- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Sooo ... now what?
Florida State beat Clemson in what is likely to amount to the Atlantic Division championship game. Georgia Tech has all but played its way out of the Coastal Division race with two losses to division opponents.
Will the next nine Saturdays in the ACC really be as anticlimactic as they look right now?
Not in the ACC. Not possibly. Not in a league where a struggling, young Miami defense goes on the road and beats Georgia Tech. Not in a conference where a ranked Virginia Tech team loses to a pedestrian Pitt team. The ACC has developed a reputation for its unpredictability, and with a Coastal Division race that’s slowly unfolding and three teams that have yet to start conference play, there are still plenty of reasons to tune in.
The No. 1 reason is that Florida State’s season hasn’t ended yet and NC State’s is just beginning.
The Seminoles are hands-down the best team in the ACC this season. They’re also one of the best teams in the country. It’s a more mature, more focused group that is a legitimate national title contender with a Heisman-caliber quarterback in EJ Manuel. But FSU still travels to NC State, which is riding a three-game winning streak heading into its first conference game of the season. FSU still travels to rival Miami, which is 2-0 in conference play. And the Noles still travel to Blacksburg on a Thursday night. The rest of the Atlantic Division won't roll over for FSU. Expect the exact opposite: FSU will get everyone’s best shot.
Three ACC teams -- NC State, Maryland and Duke -- have yet to play a conference game. Three teams -- Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech -- have yet to lose a conference game. With only one league loss, Virginia is just as much in the mix as anyone else. And Duke is already halfway to a bowl game. (Yes, Duke.)
Another very real possibility at this point: the long-awaited matchup between Florida State and Miami in the ACC championship game.
Virginia Tech’s Thursday night game at Miami on Nov. 1 could turn out to be a season-defining game in the Coastal Division race. And college football fans still want to keep an eye on Clemson. Although the Tigers lost control of their own destiny in the Atlantic Division race Saturday and need Florida State to lose to get back in the conversation, a one-loss season could add up to another at-large BCS bid for the ACC.
Or, knowing Clemson, the Tigers might lose at BC this weekend.
Saturday felt like November in the ACC, but there is still plenty to play for and even more to lose.
1hSam Khan Jr.
1dMax Olson and Jake Trotter