Each Monday morning, we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 8 of the ACC football season:
1. Florida State joins the National Championship conversation: After spending the early part of the season lingering around the title conversation, FSU is now firmly entrenched in it, and will be so long as they stay unbeaten. The ‘Noles win over Clemson was such a thorough dismantling that you can’t help but buy into the team’s championship hopes now. And it’s not just the offense either, though Jameis Winston had about as impressive a performance as you can on that national platform. The defense showed the same fire they delivered last season as well, shutting down a dynamic Tigers passing game. Dynamic, exciting and very dangerous, Florida State has now become the most entertaining wildcard in this race toward the BCS, and the ACC’s best hope to win it all.
2. Clemson botches their chance: On the other side of the 51-14 coin from Saturday night is Clemson and that team’s absolutely botched opportunity with the national spotlight shining down on them. Of course there were concerns about the Tigers going in, but nobody could’ve predicted how thoroughly they were trounced (well, except Spencer Hall). National title hopes dead, Clemson must be content with simply playing through the slate and avoiding more losses. They can still do plenty this year — including compete in and win a BCS bowl game — but you can’t help but think of what might have been now.
3. The ACC looks better than ever: Despite Clemson’s loss, the conference has arguably never looked better in the BCS era. Four teams in the top 14. Three in the top 10 (the only conference that can say that). Florida State is the first ACC team in the top two since 2000. Digest that for a second. For all the talk we do around here to defend the North Carolina-based conference, that fact still stood above it all; those on-field results. As of right now, though, that’s all in the rearview. In this new “Power 5″ era of college football, the ACC is angling itself to be number three — which is not too bad at all and should/could secure the league for decades to come.
4. Wake Forest‘s offense has finally woken up: We spent the first five games of the season wondering when Wake’s offense would ever arrive. Then, after they defeated NC State, we wondered if it could stick. Well, wonder no more. Hosting Maryland for the last time in the near future, the Deacs managed to score 34 points in a victory, largely abandoning the run in favor of a strong passing game. Tanner Price has strung together his strongest few games in years, and as a result, this team suddenly has new life. Does that mean he and the team are “back,” necessarily? Tough to say for sure, though given how up-for-grabs the middle of the ACC is this year, this could very well be the start of a stirring rally for this team.
5. …while Maryland’s is dead in the water: Remember that dynamic Maryland team that started the season on a tear? Gone. And the eight-win pace many saw them on? Also evaporated. Between the injury bug and real opponents, the Terps have been exposed for what they are — a middle-tier team — and we’re about to watch just how far they end up falling. It’s been three games now since Maryland’s looked anything like a competent offensive team, relegating all that talk of a Randy Edsall “redemption” to old news.