Johnson Thought: The ACC's Rocky Opener
Posted Sep 3, 2012

Week 1 Thought: Johnson on the ACC's rocky opening week.

CFN Analysis 

Johnson Thought, Sept. 5

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Week 1 Thoughts 
- Fiutak: Bring on Savannah State!
- Cirminiello: Oregon & Kelly keep on rolling 
- Zemek: It's not time for top teams to worry ... yet
- Harrison: Penn State and Ohio State, welcome to your new eras
- Mitchell: SEC East stumbles 
- Johnson: The ACC's rocky opener   
By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball

After a tumultuous postseason that included an embarrassing 70-33 Orange Bowl loss, ACC schools could not wait for the season to start. With two winnable games against SEC opponents, the conference had a chance to get off to a solid start and shed the label of the "All Cupcake Conference".

Much like an Auburn defender trying to tackle Andre Ellington in open space, the conference had its objectives clearly in sight but bafflingly missed the target. Despite having some success yesterday, the ACC took a huge step backward and has a lot of work to do if its going to earn a second BCS bid or play for the national championship this season.

The conference might have fallen off the map completely if not for Clemson's solid victory against Auburn. The Tigers came into the game without Sammy Watkins and had a number of question marks on defense. While Dabo Swinney's team didn't turn in a perfect performance, it did show that it has the talent to defeat a Top 25 team away from the friendly confines of Death Valley.

The ACC also received some unexpected surprises yesterday. The Miami - Boston College game provided plenty of fireworks on offense, proving that each team can put up numbers against some of the top defenses in the conference. In addition, Duke throttled a better-than-it-looks Florida International team by playing solid defense and blocking two kicks.

Unfortunately, these successes will mean very little in the long run because of an ugly loss and very narrow escape.

Many expected North Carolina State to contend for the Atlantic Division crown. The Wolfpack had one of the top defensive backfields in the country, as well as QB Mike Glennon.

Then came Friday night. Tennessee, picked to finish fifth in the SEC East, took the 'Pack to the woodshed. Don't let the final score fool you, the Volunteers dominated this game from the opening whistle and were never in danger of losing the game.

Despite losing top target Da'Rick Rogers right before the season started, the Vols lit up the Wolfpack for 333 yards. Tyler Bray was especially successful with the deep ball, roasting an overmatched secondary for TD strikes of 41 and 72 yards in first quarter.

NC State had similar struggles on offense. Glennon did well when he had time to throw the ball, but the UT pressure forced four interceptions and a safety.

As disappointing as the Wolfpack loss was, Maryland's near-loss against William & Mary inflicted even more damage to the conference's already shaky profile.

On paper, this contest was an easy victory for Randy Edsall's team. The Tribe finished 5-6 in the FCS last season and finished in the middle of the lower subdivision in total defense. Even with true freshman Perry Hills starting at QB, the Terps should have had no trouble moving the ball down the field.

It didn't work out that way. William & Mary shut down Maryland's offense for the first three quarters before allowing the deciding drive with ten minutes to go. Even though the Terps won the game, they turned the ball over three times, and averaged 2.8 yards per carry against a defense that no one will ever mistake for the 1985 Chicago Bears.

Evaluating the weekend as whole, this is a net loss for the ACC, as the bad and the ugly clearly outweighed the good.

Fortunately, the college football season is a marathon rather than a sprint. The conference still has several high-profile games with top-flight competition including games with Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia on the schedule. With a couple of wins in those games, no one will remember what happened this weekend.

However, if the first week is any indication, it could be a very long season for the ACC.