What we learned in the ACC: Week 7

October, 16, 2011
10/16/11
10:00
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Here’s a look at the lessons learned in Week 7:

Georgia Tech no longer owns the Coastal Division. Thanks to rival Virginia, Virginia Tech’s chances of defending its division title just got better. The Hokies and Yellow Jackets both now have one conference loss each, and they still haven’t played each other. Virginia isn’t far behind with two conference losses, and don’t count out a three-loss team just yet. It’s happened before in the ACC. The bottom line: Virginia opened up the conference race, and shocked the college football world in the process.

The Virginia Tech-Miami game in Week 6 looks like a turning point for both teams. In retrospect, this was a bounce-back game for both programs, even though Virginia Tech came out with the win. For the Hurricanes, their second-half effort against the Hokies carried over to their win against North Carolina this past weekend, and gave the Canes their first league win of the season. For Virginia Tech, the offense gained a confidence against Miami and quarterback Logan Thomas continued to build off that breakout performance in the win over Wake Forest. Both teams started to find an identity in Week 6, and despite a sluggish start, neither team has quit.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskySammy Watkins found the end zone three times in Clemson's win over Maryland.
Clemson freshman Sammy Watkins is the new C.J. Spiller. Only better. With his 345 all-purpose yards against Maryland, Watkins surpassed Spiller’s previous school record of 312. Watkins also became the second freshman to score three touchdowns in a game. With his eight receptions against Maryland, Watkins now has five of the top 12 single-game freshman bests in school history. His 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter changed the game. Thanks to Watkins, the Tigers stand alone in the ACC.

Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown has taken control of the Terps’ offense. You have to wonder how much longer Danny O'Brien will stick around. Coach Randy Edsall’s decision to bench O’Brien, the 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year, was perplexing, but Brown proved him right against Clemson, as Maryland’s spread offense looked arguably the best it has all season. Brown rushed for 162 yards, a school record for a quarterback, and threw for three touchdowns in the 56-45 loss to Clemson.

Florida State isn’t back, but quarterback EJ Manuel is. This is what Manuel looks like when he’s healthy -- and when he’s throwing against Duke. The Seminoles’ offense came to life with Manuel back in the starting lineup on Saturday, as he threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns and was also the team’s second-leading rusher with 62 yards and two more touchdowns. Last week, when he came in off the bench in an “emergency situation” against Wake Forest, Manuel threw two interceptions. Against Duke he was turnover-free, and the Noles got their first conference win of the season.

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