What we learned in the ACC: Week 8

October, 21, 2012
10/21/12
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Here’s a look at the lessons learned in the ACC in Week 8, in no particular order:

[+] EnlargeSean Renfree
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesSean Renfree led Duke pas North Carolina on Saturday and to the top of the Coastal Division standings.
1. Duke is bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. This was the biggest story in the ACC this weekend, as Duke rose to the top of the Coastal Division standings with its 33-30 come-from-behind win over rival North Carolina. Duke finally reached the six-win mark, and it did it against a team that beat Miami and Virginia Tech. One week after getting shut out in the final three quarters of a 41-20 loss at Virginia Tech, the Blue Devils bounced back and proved this season is definitely different in Durham.

2. Losses in the Coastal Division? No problem. Virginia Tech could be 7-5 and win this thing. Miami still controls its own destiny, despite a three-game losing streak. Oh, and Duke is leading the division standings and UNC is ineligible. Any other questions? This race is going to come down to November, whether it’s the Virginia Tech-at-Miami game on Thursday night or, heck, even the regular-season finale between Miami and Duke in Durham. Virginia Tech and Miami both lost ACC games this past weekend, and as far as the Coastal Division race is concerned, it didn’t matter too much.

3. Maryland was relentless, and NC State was lucky. The Wolfpack barely hung on in a 20-18 win in College Park and allowed the game to come down to a missed field goal as time expired. The Terps lost quarterback Perry Hills to a knee injury late in the second quarter and had to use two other quarterbacks to get through the game. NC State is notorious for its letdowns after big wins but narrowly escaped falling into that trap again. Tom O’Brien snapped his 13-game road losing streak against Atlantic Division opponents -- just barely.

4. Clemson’s defense is getting better. The Tigers’ much-maligned group had one of its best games of the season against the Hokies. Safety Jonathan Meeks had two of the Tigers’ three interceptions, and Virginia Tech finished with four turnovers. The Tigers held the Hokies to 60 yards of total offense in the third quarter and came up with some critical fourth-down stops.

5. The official pecking order in the Sunshine State: 1. Florida. 2. Florida State. 3. Miami. For each of the past two years, Florida State has won the unofficial state championship, and it’s still possible to do it again. Based on what we saw this weekend, though, there is a new hierarchy. The Gators absolutely hammered South Carolina in a 44-11 win Saturday. Miami put forth a good effort in the first half against the Noles, who had some problems of their own with 12 penalties and five fumbles -- two of which were lost. The November game between Florida State and Florida will be the final answer on this, but as of right now? Will Muschamp owns the state.

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