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Sunday, November 15, 2009
What we learned in the ACC: Week 11

By Heather Dinich

With two weeks still remaining in the regular season, we’ve got an answer in the ACC:

Georgia Tech is the Coastal Division winner. And rightfully so. Georgia Tech left no doubt it was the better team in Saturday’s 49-10 romp of Duke and earned a chance to play for the ACC title on Dec. 5 in Tampa. The Yellow Jackets played a complete game and looked like one of the best teams in the country on Saturday. Many wondered before this season whether or not ACC defenses would be better prepared to face Paul Johnson’s spread option offense in the second season, but he constantly answered that question by saying the Jackets would be better at executing it, too, and his players have proven him right.

Clemson is one win away from winning the Atlantic Division. The Tigers showed no signs of a letdown in their 43-23 win over NC State in Raleigh, and need only to beat Virginia this weekend to guarantee the program’s first appearance in the ACC championship game. Boston College kept its hopes alive with a 14-10 win over Virginia, but the Eagles will need Clemson to stumble in final conference game of the season if they’re going to sneak back into the title game for a third straight year.

UNC finally looks like the preseason ranked team we thought it would be. The Tar Heels have now won three straight games, and knocked off two of the ACC’s ranked teams in the process in Virginia Tech and Miami. It’s amazing what a little help from the offense can do for one of the best defenses in the country. Since losing to Georgia Tech, Virginia and Florida State, the Tar Heels have made a remarkable turnaround and now have a bowl bid to prove it. This team looks capable of a nine or 10-win season in Butch Davis’ third year.

Florida State can exhale about its quarterback situation. For rookie E.J. Manuel to go on the road and outplay a veteran quarterback in the most dire of circumstances might be the best glimmer of hope for the future of the program Seminoles’ fans have seen all year. With so many questions surrounding Bobby Bowden’s future, the one thing FSU has been able to count on all year has been the play of its quarterbacks, and Manuel’s poise is a big reason why Florida State has a chance to extend its season with a win over Maryland.

Miami's quarterback causing concern. Jacory Harris began the season as Heisman hopeful, but he’s ending it as one of the nation’s leaders in interceptions. Harris threw four against North Carolina, including two that were returned for touchdowns, and he now has 16 for the season. Only Ohio quarterback Zac Dysert has more in the FBS. It could be because he’s making too many mental mistakes, or because they’re asking the sophomore to do too much. Maybe he’s not getting the protection he needs. Regardless of why, it’s become a noticeable problem for the Canes in the second half of the season.