Each Monday morning, we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 9 of ACC football action:
1. Giovani Bernard is unstoppable: Or at least that was the perception of the North Carolina running back as he carried his team to a huge victory on Saturday. After jumping out to a big lead over NC State, the Heels faltered badly and needed a lift. Cue Bernard, who racked up 304 all-purpose yards on the day, with three scores. The most important, however, was a phenomenal 74-yard punt return TD with just 13 seconds left on the clock. The score broke a 35-35 tie and handed UNC their first win over the Wolfpack since 2006. Bernard is obviously a game-changer, and yet still travels predominantly under the radar to national pundits.
2. Florida State‘s back in the National Championship picture: Everyone knows the old college football adage: if you’re going to lose, lose early. So was FSU’s upset defeat in early October early enough? Now at seventh in the Coaches Poll and ninth in the BCS, the Seminoles are refocusing on their original goal of contending for a National Championship. Obviously, they’ll need some help on the way, but if they win out — and continue beating teams as impressively as they did this weekend — there’s still hope a title game berth is in the cards.
3. Clemson looks poised to avoid last year’s disappointing finish: The Tigers were ready to set the world on fire this past Thursday night, running through Wake Forest‘s defense with their best performance of the year. This Clemson team remembers the disappointment of last year, and is determined not to repeat it. If they win out, Clemson finds themselves in the thick of the BCS conversation, and could very well earn themselves a trip to a major bowl game even without winning the division.
4. Maryland is cursed: I’m not even sure what to say anymore, Terps. I just feel bad for you guys. Just when it looked like things couldn’t get any worse for Maryland and its quarterback situation, the team lost its fourth (and last) scholarship passer to a season-ending injury. The Angry Maryland Quarterback-Hating God shows no mercy, and after claiming Caleb Rowe, Terrapins fans pray it leaves true-freshman linebacker Shawn Petty alone. Petty played quarterback in high school, and while he’ll surely be a bit rusty, this is the best they’ve got.
5. Duke‘s STILL not ready: We go through this seemingly every week. Duke wins a game. Duke “has a chance” against next major opponent. Duke gets obliterated. It’s happened three times, and I hope we’ve all learned our lessons by now. The Blue Devils are a great story, and a worthy bowl team. That said, they’ve still got a ways to go before they can be considered “ready” for the big stage, and we need to keep that in perspective. Baby steps, people.