<
>

What we learned: Week 12 in the ACC

Finally, a week that revealed a champion. Here’s a look at what we learned in Week 12:

The Hokies are heading to Charlotte. With its 31-17 win over Miami, Virginia Tech clinched the Coastal Division title and will make its fourth appearance in the ACC championship game in six years. The Hokies have now won nine straight games, the program’s longest streak since 1999, and have a chance to become the ACC’s first undefeated team in conference play since 2000. It was the only half of the equation that was solved this weekend, as Virginia Tech needed to win just one of its two remaining games to win the division.

The Atlantic Division is NC State’s to lose. After their win over rival North Carolina, the Wolfpack are now one win away from representing the Atlantic Division in the ACC championship game, but they have to beat Maryland in the regular-season finale. NC State defeated North Carolina for the fourth straight year, but this time it was able to do it when it meant more than just bragging rights. Maryland needed to beat Florida State to stay in the division race, but the Terps played themselves out of it with the loss to the Noles.

The ACC will fulfill all of its bowl agreements. The ACC has eight guaranteed tie-ins with bowl games and a ninth possible option in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, and it will likely need it as nine teams are now bowl-eligible. Clemson, Georgia Tech and Boston College all took care of business against teams they were expected to beat, and the ACC can avoid the embarrassment of not filling all of its bowl slots.

FSU is ahead of Miami. Heading into this season, coach Randy Shannon said he thought this team had what it takes to take the next step in his fourth season and win a title. Instead, the Canes are once again locked out of the ACC championship game. The Canes haven’t even played for the ACC title since joining the league in 2004. Florida State, meanwhile, is just one season into Jimbo Fisher's career as head coach and the Seminoles have already earned the title of co-champs in the Atlantic Division. With a 6-2 record in conference play -- the best since 2004 -- this team looks ahead of schedule.

Experienced quarterbacks make the difference. Tyrod Taylor beat Stephen Morris, and Christian Ponder beat Danny O’Brien in two of the games that mattered most this past weekend. Injured Miami starter Jacory Harris has been criticized often this year, but it was only a matter of time until Morris’ learning curve was revealed. Unfortunately for the Canes, it came in the fourth quarter when he was intercepted three times in the final nine minutes. For O’Brien, his two interceptions also came in the fourth quarter, and he also had an uncharacteristic fumble early in the game.