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ACC Football: Week 1 Notebook

It wasn't all pretty, but the conference posts an overall solid opening week thanks to a couple of marquee wins against Power 5 foes.
DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson Tigers Football

DJ Uiagalelei and Clemson got off to a sluggish start against Georgia Tech but eventually figured things out on their way to a 41-10 rout on Monday night to close out Week 1.

Around 3:30 on Saturday afternoon, things looked rough for the ACC. Virginia Tech had fallen the night before to Old Dominion, Boston College was losing at home to Rutgers, East Carolina had a field goal attempt to take down NC State, and Appalachian State was a two-point conversion away from beating North Carolina.

But the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels both survived and the league went 8-2 against non-conference opponents while Syracuse and Clemson got early ACC victories in week one. Here is a look back at what happened over the past few days along with a look ahead to Week 2.

Related: College Football Week 1 Awards

Week 1 Notes

  • The marquee wins by Pitt and Florida State made all the difference for the ACC in the opening weekend. Last season, the conference was 6-16 in games against other Power 5 teams and was justifiably criticized as a result. So starting the 2022 campaign with wins over West Virginia and LSU was important not only for the Panthers and Seminoles, but for the league overall.
  • Pitt ran the ball 38 times and threw it 24. I'm guessing that was the ratio Pat Narduzzi was looking for and why former offensive coordinator Mark Whipple is now calling plays for Nebraska.
  • All eyes at Clemson were on quarterback DJ Uiagalelei and he looked improved over last season and got better as the game wore on. Other than the early fumble, he limited the mistakes and didn't mess things up for the Tigers' dominating defensive front and special teams.
  • In his first FBS game after transferring from UAlbany, Florida State's Jared Verse had two sacks, combined with Dennis Briggs on another tackle for lost yardage, and blocked a field goal. He's a factor whether the opponent is UNH or LSU.
  • Garret Shrader was 18 of 25 passing for 237 yards and two touchdowns. If a new and improved Shrader can continue to be that efficient, with Sean Tucker running the ball and a ton of experience back from what was a stingy defense in 2021, Syracuse could be a major surprise this fall.
  • While the Heels and Pack had to fight and claw to beat Group of 5 teams, their Research Triangle neighbor won in blowout fashion. Okay, so Temple is certainly not one of the nation's elite teams. But in Mike Elko's first game as head coach, Duke featured a well-balanced offense and a defense that suffocated the Owls from the start.
  • Switching to the not-so-good. With five new starters along the offensive line, Boston College had problems in protection and couldn't open up much for Pat Garwo in the running game. In Garwo, Phil Jurkovec, Zay Flowers, and Jaelen Gill, the Eagles have some high-level offensive playmakers. But not much can happen without better blocking.
  • Virginia's ACC schools struggled, though the Cavaliers did get by FCS Richmond in a game that was more competitive than new head coach Tony Elliott would've liked. Virginia Tech, though, would've been pleased with a less than spectacular win as the Hokies once again lost on the road at Old Dominion. It's been years since the Hokies have had better than average quarterback play and Grant Wells' four interceptions give the impression that things aren't going to change for the better very soon.

Game of the Week
As thrilling as the ending was in the Superdome on Sunday night, the craziness in the fourth quarter of the North Carolina-Appalachian State contest gives that game the edge. Sixty-two points were scored in the final 15 minutes alone, including 40 by the losing team. UNC appeared to have won four or five different times but eventually was able to close out the Mountaineers.

Related: 5 Thoughts on North Carolina Following the Win Over Appalachian State

Player of the Week
There is no way UNC wins that game without quarterback Drake Maye. The redshirt freshman threw for 352 yards and ran for 76 more while accounting for five total touchdowns. Sam Howell was great. But after two weeks it doesn't look like there will be any drop-off at the position for Carolina in 2022.

Ranking the Best Week 2 Games

12. Furman at Clemson
11. Charleston Southern at NC State
10. Western Carolina at Georgia Tech
9. Syracuse at UConn
8. Southern Miss at Miami
7. North Carolina at Georgia State
6. Duke at Northwestern
5. Louisville at UCF (Fri.)
4. Virginia at Illinois
3. Wake Forest at Vanderbilt
2. Boston College at Virginia Tech
1. Tennessee at Pitt

Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, focusing on the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.