In what was the final week of the regular season, there were plenty of lessons to be learned, none bigger than …
Virginia Tech is still king of the Coastal Division. Virginia’s Cinderella story was nice, but the shoe didn’t fit. The Hokies stifled Virginia’s running game, pressured quarterback Michael Rocco and beat the Hoos 38-0 in Virginia’s worst offensive output of the season. Virginia Tech will face Clemson in the ACC championship game. The Cavaliers’ defense had no answer for the dynamic duo of David Wilson and quarterback Logan Thomas. It was still an impressive season for Mike London, but the ACC’s biggest overachievers actually fell below expectations with the Coastal Division on the line.
The SEC is still king of the ACC. It’s painful to write, really it is, but it’s probably more painful this morning to wake up as Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who has now lost three straight to rival South Carolina. The Tigers were hardly the only ones, though, who flopped against their nonconference rivals on Saturday. Georgia Tech lost to Georgia and Wake Forest was humbled by a Vanderbilt team determined to get to a bowl game. Overall, the ACC finished with a 2-3 record against the SEC this year, thanks to Florida State’s win over Florida and Clemson’s win over Auburn.
Al Golden is sticking around. The biggest news to come out of this past weekend’s games was Miami’s announcement that Golden has agreed to a four-year contract extension that will run through Feb. 1, 2020. The announcement, which came during the fourth quarter of Miami’s 24-17 loss to Boston College, should silence the speculation about Golden leaving early either because of the NCAA investigation or for another job like Penn State. It also should help Miami recruit, now that opposing coaches can’t use the uncertainty against Golden.
Don’t count out NC State. The Wolfpack overcame a 27-point deficit and earned the biggest comeback in school history and second-biggest comeback in the ACC with a 56-41 win over Maryland to become bowl eligible. It was a stunning rally by NC State, which trailed 41-14 with six minutes left in the third quarter. The Pack scored 35 points in the fourth quarter, tied for the second most of any FBS team in history that ended up tying or winning the game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Not only did NC State make a comeback in that game, the Pack turned around their fortunes in the second half of the season.
FSU doesn’t have much to brag about. Florida State didn’t beat rival Florida because the Noles were that much better. They got the win because the Gators are that much worse. Florida State won the unofficial state championship, but lost its offense somewhere in the second half of the season. The Noles had only 95 yards of total offense against Florida -- and still won! All three of Florida State’s touchdowns were set up by interceptions. It was another good performance by the defense, but as far as the rivalry game goes? This year’s was a dud.