What we learned in the ACC: Week 3

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
9:35
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


Week 3 was a little more revealing. Here’s a look at what we learned:

1. Florida State and Miami are to be taken seriously this year. Which is wonderful news, because that’s exactly what the ACC needs, especially when the championship game is in Tampa. FSU came out with a statement win at No. 7 BYU and Miami humbled Georgia Tech on Thursday night. They’ve both had convincing wins against legitimate opponents, reminiscent of how these programs used to play. They’ve both had consistently strong quarterback play, which has been lacking. Miami has the early lead in the return to prominence because of the season-opening win over the Noles, but that being said …

2. The Coastal Division is still up for grabs. Miami exposed weaknesses in Georgia Tech and will win the tiebreaker over the Jackets if it comes to it, but don’t forget about Virginia Tech and North Carolina. The Tar Heels found a freshman phenom -- at least for one game -- in Erik Highsmith who led UNC to a 31-17 win over ECU. The offense came together, despite missing a few key injured players. Yes, Virginia Tech played almost a full game with barely anything to show for it offensively, but this is what the Hokies do -- they find ways to win and leave you wondering how they pulled it off. The Hokies have Miami at home on Saturday, and it’s anybody’s game.

3. Maryland and Virginia have problems that run deeper than their embarrassing losses. And it starts up top. We’re talking big picture here. Recruiting. Coaching. Staff continuity. The whole bit. And it’s unraveling right before Ralph Friedgen’s and Al Groh’s eyes. The Cavaliers are off to an 0-3 start heading into their bye week, and Maryland lost to Middle Tennessee for the second straight year. It’s going to be a long season for these programs.

4. C.J. Spiller has the early lead in the unofficial race between he and Jonathan Dwyer. Both of them have been nicked up -- Dwyer with a shoulder injury against Miami and Spiller with a foot injury against BC. But Spiller’s versatility and explosiveness gives him the edge. Spiller's punt return for a touchdown at 11:33 in the first quarter against BC was the fifth different way he has scored a touchdown in his career. As for their Heisman campaigns? Looks like Jacory Harris has bumped 'em both off the radar.

5. North Carolina's offense can take some hits and keep on moving. The Tar Heels accomplished something important on Saturday -- their first 3-0 start since Mack Brown led UNC to an 8-0 start in 1997. UNC has been looking for receivers and it found an answer against ECU in Highsmith and Jheranie Boyd, both freshmen. The defense played another outstanding game -- recovered a fumble, blocked a field goal and got two sacks from Robert Quinn. The difference this time, though, was that the offense kept up with it.

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