Each Monday morning, we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 11 of ACC football action:
1. Florida State still in the Atlantic driver’s seat… barely: While we’re happy to commend the Seminoles for pulling out their last-minute victory over Virginia Tech last Thursday, we must look at the other side of the coin, too. Despite their talent on both sides of the ball, FSU could’ve very well lost their second game to a double-digit underdog this year. And much of it is due to Jimbo Fisher’s overly-conservative play-calling, along with some luck that could have easily gone the other way. The late safety could’ve instead been a touchdown for Tech. EJ Manuel‘s late strike to Rashad Greene — had the Hokies taken proper pursuit angles, maybe they never see the end zone. Or Logan Thomas‘s deep ball to Demitri Knowles on the final drive may have been part of a game-winning drive, instead of an INT. So, yes, Florida State won. But they have work to do.
2. Does anyone want to win the Coastal division?: After this past weekend’s action, it sure doesn’t look like it. Virginia Tech just couldn’t seem to hang on against FSU on Thursday. Miami took its commanding lead and squandered it in a 41-40 upset to Virginia. And North Carolina — while ineligible to play for the league championship this season — gave up its shot at possessing the division’s best record by losing a barnburner to Georgia Tech, a team suddenly very much alive in the race again. No one in the division will have a record better than 8-4, and the champion very well may finish 7-5. Ugh.
3. The ACC made some enigmatic additions in Pittsburgh and Syracuse: We’ve known this, but this weekend really seemed to hammer that point home. After nearly knocking off Notre Dame last weekend, Pitt goes and loses to hapless Connecticut. Following a mistaken-laden loss against Cincinnati, Syracuse blows out no. 9-ranked Louisville on national television. It’s a startling amount of inconsistency, which manages to be both fascinating and maddening at the same time. So in some respects, I guess both fit right in?
4. Clemson appears to be BCS-bound again: So long as they take care of business in their final two games, that is. After Oregon State‘s loss to Stanford, it’s likely that only one Pac-12 team will finish the season in the top 14 of the BCS standings. Additionally, the Big East and Big Ten will only be able to place one team each, leaving four at-large spots — two when you hand over the obligatory ones to the SEC and Notre Dame. So that leaves the Big 12 and ACC grabbing the other two bids. Of course, there is one wrench left to throw in the gears, as well: If Louisiana Tech finishes in the top 16 and ahead of the Big East champ, they’d automatically grab one of those bids, with the other likely going to Oklahoma. It appears to be a long shot, but it’s worth throwing it out there.
5. North Carolina’s defense needs work: Triple-option or not, the Heels still allowed 68 points and 588 total yards of offense on Saturday — unacceptable for any team, but especially one that believes itself to be a contender in the near future. As we’ve pointed out before, UNC’s defensive statistics get a huge boost from early inferior opponents, and now against legitimate teams, we’ve seen them exposed. They’ve now allowed 30 or more points in four of their last five games — 103 in their last two games total. The spread works. We’ve seen that across college football. But in order to find team success, Larry Fedora must also preach a better defensive strategy as well.