The ACC's opening slate consisted of four pairings with Power 5 non-conference opponents, along with several matches against FCS and lower-level FBS schools. Of those four Power 5 non-conference contests, the ACC came away winless. However, that's not due to lack of effort. Virginia Tech and Ohio State played a game worthy of its Monday night primetime slot. Louisville hung around with the No. 6 Auburn Tigers, falling just 31-24 in Atlanta. Then, there's North Carolina and Virginia. While South Carolina-North Carolina was competitive throughout the game, both squads had their share of miscues out of the gate. We'll delve deeper into the Battle of the Carolinas and more, as we take a closer look at our Coastal adversaries.
Coastal members in the spotlight
North Carolina did almost enough to win the Battle of the Carolinas. Unfortunately, though the Tar Heels' defense kept the game within reach, the offense, plagued by the most untimely turnovers, could not prevail. Quarterback Marquise Williams, 19 of 31 for 232 yards passing with one touchdown and three interceptions, is the sole reason for UNC's turnover woes -- and perhaps the cause of their downfall. Late in the fourth quarter, after driving into the red zone down 17-13, on a fourth and goal attempt from the 8-yardline, Williams threw a pass directly into the hands of South Carolina's Skai Moore, ending any hopes of a comeback.
Despite Marquise Williams' miscues, the Tar Heel offense put forth a staggering 440 yards. Running back Elijah Hood came into his own, offering another dynamic to North Carolina's spread offense, rushing for 138 yards on 13 carries. Hood showed good strength and balance on a 21-yard run late in the fourth quarter. With Marquise Williams operating out of the shotgun, Hood took the handoff, broke two tackles, and spun out of another before going down at the South Carolina 23-yardline.
Such an offensive effort, and lack of scoring, led to the first great Steve Spurrier quote of the year:
Spurrier: How many yards they have? "440" Spurrier: Yeah, 440 and 13 points. That don't match up— Chip Patterson (@Chip_Patterson) September 4, 2015
Georgia Tech ran roughshod over Alcorn State, belting out 553 yards en route to a 69-6 victory. The Yellow Jackets rushing attack ran for 476 yards, led by freshman running back Marcus Marshall with 184 yards on 8 carries. Marshall was followed by Patrick Skov, a graduate transfer from Stanford making his Yellow Jacket debut, who rushed for 72 yards on 12 carries. Sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas accounted for 54 yards passing and two touchdowns, including this ACC Must See Moment back shoulder touchdown throw and one rushing score.
The Duke Blue Devils did much of the same, walloping Tulane 37-7 in New Orleans. Thomas Sirk, making his first start at quarterback, ran a read-option attack for the Blue Devils. Sirk ended the day with 289 yards on 27 of 40 passing and added another 68 yards on 15 carries in the rushing game. Sirk's 15 carries tied for most with running back Shaun Wilson.
Tulane, however, couldn't get out of its own way. Arguably the worst punt snap ever led to six points for the Blue Devils.
In a devastating turn of events, after Pittsburgh survived their bout with Youngstown State, winning 45-37, they would learn on Sunday that the 2014 ACC Player of the Year, do-everything running back James Conner will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn MCL.
In Conner's absence, freshman running back Qadree Ollison took the reins, rushing for 207 yards on 16 carries. As for quarterback, both junior Chad Voytik and Tennessee transfer Nathan Peterman saw action in the opener. Chad Voytik started the game for Pitt and finished with 72 yards, an interception, a lost fumble, and a touchdown, with 9 of 14 passing. Nathan Peterman appeared in the second quarter. After leading the Panthers on a touchdown drive the series before, Peterman's next opportunity resulted in an interception on the first play, handing the position back to Voytik for the rest of the game.
The Panther defense relinquished 407 yards in Pat Narduzzi's head coaching debut, including 278 yards passing and 129 rushing yards. Forcing no turnovers, the lone bright spot on defense was their ability to get off the field, holding Youngstown State to 3 of 16 on third down attempts. Senior linebacker Nicholas Grigsby had quite the day defensively, with 10 tackles, two sacks, and a pass broken up. But unless the unit is whipped into shape, his playmaking ability is limited.
Virginia opened the season with the UCLA Bruins in the Rose Bowl. While the Wahoos went into halftime down by eight, they couldn't hang in the second half, falling 34-16 to the top-20 Bruins. UCLA's vaunted speed on defense held Cavalier quarterback Matt Johns to 21 of 35 and 238 yards passing and running back Taquan Mizzell to just 45 yards on 16 carries. Whereas the Virginia defense was picked apart by UCLA true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen, throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns on 28 of 35 passing in his college debut.
What started as a potential blowout in favor of the Buckeyes quickly became another great bout between the Virginia Tech Hokies and Ohio State. Hokies starting quarterback Michael Brewer took a few hard licks and early in the third quarter was sidelined with a shoulder injury, giving way to dual-threat quarterback Brenden Motley. (We will update the status of Michael Brewer as more information becomes available. UPDATE: Per ESPN, Brewer left the game with a broken left collarbone. Brewer will undergo surgery and is expected to miss 4-5 weeks.) It was here, with Ohio State leading 21-17, that Virginia Tech's competitive edge would cool. Motley had made earlier appearances, though was relatively ineffective, failing to get through the Buckeyes' front seven. Having to ride with a new quarterback who's not yet proven as a passer, Virginia Tech was forced to rely on a read-option attack. This simplified matters for the Ohio State defense and once points began to mount, the Hokies' offense couldn't hang, being outscored 28-7 in the second half.
This season we'll be using a tier system to rank conference members. That's due in most part to the turbulent nature of the Coastal Division, but also because when Bill Connelly implemented it in SB Nation's 128-team Preseason Power Rankings, it looked so darn good.
Clemson Tigers (1-0, 0-0 ACC)
Previous week: vs. Wofford Terriers (0-1); Result: WIN 49-10
Next Opponent: September 12th 12:30 PM ET vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers (1-0)
Florida State Seminoles (1-0, 0-0 ACC)
Previous week: vs. Texas State Bobcats (0-1); Result: WIN 59-16
Next Opponent: September 12th 11:30 AM ET vs. University of South Florida Bulls (1-0)
Louisville Cardinals (0-1, 0-0 ACC)
Previous week: vs. Auburn Tigers (1-0) (Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia); Result: LOSS 31-24
Next Opponent: September 12th 12:00 PM ET vs. Houston Cougars (1-0)
Boston College Eagles (1-0, 0-0 ACC)
Previous week: vs. Maine Black Bears (0-1); Result: WIN 24-3
Next Opponent: September 12th 1:00 PM ET vs. Howard Bison (0-1)
N.C. State Wolfpack (1-0, 0-0 ACC)
Previous week: vs. Troy Trojans (0-1); Result: WIN 49-21
Next Opponent: September 12th 6:00 PM ET vs. Eastern Kentucky Colonels (1-0)
Syracuse Orange (1-0, 0-0 ACC)
Previous week: vs. Rhode Island Rams (0-1); Result: WIN 47-0
Next Opponent: September 12th 12:30 PM ET vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-0, 0-0 ACC)
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-0, 0-0 ACC)
Previous week: vs. Elon Phoenix (0-1); Result: WIN 41-3
Next Opponent: September 12th 12:30 PM ET at Syracuse Orange (0-0, 0-0 ACC)
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-0, 0-0 ACC)
Previous week: vs. Alcorn State Braves (0-1); Result: WIN 69-6
Next Opponent: September 12th 3:30 PM ET vs. Tulane Green Wave (0-1)
Miami Hurricanes (1-0, 0-0 ACC)
Previous week: vs. Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (0-1); Result: WIN 45-0
Next Opponent: Friday, September 11th 8:00 PM ET at Florida Atlantic Owls (0-0)
Virginia Tech Hokies (0-1, 0-0 ACC)
Previous week: vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0); Result: LOSS 42-24
Next Opponent: September 12th 3:30 PM ET vs. Furman Paladins (0-0)
Duke Blue Devils (1-0, 0-0 ACC)
Previous week: at Tulane Green Wave (0-1); Result: WIN 37-7
Next Opponent: September 12th 6:00 PM ET vs. North Carolina Central Eagles (0-0)
North Carolina Tar Heels (0-1, 0-0 ACC)
Previous week: vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (1-0); Result: LOSS 17-13
Next Opponent: September 12th 6:00 PM ET vs. North Carolina A&T Aggies (0-0)
Pittsburgh Panthers (1-0, 0-0 ACC)
Previous week: vs. Youngstown State Penguins (0-1); Result: WIN 45-37
Next Opponent: September 12th 6:00 PM ET at Akron Zips (0-0)
Virginia Cavaliers (0-1, 0-0 ACC)
Previous week: vs. at UCLA Bruins (1-0); Result: LOSS 34-16
Next Opponent: September 12th 3:30 PM ET vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0)