ACC Weekend Wrap-Up: Slow Starts and Silver Linings

Sean MeganCorrespondent ISeptember 8, 2009

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 07:  Quarterback Jacory Harris #12 of the Miami Hurricanes throws a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to Graig Cooper #2 against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 7, 2009 in Tallahassee, Florida. Miami defeated Florida State 38-34.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

*Originally posted here

After an entire offseason of ACC hype and excitement, Saturday probably wasn't the way fans of the Atlantic Coast Conference wanted to start.

On Thursday night, NC State, billed as a "sleeper" for 2009, fell to South Carolina 7-3 in what was only the beginning of a lousy weekend for the ACC.

By the time Cal finished thoroughly beating the Terrapins back into their shell, Duke and Virginia had already lost to FCS division teams and the ACC as a whole failed to knock off a single team from a BCS conference.

The conference's one preseason national championship contender, Virginia Tech, hung with a very impressive Alabama team until running out of gas in the fourth quarter.  Quarterback Tyrod Taylor didn't show many signs of breaking out in his junior year, although he won't face another defense as tough as the Crimson Tide's in '09.

While Boston College, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Clemson took care of business against their weaker foes, Wake Forest couldn't beat Baylor at home, Maryland was pummeled at Cal, and NC State lost to South Carolina in the conference's three other chances to beat BCS conference teams.

Duke's bowl chances took a major hit when they were upset by Richmond, one of the few teams they were expected to beat this year and despite Virginia's personal loss, their embarrassing defeat at the hands of William & Mary was simply inexcusable.

Clearly the ACC didn't begin the season the way many expected or hoped to, but that doesn't mean there weren't silver linings to be found in opening weekend action.

While NC State looked terrible on offense, they played great on defense even without star linebacker Nate Irving and its hard to believe quarterback Russel Wilson won't be better than his Thursday night display.

Northeastern isn't exactly a worthy opponent, but Eagle fans have to like what they saw Saturday in Boston College's 54-0 drubbing of the Huskies.  The same can be said for Clemson fans, who were pleased to see the Tigers get off to a much better start in '09 than last year's Alabama debacle.

Miami and Florida State put on a terrific show in Monday night's first ACC matchup and look like they could both be heading back to national relevance sooner rather than later.  For the ACC to reach its desired position in the college football world, Miami and Florida State are two programs that have to get back to the top.

Yes, Virginia Tech came up short in Atlanta and showed they still have some things to iron out on both sides of the ball, but the Hokies showed they can play with anyone in the country.  Virginia Tech also revealed that Beamerball and special teams could be back in a big way after an sub par 2008 season, and Ryan Williams proved the hype surrounding him was well warranted.


What Did We Learn This Weekend?

1.  The Atlantic Coast Conference isn't going to reach national supremacy overnight, but it is full of young talent that should only improve in '09.

2.  The ACC isn't quite ready to play in the national championship, for now.  Virginia Tech should only slide to about No. 10 or 11 in the ranking and might still have an outside shot if they run the table from here on, and Miami looked good enough Monday night to at least not scoff at the idea of them surviving their brutal opening and going unbeaten themselves. 

However, both scenarios are unlikely and while the ACC should still be better as a whole in 2009, look for next year to be the conference's coming out party.

3.  2009's conference race could be even closer than last year's with at least half the teams setting their sights on the ACC title.  Anyone thinking Virginia Tech is going to easily run away with the conference title in '09 is crazy.

4.  The ACC might not have any Heisman candidates but it does have some emerging stars that the country will get to know: Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas, Miami quarterback Jacory Harris and running back Graig Cooper, Boston College running back Montel Harris, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, UNC running back Shaun Draughn, Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams and receiver/return specialist Dyrell Roberts highlight just some of the players primed to breakout in 2009.


2009 Outlook:  Yes, the ACC had a shaky start this weekend but the conference has plenty of chances left to prove itself, and is full of young exciting teams that will only get better with experience.  Teams in the ACC clearly haven't figured everything out yet but its hard to believe things won't get better as the year goes on.

*for more ACC coverage check out the ACC Football Examiner