Does anyone want to win the ACC‘s Coastal division? From the looks of it, no, though the only team that’s even looks remotely ready to do so is unfortunately ineligible for the postseason. In the meantime, the conference’s top two get further from the rest, while everyone else just continues to crash into each other. But let’s get more specific. What have we truly learned over this past weekend, and how do the ACC’s teams currently shake out?
1. Florida State Seminoles (8-1) (5-1) (LW: 1): Some felt that the 27-point spread between Duke and FSU was a bit of an exaggeration. Yet, it appeared as if the ‘Noles took it as a challenge in their 48-7 victory. Though it wasn’t all hearts and rainbows — Florida State committed four turnovers — the team still ran rings around the Blue Devils, locking up the contest by halftime. Beyond the lingering issues with fumbles, this Seminoles team appears to be clicking once again as it heads for the stretch run.
2. Clemson Tigers (7-1) (4-1) (LW: 2): Prior to kickoff last Thursday, there was concern with regards to the Clemson secondary, along with Sammy Watkins, who was slated not to start the game against Wake Forest. What happened instead was a clinic on everything fantastic about the Tigers offense. From the first snap, Clemson was a flurry of pure speed, connecting on long passes at will, and simply over-matching the Deacons’ secondary. The Clemson defense, too, looked like it had stepped up its game, sacking QB Tanner Price five times, while getting consistent pressure on him all night.
3. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-3) (3-2) (LW: 5): After a hot start gave the Heels a 25-7 lead early, the team suddenly found itself down 35-25 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. And that’s when Giovani Bernard came alive. In the final 15 minutes, the Carolina back amassed 182 all-purpose yards and the game-winning score to give his team an eight-point victory. Obviously, the trouble with UNC’s recent gameplan is that it relies far too much on Bernard. But as long as it works — as it did here — you’ll see no complaints from this end.
4. NC State Wolfpack (5-3) (2-2) (LW: 3): What’s more crushing? Losing to your rival for the first time since 2006, or giving up your inside track at the Atlantic division title? Though those burns will likely sting with equal intensity for the Wolfpack, they must rebound quickly if they hope to stick around the divisional race. Should they win out, while FSU loses again, they’ll still find themselves in Charlotte for the title game. But they have to cut down on the dropped passes and fix mental errors in order to pull it off.
5. Virginia Tech Hokies (4-4) (2-2) (LW: 7): Few Hokies fans are pleased with how this season’s played out in Blacksburg, yet the team is one game away from controlling their fate in the Coastal division. This Thursday’s big rivalry matchup with Miami is crucial to secure all necessary head-to-head tiebreakers, and anything but their best effort will be unacceptable. So which Virginia Tech team will show up, or more accurately, which Logan Thomas will show up? In their wins, he’s accounted for nine scores and just two picks, but in their losses, he’s racked up seven TDs to eight INTs. As it has been all season, which QB we’ll see remains a mystery.
6. Duke Blue Devils (6-3) (3-2) (LW: 4): Duke falls back down to earth with a thud yet again after the 48-7 shellacking Saturday at the hands of FSU. Even worse, Sean Renfree and Juwan Thompson suffered injuries in the loss, and their status is up in the air going into next week. While they’ve made strides over the past few years, the Blue Devils’ offensive line is still very much a work in progress, but they must continue to get better at improving in pass protection. Under heavy duress, Renfree has been hit far too often; something that must be corrected immediately, before the next big sack ends his college career.
7. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (4-4) (3-2) (LW: 6): Miami has been given test after test this season, and unequivocally failed. Now, they’re latest one — against Virginia Tech this Thursday night — allows them the opportunity to erase all of that. Should they beat the Hokies, the Coastal goes through Coral Gables, and Miami would just need to take care of business down the stretch. It’s a tall order, but the ‘Canes are capable of both. But with injuries stacking up, so are the doubts.
8. Syracuse Orange (4-4) (LW: 10): Despite their best efforts to lose to USF, the Orange pulled out a miraculous 37-36 victory on Saturday, moving them to 3-1 in the Big East and to .500 for the first time all season. The key in these past two games for SU (both wins)? Cutting down on turnovers. Oh, there were still plenty of mistakes with the kicking game and penalties. But zero turnovers — which is ultimately how they’ve come out victorious. If they can keep this up, maybe they get to a bowl game. Should they revert back to being mistake-prone, then hello, 5-7.
9. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-4) (LW: 11): As I’ve said before, if Pitt runs the ball well, they will win. So when they tally 207 rushing yards, and win by 30, I’m not necessarily surprised. What I don’t get, however, is why they’re not running the ball even more. When Ray Graham gets a sufficient amount of carries, he proves himself very productive. Same with Rushel Shell. Paul Chryst must continue to lean on the run going forward.
10. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-4) (2-4) (LW: 8): Plain and simple, Wake Forest was not prepared for Thursday night’s game. Coach Jim Grobe even said as much after the game, admitting, “”I don’t know that we didn’t respect (Clemson’s speed). I think we didn’t realize how fast those guys were.” But how is that even possible? You were beat by these guys last year… the SAME GUYS! You had seven games worth of tape to watch. You know how much faster they are than your defensive backs, but you didn’t prepare them properly. Grobe, while successful enough down at Wake, is starting to raise red flags about the job he’s doing week-to-week.
11. Maryland Terrapins (4-4) (2-2) (LW: 9): The Angry Maryland QB Hating God struck again on Saturday, taking down Caleb Rowe, the Terps’ fourth (and last) scholarship quarterback. And it’s a shame, too. Not only does this development completely derail what appeared to be a promising, surprising season for this young Maryland team, but this also gives Randy Edsall a free pass as well.
12. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-5) (2-4) (LW: 12): We can all agree that Paul Johnson’s getting fired at the end of this season, right? Or at least he’ll be placed firmly on the hot seat? BYU is a defensive team, yet scored 41 points on the Yellow Jackets, while also completely shutting down the triple-option. Georgia Tech has also let up 41 or more points in four of their last five games. After a season of “darkhorse” hype gone awry, it may be time to hit restart on this program.
13. Virginia Cavaliers (2-6) (0-4) (LW: 13): I’m not seeing a win left on the schedule for the Cavaliers, which is disastrous for a team that some thought could pose a real challenge in the Coastal division. While recruiting still seems to be going well (they’re ranked in the top 25 or so by most services), it’s only a matter of time before the bottom falls out on that front, too. If Mike London does nothing else this season, he needs to avoid losing 10 games.
14. Boston College Eagles (2-6) (1-4) (LW: 14): Boston College won their first FBS game of the year on Saturday, which was nice. The issue, though, is that it was against Maryland’s fourth-string quarterback, who still managed to throw for 240 yards (and on a bum leg for part of the game, no less). This Eagles’ defense — while still very much in disarray — proved they can come up big and make a stop when absolutely necessary. Now, they just need to apply that confidence going forward, and use it to close out more games.