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ACC Takeaways: Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh Rising, FSU's Timely Bye

Frank Beamer

Frank Beamer

While most of the nation was watching the Big Ten stumble, the ACC was quietly putting together a solid resume from Week 2.

Florida State rolled to an easy win over Citadel, Clemson demolished South Carolina State, while Louisville and Duke also scored relatively easy non-conference victories.

However, the highlight of the weekend comes from Virginia Tech. The Hokies upset Ohio State in Columbus, emerging as the clear No. 1 team in the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech's offense seems to be taking a step forward in coordinator Scot Loeffler's second year, and the defense continues to be one of the best in the nation.

Key Takeaways from the ACC in Week 2

Virginia Tech is the Team to Beat in the Coastal Division

Yes, only two games for the Coastal teams are in the books, but Virginia Tech is the No. 1 team in the division. And is it really close at this point? The Hokies defeated Ohio State 35-21 in Columbus to move to 2-0. Virginia Tech’s offense was the biggest question mark heading into the season, but coordinator Scot Loeffler has this unit on the right track. Sure, the Hokies averaged only 4.2 yards per play, but quarterback Michael Brewer threw for 199 yards on 23 completions and appears to be in control of the offense. The rushing attack recorded just 121 yards against a stout Ohio State defensive line. However, talented running backs Marshawn Williams and Shai McKenzie will improve. And of course, Virginia Tech’s defense will carry this team in most of its games. The Hokies held Ohio State to just 2.7 yards per carry and intercepted quarterback J.T. Barrett three times. Coordinator Bud Foster’s defense recorded 11 tackles for a loss and seven sacks against the Buckeyes. The Coastal Division was impossible to predict in the preseason. But the favorite – for now – is clearly Virginia Tech.

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If the Hokies are No. 1 in the Coastal…Pittsburgh is No. 2?

The Coastal Division was one of the toughest to project this preseason. We have to be cautious to not overreact to just two games, but Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh appear to be the top two teams so far. The Panthers picked up a key road conference win in Week 2, defeating Boston College 30-20 on Friday night. Pittsburgh’s offense averaged 5.9 yards per play behind running back James Conner’s 213 yards. Replacing tackle Aaron Donald is a mammoth challenge for this defense, but the Panthers limited the Eagles to 4.5 yards per play and sacked quarterback Tyler Murphy four times. Duke, North Carolina, Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia will all have something to say about the Coastal race. However, it’s easy to believe in Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh after two solid performances to open the year.

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Florida State’s Bye Week Comes at a Good Time

The timing of bye weeks is an underrated element to any schedule, and Florida State’s Week 3 off date comes at the right time. In Saturday’s efficient 37-12 win over Citadel, the Seminoles watched a couple of key defenders suffer injuries. Defensive tackles Eddie Goldman, Nile Lawrence-Stample and Justin Shanks were injured in the victory and have two weeks to prepare for a key ACC showdown against Clemson. Outside of getting the defensive tackles healthy, Florida State can use the bye week to get its new receivers acclimated to working with quarterback Jameis Winston. Tight end Nick O’Leary led the team with five catches against Citadel, and freshman Ermon Lane stepped up with three catches for 37 yards. Winston certainly has talent on the outside, but the offense needs time to transition with the new playmakers in the receiving corps. The Seminoles haven’t played their best game this season, but with two weeks to prepare for the Tigers, it’s a safe bet we will see a better effort for Jimbo Fisher’s team on Sept. 20.

North Carolina is a Work In Progress

Despite the 2-0 start, the Tar Heels still have a lot of work to do in order to contend for the Coastal Division crown. Larry Fedora’s team has needed second-half comebacks to beat Liberty and San Diego State and ranks No. 13 in the ACC in most yards allowed per play (5.8) by a defense. North Carolina has also lost five turnovers (T-102 nationally) and allowed 28 points per game through two contests. Sure, it’s early, and the Tar Heels have 10 games to improve. However, some of the preseason concerns about this team remain. Can North Carolina take a step forward on defense? San Diego State averaged 6.9 yards per play on Saturday, the first time an opponent managed more than 5.6 against this defense since Oct. 17, 2013 against Miami. Can the offensive line improve if Landon Turner is out for a significant amount of time? Fedora has the Tar Heels trending in the right direction. However, UNC has a lot of room to improve before challenging for the Coastal title. 

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ACC Post-Week 2 Power Rankings

Rank

Team

Record

Last Week

Week 3

1

2-0

W, 37-12, Citadel

Bye Week

2

2-0

W, 35-21, Ohio State

East Carolina

3

1-1

W, 73-7, S.C. State

Bye Week

4

2-0

W, 66-21, Murray State

at Virginia

5

2-0

W, 30-20, BC

at FIU

6

2-0

W, 34-17, Troy

Kansas

7

2-0

W, 31-27, SDSU

Bye Week

8

1-1

W, 41-7, FAMU

Arkansas State

9

1-1

W, 45-13, Richmond

Louisville

10

2-0

W, 38-21, Tulane

Georgia Southern

11

1-1

L, 30-20, Pittsburgh

USC

12

1-0

Bye Week

at Central Michigan

13

2-0

W, 46-34, ODU

at USF

14

1-1

W, 23-7, Gardner-Webb

at Utah State