Clemson and Georgia Tech: Breathing some life into ACC Football.

If you’ve been following ACC Football through the first 4 weeks of the season, it’s been uneven to say the least. For every win over an Auburn (Clemson) or Ohio State (Miami) there were embarrassing blowout losses to Temple (Maryland) and Cincinnati (NC State). Currently less than half the conference is over .500. Pre-season favorites Florida State and Virginia Tech are still in position to win the Atlantic and Coastal Divisions. They haven’t disappointed.

Virginia Tech has been solid if not spectacular and currently sits 4-0. Florida State 2-2 is a very good but not great team. It’s very possible that they could run the table and head into their rivalry game with Florida 9-2 and (7-1). The Noles only losses are to top ranked Oklahoma and on the road at Clemson.     

The league doesn’t appear as deep as I expected though. Boston College, Maryland, and NC State are all struggling. Virginia still seems a couple of years away from being good, and Miami is the ACC’s most inconsistent team. It looked like it could be a two team (FSU and VT) march to the ACCCG without much opposition. Two teams the Clemson Tigers and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have stepped out from the rest of the pack to say not so fast.

Both teams started the year unranked, but both are now 4-0. Clemson is 13th in the AP and 15th in the Coaches Poll. Georgia Tech is ranked 21st in both polls. Let’s start with the Tigers. Clemson long considered the poster-child for underachieving programs, have defeated a ranked Auburn team and a top 15 ranked Florida State team in back to back weeks. Head Coach Dabo Swinney even entered the season on the hotseat in some circles. The win over the Noles give the Tigers the tie-breaker advantage, but given FSU’s marshmallow soft ACC finishing schedule, I wouldn’t lose two ACC games if I were Tigers. That said Clemson currently sits in the driver’s seat in the ACC Atlantic.

WR Sammy Watkins just might be the nation’s best freshman receiver and gives the Tigers a home run threat every time he touches the ball. QB Tajh Boyd has flourished under Chad Morris’s uptempo offense and the offense has multiple playmakers in addition to Watkins in RB Andre Ellington, TE Dwayne Allen, and WR DeAndre Hopkins. Clemson’s start sets up huge showdown with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg Saturday. The Hokies are considered by many a darkhorse national title contender, and these two teams will have the country watching. I’m guessing the Florida State Seminoles are big Hokie fans for that one. Now to Georgia Tech.

Who was going to challenge Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division? Miami maybe? North Carolina and their talent defense? Georgia Tech was an afterthought after a 6-7 2010 season. Gone were mainstays RB Anthony Allen and QB Josh Nesbitt. All Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech have done is produce the country’s number 1 offense in yardage per game, scoring and pass efficiency. Their 700+ yard performance against Kansas was mentioned by the national media numerous times, but was this team for real?

This past week proved it. Against a North Carolina defense that features multiple NFL prospects, the Jackets had nearly 500 yards of offense. 6-5 WR Stephen Hill is the best WR you’ve never heard. QB Tevin Washington is completing 64% of his passes, and the “high school” triple option offense has left 4 straight defenses wondering what just hit them. With a manageable schedule, Georgia Tech could very well head to Miami in late October 7-0.

The Tar Heels are good enough to be heard from again, but they are already 0-1 in the ACC with games at Clemson and Virginia Tech. It’s looking like a 4-team race for the two spots in the ACCCG. It should be fun to watch. 

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