It was a big weekend for the ACC. The news about the conference accepting Pittsburgh and Syracuse as new members was huge.
The conference, however, had five key non-conference games on Saturday. The ACC went 3-2 in those games. What was the biggest win of the day? Miami’s 24-6 win over then-No. 17 Ohio State was impressive. It wasn’t a win, but then-No. 5 Florida State gave No. 1 Oklahoma all it could handle in a 23-13 loss.
Clemson, however, got a breakthrough performance in a 38-24 win over defending national champion Auburn, which was ranked No. 21 at the time. The win snapped Auburn’s 17-game winning streak, the longest in the nation.
The win put Clemson into this week’s AP (No. 21) and USA Today (No. 22) top 25 polls.
Clemson (3-0) actually fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter against Auburn, but roared back to tie the game 21-21 at halftime. Two Tajh Boyd touchdown passes to Sammy Watkins in the third quarter sealed the win.
Boyd had one of the best individual games for any player in the country on Saturday. He completed 30 of 42 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns (and no interceptions). Through three games, Boyd has thrown for 911 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has also completed 67 percent of his passes.
Watkins, just a freshman, caught 10 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Auburn’s defense is not anything like last season’s group. But the numbers Clemson put up in this game are startling: 624 yards of total offense, 32 first downs and 14 of 18 on third down conversions.
After Saturday’s performance, here’s a question: Can Clemson contend for the ACC title? We’re going to find out very soon. Clemson hosts No. 11 Florida State, which may be without starting quarterback E.J. Manuel, Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Clemson will then go to No. 13 Virginia Tech on Oct. 1. Florida State and Virginia Tech were the preseason favorites to play for the ACC title.
Another team to keep an eye on in the ACC is Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets rolled up 768 yards of total offense, including 604 rushing yards, in a 66-24 win over Kansas. Both of Georgia Tech’s yardage marks are school records. The Yellow Jackets are now No. 25 in the AP poll and No. 24 in the USA Today poll.
Georgia Tech doesn’t play a ranked team until Oct. 29 when Clemson visits. The Yellow Jackets then host No. 13 Virginia Tech on Nov. 10. Georgia Tech plays at Miami on Oct. 22.
Florida will be a factor in SEC East: South Carolina was picked by numerous experts to win the SEC East during the preseason. Georgia was also picked to bounce back from a dismal 2010. But Florida, now ranked No. 15 in both polls, is going to be a factor this season. Florida’s defense is playing very well. The Gators held Tennessee to just 279 yards of total offense, including –9 rushing yards, in a 33-23 win at the Swamp on Saturday. Florida is seventh in total defense nationally. The offense, which struggled last season, is looking better under new coordinator Charlie Weis. Chris Rainey had 108 yards rushing and 104 yards receiving against Tennessee. The Gators should beat Kentucky on the road this week. After that comes a brutal stretch of games: vs. No. 3 Alabama, at No. 2 LSU, at Auburn, and then the rivalry game against Georgia. The key game, however, could be Nov. 12 at No. 12 South Carolina. Florida’s defense will keep it in games this season. If the offense can score some points, look out for the Gators.