ACC Football 2013 Week 9 Lessons: Are the Duke Blue Devils For Real?

Anthony Boone's Duke Team Pulled a Major Upset and Suddenly Looks to be  Factor in the Coastal Race

Anthony Boone’ & Duke Pulled a Major Upset, Suddenly Looks to be Factor in the Coastal Race

Each Monday morning, we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 9 of the ACC football season:

1. Duke Blue Devils are a real football program: Up until this weekend, we thought of Duke as a solid offensive team taking advantage of a very manageable schedule. But after defeating Virginia Tech, that narrative’s shifted completely. The Blue Devils are bowl-eligible for the second time in as many years (first time in program history for that) and now own their first win over a ranked team in nearly 50 seasons. But there’s still more work to be done. Last season’s 6-7 record fell short of the ultimate goal — a winning record — and that provides plenty of motivation for the rest of 2013. Based on what we saw from this team on Saturday, I’d say the Devils are well on their way to upping the ante going forward. Bowl games are now the norm, and they’re looking for much much more.

2. Miami wins again, but still looking shaky: Yet another game, yet another Miami comeback. At some point, we know the luck’s going to end though, and that’s the bigger issue here. The ‘Canes have not faced much in terms of challenges lately, so that leaves them with something to prove once again. Luckily (or unluckily) they’ve got Florida State up next — and on Gameday. Can they shake the recent issues of last-minute wins, or score a signature victory over the ‘Noles? Based on what we’ve seen lately, an upset here is starting to seem less and less likely.

3. North Carolina‘s not done yet: The Heels are starting to make their way out of the 1-5 hole, as they picked up a big win over Boston College this past weekend. From what we’ve seen in recent weeks, there’s a real possibility they’ve figured things out, at least enough to get to six wins. Their remaining schedule features just two teams with records above .500 and even then, both (Pittsburgh and Duke) could prove to be winnable. Should be an interesting run to the finish.

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ACC Football 2013 Week 8 Lessons: Florida State Asserts Itself Into National Championship Conversation

Welcome to the National Championship Conversation, Florida State... It's Been Awhile

Welcome to the National Championship Conversation, Florida State… It’s Been Awhile

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.

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ACC Football 2013 Week 7 Lessons: College Gameday, Top-Five Matchup Set Between Clemson and Florida State

Florida State Visits Clemson in a Huge Top-5 Matchup on College Gameday This Saturday

College Gameday Features Florida State and Clemson in a Huge Top-5 Matchup  This Saturday

Each Monday morning, we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 7 of the ACC football season:

1. Next Saturday’s top-five showdown is on: After Clemson finally got past Boston College (way to scare the rest of us, Tigers), it officially set us up for one of the biggest weekends in ACC football history. College Gameday returns to Death Valley for the second time this season, and we get a top-five matchup on top of it. Florida State‘s fairly untested and the Tigers have been among the top five or so literally all season. Whoever wins will have both an inside track at winning the Atlantic Division and possibly playing for a National Championship come January. Saturday night will be an electric atmosphere — the type of which this conference needs more of in order to show itself off as one of the nation’s elite leagues.

2. Georgia Tech‘s in a free fall: Ever since dashing out to a 3-0 start, something’s been amiss about the Yellow Jackets. Granted, they’ve had a pretty rough slate these past few weeks (Miami, Virginia Tech and BYU will do that), but now sitting at .500, the season’s taken a bit of a negative turn. With two FCS opponents on the schedule, Tech has to go 4-2 down the stretch in order to wrap up a bowl bid. There’s a significant level of difficulty involved and no guarantees they can pull it off despite fielding a better team than last season’s by far.

3. Boston College is almost back: Yes, BC has lost to both Florida State and Clemson, but let’s focus on the positives: they were incredibly competitive against both as well. In just one year, coach Steve Addazio has this group believing they can win any game on the schedule, which is huge compared to what the last few years entailed. This is a senior-heavy class, so there’s plenty of rebuilding that needs to happen come next year. But with this sort of buy-in so early, the Eagles are well on their way to not just being respectable but competitive once again.

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ACC Football 2013 Week 6 Lessons: Virginia Tech, Miami Turning Coastal Into Two-Horse Race

Virginia Tech's Win Over North Carolina Puts Them Head-to-Head With UNC for Coastal

Virginia Tech’s Win Over North Carolina Puts Them Head-to-Head With Miami for Coastal

Each Monday morning, we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 6 of the ACC football season:

1. Miami and Virginia Tech own the Coastal this year: With all due respect to Pittsburgh (also 2-0 in the Coastal), this division is a two-horse race between the Hokies and Hurricanes. Virginia Tech’s showed itself to have one of the conference’s — if not the country’s — top defenses, while also defeating two of the top four teams (according to preseason expectations) in the Coastal. Miami’s been tested as well, and has also passed with flying colors. They’re the division’s top two teams, and despite recent perceptions of the Coastal, are also legitimate conference title contenders as well. But…

2. Florida State and Clemson continue to impress: Regardless of how well Virginia Tech and Miami have been playing though, the story has been and will continue to be FSU and Clemson. The two teams have been among the nation’s most dominant teams all season, winning by impressive margins in impressive environments, while putting up staggering numbers. Both schools average over 44 points per game, are in the top 20 in passing offense, and also in the top 20 in scoring defense. Last weekend, they outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 112-14. They’re on a collision course for October 19 (when they meet in Clemson) to possibly decide the division, ACC title and possibly even a national title game bid.

3. Maryland‘s not ready to contend just yet: Prior to Saturday’s game against Florida State, all the buzz was about Maryland’s obvious improvement, increased stature as a football program and how well they were set up to join the Big Ten next year. Now? They appear to be the beneficiaries of a cupcake schedule and not much else following a 63-0 drubbing. Yes, C.J. Brown was injured, but the rout was on even before that happened. This ‘Noles team is built on offense, not defense, and the Terps’ defense simply couldn’t stop anything FSU and Jameis Winston threw at them.

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ACC Football 2013 Week 5 Lessons: ACC Will Be Factor in National Championship Race This Season

Clemson's National Title Case Helped By Win Over Wake, Plus UGA's Win Over LSU Too

Clemson’s National Title Case Helped By Win Over Wake, Plus UGA’s Win Over LSU, Too

Each Monday morning (or sometimes Tuesday), we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 5 of the ACC football season:

1. ACC set to be a factor in BCS National Championship race: For the first time in the conference’s 60-year history, it has four 4-0 teams to start a football season, with three of them ranked among the top 15 in the nation. Most of all, Clemson seemed to grab two victories this Saturday as well — one against Wake Forest, and another in the Georgia-LSU game. By way of the Bulldogs beating LSU, Clemson’s victory over UGA to start the season means even more than it did in week one, and improves their (and the ACC’s) chances of being a real factor in the national title race as this year wears on.

2. Virginia Tech‘s a Coastal Division contender: Following Thursday’s win over Georgia Tech, the Hokies suddenly appear to be one of two teams (the other being Miami) in the driver’s seat in the Coastal Division. Obviously the offense is still struggling, but given the way the defense has been playing thus far, it might just be enough to deliver this team yet another division title. Winning ugly (as they have been) or winning pretty, it’s still a victory on the board, which is all that matters.

3. North Carolina is in deep trouble: The 0-1 start was not shocking, but now at 1-3, the Heels are a team in absolute crisis mode. Their offense is stagnant, the defense has little ability to stop anyone and this squad’s gone from Coastal contender to fringe bowl team in a matter of a month. Larry Fedora’s panicking, and rightfully so. Considering the SEC jobs he was potentially in line for just eight months ago, tough to sit and watch your current team get shipwrecked. There’s zero room for error at this point if they hope to rescue this season.

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ACC Football 2013 Week 4 Lessons: Clemson (and the ACC) Just Got Incredibly Lucky

A Questionable Call in Thursday's Clemson-NC State Game Gave the Tigers a Huge Win

A Questionable Call in Thursday’s Clemson-NC State Game Gave the Tigers a Huge Win

Each Monday morning (or sometimes Tuesday), we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 4 of the ACC football season:

1. Clemson got very, very lucky: There’s no guarantee that Clemson would have proceeded to lose to NC State had Bryan Underwood‘s huge touchdown catch stood, but there’s also no doubting a win would’ve been much harder for the Tigers. They certainly didn’t bring their A-game last Thursday, with a strong defensive effort and a dubious out-of-bounds call being the biggest factors in the 26-14 win. It was also a huge boost to the ACC, which avoided losing a BCS title hopeful for the second straight September. I won’t be fanning the conspiracy flames here, but you can jump to whatever conclusions you’d like…

2. Georgia Tech‘s a Coastal Division contender this year: Things looked grim against North Carolina for awhile on Saturday, but after starting down 20-7, the defense rallied, the offense got going and tech came away with a big conference victory. The win gives the Yellow Jackets a nice head start on their Coastal competition — namely fellow supposed contender UNC. There’s still Miami to deal with of course, but a hard-fought, complete win like this one certainly gives a lot more credence to this team, which is now 3-0 on the year (2-0 in the conference).

3. The Terrel Hunt era has officially begun: Forget whatever it is you think you know about this Syracuse team, because since Hunt’s taken over, everything looks and feels different for the Orange. Yes, he’s primarily faced weak competition, but that shouldn’t take away from the great success he’s had in what’s amounted to just two games (one start). The redshirt sophomore has shown himself to be tough, dynamic and a smart playmaker; all qualities it appeared the Orange lacked through the first two contests. Of course, the defense is still a bit of an issue, but if the offense can score like this, it becomes a much lesser concern.

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ACC Football 2013 Week 3 Lessons: Is This the Best Virginia Tech Defense Frank Beamer’s Ever Had?

Thanks to Detrick Bonner and Others, Virginia Tech's Defense is Reaching New Heights

Thanks to Detrick Bonner and Others, Virginia Tech’s Defense is Reaching New Heights

Each Monday morning (or sometimes Tuesday), we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 3 of the ACC football season:

1. Is this Virginia Tech‘s best defense yet?: Through three games, it just might be. The Hokies have not allowed more than 206 yards in any contest so far, and have already forced seven turnovers on defense (tied for 11th-best in the country). Obviously, the offense has presented its fair share of troubles for this team, but thus far, it’s had a minimal effect. Their stellar secondary stops passes in their tracks, while the Hokies’ sack rate is already way up. The two go hand in hand of course, and as long as that type of pressure continues, so should the turnovers, keeping them in every game for the rest of the year.

2. Florida State continues to roll: In a much different way than the first game, obviously, but FSU still looked absolutely dominant in a 62-7 victory over Nevada on Saturday. Jameis Winston was extremely accurate once again, though he didn’t need to carry the offense at all and only put up 214 yards through the air. He was supported heavily be the ‘Noles run game this time around, with a whopping 377 yards and six scores on the ground in total (including one by Winston himself). The redshirt freshman is still on fire though, with eight total scores versus just five incomplete passes, and shows no signs of slowing down.

3. Syracuse now has a full blown quarterback controversy: There were calls for Drew Allen to be replaced after struggling for the first two games, and when he came out the gate sputtering once again against Wagner, it seemed like the final straw. After being replaced by backup Terrel Hunt, the Orange proceeded to rack up points in droves, piling 54 on the Seahawks while Hunt completed 17 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns. Of course, it’s a weak opponent, but Hunt has shown more in very limited action this season than Allen has in over two full games. No comment on who’s starting next weekend, but this is now a full-blown controversy at SU.

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