Midway through the season, both divisions in the ACC seem to be in chaos. The difference is that only one actually seems to matter.
That would be the Coastal Division, where the three best teams — Virginia Tech, Miami and Georgia Tech — have all taken a game from each other after the Yellow Jackets 28-23 win over the Hokies.
(For the record, Virginia actually leads the Coastal and remains the only ACC team without a conference loss, but I challenge you to find someone outside Charlottesville who actually thinks the Cavaliers are going to finish ahead of all three of those teams.)
Georgia Tech’s win pretty much ensures that we’re going to get an exciting finish in the Coastal and could give us a chance to see how well a three-way tiebraker can be done with one-loss teams. As sweet as the game was for the Jackets, it was a major disappointment for a Virginia Tech team that still had a shot at playing for the national title. The Hokies’ loss also weakened the ACC’s hopes of putting two teams in BCS bowls, although Miami and Georgia Tech are 10th and 12th in the initial BCS standings, and Virginia Tech isn’t far behind at No. 14.
On the other side of the standings, the Atlantic Division is looking more and more like the Big 12 North, circa 2004. Florida State and N.C. State, two of the preseason favorites in the division, have been exposed as frauds. Wake Forest entered the weekend with a chance to put some distance between itself and the rest of the division but crumbled instead. Clemson, the team Wake lost to, has shown flashes of dominance but remains inconsistent. Maryland really isn’t even worth mentioning. And Boston College, now the Atlantic leader, has probably looked the best of anyone in the division but has yet to prove it can win away from home.
That’s a common theme in the Atlantic. The six teams in the division are collectively 1-12 on the road, including 0-9 in the conference. It’s called home-field advantage for a reason, but at some point, a team has to win a game or two on the road to be successful.
If you need any more proof about the gap between the divisions, Atlantic teams are 0-6 against the Coastal.
Game of the Week
Georgia Tech 28, Virginia Tech 23. ACC football fans had this game circled on their calendars for months, and it turned out to be a good one. The Virginia Tech defense effectively contained Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense in the first half, but the Ramblin’ Wreck ran wild in the second half. QB Josh Nesbitt led the way with 122 rushing yards and three touchdowns, including a 39-yard touchdown run to put his team up 28-16 with three minutes left. Tyrod Taylor led a quick scoring drive, capped off by a 7-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Williams, to bring the Hokies within five. Virginia Tech couldn’t recover the ensuing onside kick, clinching the win for Georgia Tech.
Player of the Week
Montel Harris, Boston College. N.C. State hadn’t allowed a running back to hit the century mark in any of its first six games. Harris got there by the middle of the second quarter. The BC running back set school records with 264 rushing yards and five touchdowns (and generally made this Wolfpack fan’s Saturday afternoon miserable).
Team on the Rise
Virginia. By all accounts, the Cavaliers’ 20-9 win over Maryland was far from a work of art. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that UVa has won three straight and looks nothing like the team that opened with a 26-14 loss to William & Mary. Al Groh may yet survive another season.
Team on the Decline
Wake Forest. The latest “team to beat” in the Atlantic Division lasted just about as long at the top of the standings as its predecessors. Clemson, which looked like it was on the verge of imploding earlier this week, completely thrashed the Demon Deacons on both sides of the ball in a 38-3 whipping.