We are all pumped for this weekend's matchup between the ACC's two highest-ranked teams. But before we move ahead, let's take one final look back at the weekend that got us here in the ACC.
The good: As mentioned before, we still have this weekend's showdown to look forward to. That's because Clemson avoided well, you know. Steve Addazio and Boston College deserve all the credit in the world for challenging everyone in conference play so far, and they are not taking solace in any type of moral victories. That said, the Tigers averted a crisis by coming back from a fourth-quarter deficit and pulling out a 24-14 home win Saturday. Now they get a shot at Florida State this coming weekend, in a game with national title and Heisman Trophy implications on the line.
The bad: NC State looked to be in a pretty good situation as recently as two weeks ago, as it had just blown out Central Michigan after taking a pretty good shot at Clemson. A relatively easy slate that featured upcoming games against Wake Forest and Syracuse made a 5-1 start seem like a real possibility, with who knows what else to come. Instead, the Wolfpack have dropped both of those games, the most recent coming in Saturday's 24-10 home loss to the Orange. Florida State awaits after a bye. Maybe, maybe if the Seminoles beat Clemson, they will be prime for a letdown -- and we all know how potent NC State can be against FSU in such a situation -- but the path to bowl eligibility looks a bit more difficult now than it did just a short time ago for a program that is now 0-3 in conference play.
The ugly: Georgia Tech is similar to NC State in the quick turnaround department. The Yellow Jackets have followed three straight wins with three straight losses, the latest a 38-20 defeat Saturday at BYU. A defense that looked so much better through three games under new coordinator Ted Roof has now given up 83 points over its last two games, though it has not been helped out by an offense that has thrown a pick-six in each of those contests. Still, it may be time to wonder if this team will go bowling, considering it has a back-loaded schedule that features Clemson and Georgia, along with the fact that one of its remaining games is against FCS Alabama A&M, the second of Tech's FCS opponents this year (Elon, Week 1), meaning it needs seven wins to be postseason eligible.
The return: Anthony Boone returned after missing three games with a broken collarbone and delivered the best performance of his career, hitting on 31 of 38 throws for 295 yards and three touchdowns in Duke's 35-7 win over Navy. Boone filled in for Brandon Connette, who hurt his ankle this week and forced Boone, the Blue Devils' original No. 1 quarterback, back into action (Boone found out about the decision just minutes before kickoff). Boone's completions, attempts and passing yards were all career highs for 4-2 Duke.
The nation's best ... defense? Yes, it is a fair question to ask in Blacksburg, Va., especially after watching what Virginia Tech did to Pitt in its 19-9 victory to win its sixth straight contest and gain bowl eligibility for the 21st straight season -- one year after needing to win its final two games to reach the postseason. The Hokies sacked Panthers quarterback Tom Savage eight times, had 10 tackles for loss and held Pitt to just 210 yards of total offense. Virginia Tech now ranks No. 4 nationally in total defense, first in total sacks, tied for first in interceptions and tied for seventh in turnovers forced. Quarterback Logan Thomas' improved play makes this team much more complete, too.
The rebound: OK, so it was just a 27-26 win over Virginia, arguably the conference's worst team. But for a Maryland team coming off a 63-0 loss at Florida State, well, it will take the victory, win No. 5 on the season. The Terrapins were also playing without quarterback C.J. Brown (concussion), but backup Caleb Rowe stepped in and completed 18 of 34 passes for 332 yards and a touchdown. They notched a win over one of their oldest rivals in what was the last meeting for the foreseeable future (the Big Ten-bound Terps have played the Cavaliers every single year since 1957).
The history: Yes, Saturday's win in Raleigh, N.C., was noteworthy for Syracuse, as it marked the Orange's first win in ACC play. It came just a week after their conference debut, in which Clemson did whatever it wanted inside the Carrier Dome in a Tigers rout. Syracuse once again got a huge boost from its ground game, with Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley each eclipsing the 100-yard mark as the team tallied 362 rushing yards. A struggling Georgia Tech team awaits, followed by Wake Forest and Maryland. So the chance for the Orange to build some momentum off this win will be there, though they will need better quarterback play.
The quote: Clemson's Vic Beasley, on this weekend's showdown with Florida State, via the Charleston Post and Courier's Aaron Brenner: "It may be the biggest game in ACC history. We don’t know. But our goal is to win a national championship."