Here’s a look at the lessons learned in the ACC in Week 1:
1. NC State isn’t ready for the big stage. Yes, it’s only the first week, and NC State typically looks like a different team in the second half of the season, but the ACC couldn’t wait until November for the Pack to make a statement. NC State had a chance to represent the ACC with a victory over Tennessee on Friday night, and it missed it. It wasn’t just that NC State lost, it was HOW it lost. Cornerback David Amerson, who is supposed to be one of the best players in the country, was exposed for his lack of speed and burned twice for touchdowns. Quarterback Mike Glennon threw four interceptions.
2. Clemson is more than Sammy Watkins. The Tigers’ offense ran just fine without its suspended star receiver. Andre Ellington ran for 231 yards, receiver DeAndre Hopkins had 13 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for 208 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Overall, the Tigers racked up 528 total yards of offense. Boyd, who has slimmed down a bit since last season, was noticeably more mobile, and that helped get Clemson out of a few jams.
3. The Atlantic Division looks top-heavy. While Florida State and Clemson took care of business, NC State, Maryland, Wake Forest and Boston College all struggled. The difference in recruiting is starting to show in that division. SEC speed was a factor for NC State against Tennessee, but not Clemson. Maryland, with true freshman quarterback Perry Hills taking over, barely escaped William & Mary, and Wake Forest had an equally troublesome time with Liberty, also an FCS program. BC squandered a 14-point lead against Miami. FSU and Clemson were getting all of the hype this preseason, and while we didn’t learn much from FSU’s romp over Murray State, the Noles and Tigers at least looked like the two best teams in the division on Saturday.
4. Larry Fedora’s offense fits Giovani Bernard. We’ll know more about North Carolina after the competition gets tougher, but one thing is for sure: Bernard can flourish in the Fed Spread. First-year coach Fedora said all summer that his offense is not just about the receivers, that he wants balance, and Bernard will get his carries. Well, he got his carries and his receptions and his punt return yardage, too. He scored three different ways and didn’t even play in the second half. If that’s a hint of what’s to come, Wake Forest could be in trouble this week.
5. Miami got the start it needed while Frank Spaziani’s seat got hotter. Both teams needed a victory to set the tone for the season after troubling offseasons, but the Eagles couldn’t hold onto their 14-point lead, and they couldn’t match Miami’s speed. It was an important win for Al Golden’s young team, and proved that the rookies can win a league game on the road. They should gain some confidence in that heading to Kansas State. It was a spectacular debut for true freshman Duke Johnson. Meanwhile, Spaziani starts the conference race in a hole again.