The football season began with each of the three ACC teams ranked in the Preseason AP Poll losing: No. 3 Clemson to Georgia, No. 10 North Carolina to Virginia Tech, and No. 14 Miami to Alabama. As a result, the top tier in the conference for 2021 remains uncertain—Virginia Tech, Boston College, and NC State all won their openers. For the first time in four years or more, Clemson’s spot atop the rankings—and atop the conference—looks like it’s up for grabs early in the season.
1. Clemson (0–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast)
Clemson’s 2021 season began with a matchup of the AP No. 3 and No. 5 teams, and Georgia, the latter, came out on top 10–3 in a defensive battle. The Bulldogs held Clemson to 180 yards and no touchdowns, which was the first time Clemson went without a touchdown in a game since the 2018 Sugar Bowl, a 24–6 loss to eventual national champion Alabama. Still, the Tigers return 69 percent of their production from a season ago, which might point toward an early loss being just a blip on their radar.
2. Miami (0–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast)
Miami ran into No. 1 Alabama for Week 1 and lost 44–13 to begin the Hurricanes’ season. Alabama had possession for 15 more minutes than the Hurricanes with 28 first downs. D’Eriq King returned as quarterback for Miami, though a 23-of-30 performance for 172 yards through the air against the Crimson Tide isn’t the dominant stat line that ’Canes fans are used to seeing.
3. Virginia Tech (1–0, 1–0 Atlantic Coast)
Virginia Tech’s season-opening victory over North Carolina earned the Hokies a No. 19 spot on the Week One AP Poll, defeating UNC 17–10 at home. Virginia Tech’s defense forced three turnovers, and while many believed Miami and North Carolina were frontrunners for the ACC Coastal Division, Virginia Tech is now in the driver’s seat for the division title with plenty of football left to be played.
4. Boston College (1–0, 0–0 Atlantic Coast)
Boston College started the year strong with a 51–0 victory over Colgate. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec and wide receiver Zay Flowers both earned ACC Player of the Week honors at their respective positions, as Jurkovec threw for 303 yards and Flowers recorded seven receptions for 135 yards.
5. North Carolina (0–1, 0–1 Atlantic Coast)
North Carolina came into the season as a top-10 team, with visions of an ACC Championship and potentially a College Football Playoff berth beginning to materialize. Perhaps that vision for the postseason forgot to acknowledge Virginia Tech, who defeated the Tar Heels 17-10 in their season opener. Sam Howell, formerly a Heisman dark horse, threw three interceptions and took six sacks in the season opener. UNC remains a talented team, but with games at NC State and Notre Dame and at home against Miami, the Tar Heels’ outlook isn’t too sunny.
6. NC State (1–0, 0–0 Atlantic Coast)
NC State came out on the upside of a 45–0 blowout against South Florida to open its season. With 525 yards of offense and six touchdowns, not to mention three forced turnovers out of the Wolfpack’s defense, NC State was dominant from start to finish.
7. Florida State (0–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast)
Florida State took the No. 9 Fighting Irish to overtime, but despite the Seminoles’ best efforts, lost 41–38. After being down by 18 points at the end of the third quarter, FSU came back to tie the game and send it to overtime. Notre Dame won on a field goal, which, though heartbreaking for FSU fans, is a promising start to the 2021 season.
8. Pittsburgh (1–0, 0–0 Atlantic Coast)
Pittsburgh won 51–7 against UMass, scoring seven touchdowns, and had 598 yards of total offense in its season opener. Still, a blowout win over a team with 11 combined wins across the last four seasons isn’t much of an indicator of future success.
9. Virginia (1–0, 0–0 Atlantic Coast)
Virginia defeated William & Mary 43–0 in the Cavaliers’ season opener, with 545 total yards and five touchdowns. UVA quarterback Brennan Armstrong was named ACC Co-Quarterback of the Week after being responsible for 24 of his team’s 43 points.
10. Wake Forest (1–0, 0–0 Atlantic Coast)
The Demon Deacons opened their 2021 season strong with a 42–10 victory over Old Dominion. With six touchdowns and 352 total yards, Wake Forest’s offense was firing on all cylinders. Freshman defensive end Jasheen Davis was named an ACC Co-Rookie of the Week after posting nine tackles.
11. Syracuse (1–0, 0–0 Atlantic Coast)
Syracuse matched its 2020 win total this weekend after defeating Ohio 29–9. Syracuse running back Sean Tucker had 181 yards on 25 carries, and the offense had zero turnovers. The Orange defense gave up no touchdowns and forced Ohio to settle for three field goals. The win is the Orange’s first in a little less than a year, when they defeated Georgia Tech 37–20 on Sept. 26, 2020.
12. Louisville (0–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast)
The Cardinals ran into a strong Ole Miss team and took home a sound defeat in their first game of the season, losing 43–24 in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Ole Miss led 26–0 at the half and did not look back, scoring five total touchdowns with 569 yards of offense.
13. Duke (0–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast)
Duke lost a tough 31–28 game at Charlotte, as the 49ers drove 75 yards in one minute and 11 seconds to score the go-ahead touchdown in the game’s final minute. The Blue Devils had nine tackles for a loss and were solid defensively for the first three quarters, but they broke down in the fourth and gave up touchdowns in each of Charlotte’s last two offensive drives. Duke running back Mataeo Durant ran for 255 yards and three touchdowns, earning him ACC Player of the Week honors at running back.
14. Georgia Tech (0–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast)
Georgia Tech lost to Northern Illinois 22–21 on a touchdown and a two-point conversion with 38 seconds remaining in the game. Northern Illinois running back Harrison Waylee averaged 5.3 yards per carry on 27 carries against the Yellow Jacket defense, running for 144 yards on the day. After Georgia Tech’s starting quarterback, Jeff Sims, left the game with an arm injury, Georgia Tech came back from a 14-point deficit but lost in the final minute.
Featured Graphic by Emma Healy / Heights Editor