- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here’s a look at what we learned in the ACC:
Virginia Tech is the runaway favorite: Since its loss to James Madison on Sept. 11, Virginia Tech has been the most consistent team in the ACC. The Hokies remain the only ACC team still undefeated in conference play after Florida State’s loss to NC State, and Virginia Tech further distanced itself from the pack with the help of Virginia, which upset No. 22 Miami. It’s possible, though, that the best way to protect a lead in the ACC standings is to have a bye week. The Hokies will be tested on Thursday night in a home game against Georgia Tech.
NC State has turned the corner under coach Tom O’Brien: The 28-24 win against No. 16 Florida State was one of the biggest NC State had seen since O’Brien arrived in Raleigh, and it’s the first time the Wolfpack have been bowl-eligible before November since 2003. NC State is in the midst of its best season since the Philip Rivers era, and controls its own destiny in the Atlantic Division. The Pack will be catching Clemson when it’s down this weekend, but it’s never easy to play in Death Valley.
Virginia coach Mike London and Miami coach Randy Shannon are heading in opposite directions: Not just on the scoreboard, where London got the edge over the No. 22-ranked Canes, but in their careers. In his first season at Virginia, London managed to win four games before November, including the program’s first win against a ranked opponent since October, 2008. Shannon, meanwhile, has yet to do much of anything in four seasons. London, in his first season as a coach at the FBS level, has already won a championship at the FCS level. Shannon is still waiting for his first Coastal Division title, and took another step backward in that quest on Saturday.
The Terps’ turnaround is complete – and they’re not done yet: Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen has made a solid case for the ACC’s Coach of the Year after taking the Terps from 2-10 to bowl eligible before November. Maryland is tied with NC State for second place behind Florida State in the Atlantic Division standings, and controls its own destiny with both teams still on the schedule. Regardless of the quality of Maryland’s opponents, every win counts, and Friedgen has enough of them to earn some respect and likely keep his job another year.
BC’s bowl hopes aren’t toast yet: With the surprise win against Clemson, Boston College is now three wins away from bowl eligibility. And there are definitely three winnable games still remaining, as BC’s final stretch is against ACC programs that have combined for an 8-16 record. The toughest opponent remaining? Syracuse. The problem for BC is that three of the final four games are on the road, with Virginia the lone home game on Nov. 20.