Despite Boston College not taking the field last weekend, many other ACC teams kicked off an unusual season with a seven-game weekend slate. Members of 11 conference teams laced their cleats for the first of many games to come, including Notre Dame, which played its first-ever game as an ACC team. The lack of spring ball and abbreviated off-season training—and in a few cases, COVID-19 making its way into the locker room—led to an unpredictable Week One of ACC football.
Miami Defeats Alabama-Birmingham 31-14
Miami was the first ACC team to take the field this year, edging out Alabama-Birmingham with a dominant second-half performance. Offseason recruiting, a solid performance from quarterback D’eriq King—a highly sought after transfer from the University of Houston—and a revamped running game credited to Miami’s new offensive coordinator helped build a strong case in Week One for the Hurricanes. Despite the unveiling of the ’Canes new flashy touchdown rings, UAB hung on until the second half, when Miami overwhelmed the Blazers’ defense with 337 yards on the ground.
No. 18 North Carolina Defeats Syracuse 31-6*
With a handful of blue chip recruits coming in and Heisman contender Sam Howell at QB, the Tar Heels had all the tools they needed to perform in Week One. UNC’s defensive dominance takes credit for the crushing display, as the Tar Heels sacked Syracuse QB Tommy DeVito seven times and held the Orange to only a pair of field goals. Through three quarters, the Heels had scored just 10 points, followed by a fourth quarter explosion, outscoring Syracuse 21-0 in the last 15 minutes of the game.
No. 10 Notre Dame Defeats Duke 27-13
Notre Dame proved victorious in its first game ever as a part of the ACC, beating Duke at home in front of a sparse, socially distant crowd. Former five-star recruit and Clemson transfer Chase Brice gave Blue Devil fans something to be excited about. Duke held on for three quarters despite Brice’s lack of experience with his new squad, but the Blue Devils had no answer for Irish running back Kryen Williams, who tore up Notre Dame Stadium with 205 all-purpose yards and two scores.
Georgia Tech defeats Florida State 16-13
Florida State’s first-year head coach Mike Norvell did not leave a good first impression with the Seminoles’ faithful, dropping the home opener to underdog Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets’ true freshman quarterback Jeff Sims made a strong debut in front of fans at the venerable Doak Campbell Stadium. A new head coaching regime seems to have not remedied the penalties that have haunted FSU’s program since the departure of Jimbo Fisher, as GT—ranked last in the ACC preseason polls by ACCSports.com—stunned FSU in what may have been the upset of the week.
Pittsburgh Blanks Austin Peay 55-0
There isn’t much to say about this game other than Pitt eviscerated FCS team Austin Peay, forcing both teams to employ a pseudo-mercy rule in order to keep the score from getting more out of hand than it already was. The Panthers, missing seven starters due to COVID-19, put up 456 yards of total offense and scored on each of their first six drives. Pitt’s defense held Austin Peay to just one singular rushing yard and completed the shutout with ease.
No. 1 Clemson Defeats Wake Forest 37-13
This game was not nearly as close as the score lends itself to be. In ESPN’s College GameDay debut at Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons suffered a similar fate to BC’s GameDay experience two years ago. Clemson scored the first 27 points of the game, only to hand it off to the Tigers’ second and third stringers in the second half. Trevor Lawrence and Travis Ettiene opened their Heisman campaigns with a bang—the former threw for 351 yards in just over the first half, and the latter racked up 149 all-purpose yards. The Tigers’ defense looked stronger than ever, with some of the top recruits in the country playing in Death Valley under Dabo Swinney and his renowned coaching staff.
Louisville Defeats Western Kentucky 35-21
Louisville entered this season playing its sole out-of-conference game against Western Kentucky. Cardinals’ top wide receiver Tutu Atwell went without a catch, but even without his go-to target, quarterback Micale Cunningham stepped up for 343 yards and three scores. The Hilltoppers kept it a close game through three quarters, but Louisville held on for the two-score victory. Now, the Cardinals turn their focus to next week’s primetime showdown against Miami, where they host College Gameday under the national spotlight.
*Rankings based on the preseason AP Top 25 Poll
Featured Graphic by Emma Healy / Heights Editor