarterback Mike Glennon had a tough day at the office. He was sacked four times and never quite got into a rhythm. In the second quarter, he was hit so hard he fumbled, and Liberty turned it into a 32-yard touchdown. He kept his poise, and it wasn’t a poor performance, it just has to get better, and those around Glennon need to do more to help him out. If it wasn’t for the defense, though, and Liberty losing the ball seven times, NC State could’ve opened the season with a thud.