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We’re two weeks through Virginia Tech’s 2021 season, a lot has happened already, and the same goes for the rest of the ACC, which has seen its fair share of ups and downs since the start of the season.
Through two weeks, here are the ACC storylines that I’m paying attention to:
New coach, Same Issues At Florida State
The Seminole faithful can Swag Surf all they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that the ‘Noles lost on a walk-off touchdown pass to FCS Jacksonville State this past weekend.
It was an unexplicable defensive call, as Florida State’s defense lined up with a one-on-one matchup on the outside with six seconds on the clock. Down 17-14, Jacksonville State completed a desperation throw and scampered into the endzone to send Florida State fans home dumbfounded.
To Mike Norvell’s credit, he understands that the loss is unacceptable. It still happened, however, and people in Tallahassee aren’t happy. After a dismal 3-6 record in 2020, the ‘Noles are 0-2 to start Norvell’s second season.
Norvell was a winner at Memphis, albeit in charge of a program that was built for him (I wonder who did that). It’s hard to believe Norvell’s tenure could go as poorly as Willie Taggart’s did, but he seems to be headed down that path.
Pittsburgh Passing The Easy Tests
Pat Narduzzi’s bunch have scored 92 points in two games and are 2-0 to start the season. To be fair, their wins are against UMass and an ever-rebuilding Tennessee, but the Panthers seem to have some talent.
Pittsburgh’s season will likely be determined by how Kenny Pickett plays. He’s a veteran quarterback at this stage of his career and is having a solid start to the season. The Panthers have two more non-conference games on the schedule before traveling to Atlanta on Oct. 2.
As far as Virginia Tech is concerned, it’s realistic to think the Hokies could enter that Oct. 16 game facing an undefeated Pitt team.
NC State Falls Short
The Wolfpack’s tilt vs. Mississippi State was supposed to be a benchmark kind of game to see where Dave Doeren’s group was at. Thought to be the second-best team in the Atlantic Division, NC State needed to win this game to back up that notion.
Instead, NC State floundered and scored just 10 points in a two-touchdown loss to Mike Leach and Co. Devin Leary threw for over 300 yards but contributed to the Wolfpack’s three turnovers. He had little help from the running game and as a unit, NC State was 6-20 on third down attempts and 1-3 on fourth down attempts.
To make matters worse, NC State is now down two defensive starters for the rest of the season in linebacker Payton Wilson and defensive back Cyrus Fagan.
NC State gets a warmup game this weekend vs. Furman before hosting Clemson on Sept. 25. It gets only slightly easier after that, as four of their next six games are on the road. NC State will certainly have challengers to be Clemson’s runner-up, most notably Wake Forest.
Miami Is Just The Worst
The Hurricanes aren’t actually the worst at anything, except for maybe the worst at living up to preseason hype.
Miami hung on to defeat Appalachian State 25-23 on Saturday, getting Manny Diaz, D’Eriq King and the rest of the bunch into the win column. The week before, they were dragged by Alabama 44-13.
Here’s the deal with Miami until further notice — they’re good enough to win the Coastal Division every single season, but they’re never good enough to raise the conference’s profile with wins outside the ACC. We saw this in 2017, as Miami fell apart at the end of the season and lost to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl.
My point is that Miami will always be a thorn in the side of programs like Virginia Tech, but I think the ship has sailed on Miami being nationally relevant. They don’t compete like powerhouse programs are supposed to.
Who Will Be The First To Go?
USC dropped the hammer on Clay Helton after a Week 2 loss to Stanford, which has got to be one of the quickest hooks to start a season. I understand Helton was on the hot seat already, but Week 2? Give me a break.
I don’t think any ACC program will make a change in the short-term, but there are still coaches on the hot seat. Dino Babers is 1-1 to start the season and hasn’t been able to quiet any of his doubters. Geoff Collins was supposed to be the answer at Georgia Tech, but his 7-17 record through two-plus seasons isn’t impressing anyone. The opening loss to Northern Illinois didn’t help.
With the Hokies at 2-0 and seemingly capable of being competitive for the rest of the season, Justin Fuente has cooled his chair quite a bit. But for Babers and Collins, they’re still having to sweat it out.
The same can be said for Norvell, even if he is in Year 2.
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