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ACC notebook: Clemson opens season with thrilling win over Georgia

The SportsXchange

The Atlantic Coast Conference needed a boost, and Clemson provided it just in time.

Facing a trio of significant opening-week showdowns against the powerful Southeastern Conference, Clemson's victory against Georgia collected some credibility for the ACC, which has been on the receiving end of some nasty blows the past few years.

The Tigers figured to be the standard bearer for the ACC this season, so the 38-35 home victory against a Top 10 team was significant.

Clemson became the first non-SEC team to ever defeat Top 10 SEC teams in consecutive games. The Tigers achieved the first part of this trick by defeating LSU in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl.

The ACC lost encounters when North Carolina fell to South Carolina along with Virginia Tech's setback to Alabama in Atlanta. No doubt, Clemson saved the opening week.

The ACC split a couple of other games that might have been notable at least in perception on a national scale. Virginia toppled visiting Brigham Young, while conference newcomer Syracuse dropped a decision to Penn State in East Rutherford, N.J.

So while it wasn't such an overwhelming opening week that would cause the ACC to stick out its collective chests, at least Clemson salvaged some pride.

FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 1 IN THE ACC:

1. Clemson could be for real and the Tigers knew they needed that positive outcome against Georgia in order for their stock to rise.

Now the Tigers, assuming they don't take unexpected wayward turns, can enter the meat of their schedule later on with a chance to make a statement on the national scene.

2. Virginia's evolving quarterback situation the past two years has two of its past starters in other programs. That put extra pressure on David Watford, a redshirt sophomore who won the role early in preseason camp but hadn't played since the 2011 season.

The important part for the Cavaliers was that they picked up the victory, doing so despite gaining only 114 passing yards. They'll need more than that in the next game against Oregon.

3. Wake Forest made a living by redshirting newcomers to the program and then benefitting from more mature and stronger players later in their careers. So it was a startling revelation when nine true freshmen made their way into the opener against Presbyterian.

"I just told (assistant coaches) not to put anybody on the field that we're going to feel like we're wasting a year of their eligibility," coach Jim Grobe said. No more than three true freshmen ever played in a season in Grobe's first 12 years on the job.

4. With apprehension about starting quarterbacks with some of the league members, there was only some resolution. That's because the most effective new starters didn't finish games.

In the case of North Carolina State's Brandon Mitchell, he was injured with a broken bone in his foot and will miss at least a month, meaning that Pete Thomas, who didn't win August's quarterback sweepstakes, is now the starter anyway.

For Georgia Tech, sophomore Vad Lee's first start as a college quarterback was such a success that he wasn't around for the end of his team's 70-0 rout of Elon. Nor was Lee challenged enough for the Yellow Jackets to get much of a read on how he might stack up.

5. The season began without an end to the speculation regarding NCAA wrongdoings within the Miami program. The Hurricanes' self-imposed penalties that kept them out of postseason games the past two seasons, yet the uncertainty remains.

There had been a push for the NCAA to wrap up its findings and deliver its verdict before this season began so there wouldn't be potential distractions. This summer, ACC commissioner John Swofford had expressed his desire for some sort of resolution, but it didn't come before the first kickoff.
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