It wasn’t a good week for the ACC. Or for the Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech fans who are still in denial. Here’s a look at five lessons learned from Week 5, in no particular order. This post isn’t for the squeamish.
1. The Big East > ACC -- for now. With Virginia Tech’s loss to Cincinnati, the ACC dropped to 3-4 against the Big East this year, with losses to Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Louisville. Florida State avoided a letdown against South Florida, but Virginia Tech’s 0-2 record against the Big East this month gives the ACC no room to talk any trash this year. Maryland’s win over Temple and NC State’s win over UConn don’t exactly qualify as bragging rights. Considering the ACC is adding Pitt and Syracuse to the league next year, this is only further ammunition for the Big East against the ACC. You know what they say: If you can't beat 'em, recruit 'em.
2. With the exception of Florida State, the ACC is still the ACC. It seems as though every year, ACC front-runners are losing to opponents they shouldn’t. It’s not just failing to show up on the big stage or in bowl games; it’s also the losses to MTSU, Cincinnati and Louisiana Tech that kill the ACC’s image. If it weren’t for the national title contenders in the Atlantic Division, the point-and-laugh routine would have been even worse this weekend. No. 4-ranked FSU is the only team with a winning league record in the Atlantic Division right now, and Duke and Miami are leading the Coastal Division. Say what?
3. Miami is the front-runner in the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech lost to Cincinnati. Georgia Tech lost to Middle Tennessee. And Virginia lost to Louisiana Tech. Granted, they were all nonconference games, but right now, the Hurricanes are showing more heart than any of them. For the second straight weekend, Miami dug deep and found a way to win a close game, this time a last-minute thriller at home against NC State. It’s Miami’s first three-game winning streak since 2009 and its first 3-0 ACC start since 2004 -- the first season in the conference. The young Canes have exceeded expectations and are playing with an emotion that stems from the top. Al Golden is starting his campaign for ACC's Coach of the Year.
4. Duke is different. The Blue Devils finally got a marquee road win against an ACC opponent, and that in itself is a sign that things have changed under coach David Cutcliffe. Duke’s 4-1 start is its best since 1994, when Duke was 5-0 and went to a bowl game for the last time. Duke snapped a 12-game losing streak to Wake Forest on Saturday and got one step closer to bowl eligibility. Duke has seemingly always found a way to come out on the wrong end of close games, but it finally got over the hump against the Deacs, and it did it with an injury-depleted roster. Duke’s offense is rolling. Duke has scored 185 points through the first five games, the highest five-game total to open a season in school history. Don’t look now, but Duke has the same record as Clemson and Miami.
5. Clemson didn’t “pull a Clemson.” One week after losing an emotional game to Florida State, the Tigers went on the road and beat a tough Boston College team without receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. Quarterback Tajh Boyd called a team meeting earlier in the week, and his four touchdowns and 409 yards of total offense made sure it wasn’t just hollow talk. It was an important win for Clemson, which is notorious for its letdowns and crucial to the ACC’s hopes of having two BCS bowl teams for the second straight year. The Tigers also helped the perception of the Noles’ strength of schedule by avoiding a letdown.