What we learned in the ACC: Week 3

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
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Here’s a look at what we learned in the ACC in Week 3, in no particular order:

1. The Coastal Division is in disarray. With Virginia Tech’s loss to Pitt and Georgia Tech’s win over Virginia, who is the best team in the division? It depends on which day it is, whom you ask and whether Pitt has joined the ACC yet. The Hokies have the edge on paper because of their head-to-head win over the Jackets, but if you actually watched both teams on Saturday, Georgia Tech looked like the better team, and it’s still not out of the division race. North Carolina looked like a different team from one half to the next in a loss to Louisville. Miami is 1-0 in conference play but is still a mistake-prone team looking for its defense. This division is wide-open.

[+] EnlargeClemson's Sammy Watkins
Joshua S. Kelly/US PRESSWIREThe 2012 debut of Clemson star Sammy Watkins included this 58-yard touchdown run.
2. Virginia Tech was overrated. Pitt lost to FCS team Youngstown State at home. Then it got outplayed on the road against Cincinnati. The Panthers were better than they played the first two games, but the Hokies? They’ve been given a little bit too much credit, along with their quarterback. It was a sloppy effort by Virginia Tech, which had four turnovers and allowed 537 yards of total offense. Virginia Tech’s tendency to struggle early and late in the season has to be driving its fan base nuts. The good news for Hokies fans is that their team is still leading the division, but it won’t be for long if it continues to play the way it did at Pitt.

3. Florida State is focused. One of the biggest questions heading into this season was whether Florida State could play with consistency this season. So far, it has not played up or down to an opponent, and on Saturday, it dominated Wake Forest from start to finish. Some questioned whether the Noles would be looking ahead to Saturday’s showdown with Clemson, but there was never even a hint of it. The defense was smothering, and the Deacs couldn’t slow down FSU running back Chris Thompson. This game might not have revealed whether the Noles are deserving of all the preseason hype, but it did tell us that it’s time to take FSU seriously. FSU and Clemson are the only teams in the league that haven’t lost yet.

4. The Big East still has a pulse. The ACC has positioned itself ahead of the Big East in the college football landscape, but it couldn’t edge the struggling conference on the field this weekend, losing all three games. North Carolina’s effort was too little, too late against Louisville; Maryland came up short against UConn in the Edsall Bowl; and Virginia Tech? Well, that might have been the biggest surprise in the country on Saturday -- even over USC’s loss to Stanford. The ACC was doing fairly well against nonconference opponents this year until it ran into the Big East this weekend.

5. Sammy is still Sammy: One of the biggest storylines heading into this week was the return of Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins from his two-game suspension. Well, he looked like he picked up right where he left off in 2011 -- as one of the best players in the country. Watkins had a 58-yard touchdown run in the win over Furman. "It was like he just shot out of a cannon," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said, according to the Associated Press. "It was a thing of beauty." Watkins finished with 119 all-purpose yards.

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