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Sunday, October 26, 2008
What we learned in the ACC: Week 9


Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Virginia's ascension from bottom to top is complete. The Cavaliers answered the one question still hanging out there: Can they win on the road? Not only did they manage that, but they did it against one of the better teams in the ACC, and they did it on Georgia Tech's homecoming. It's time for Al Groh to start to get some serious ACC Coach of the Year consideration. And it's time for everyone to stop grouping Maryland's loss to Virginia in the same sentence as the Terps' loss to Middle Tennessee. Could Maryland have played better at UVa? Absolutely. In retrospect, though, that day should be more about what Virginia did than what Maryland didn't. That game started a four-game winning streak for Virginia that has since boosted the Cavs from the bottom of the league standings to the top this week. That said ...

The Coastal is still confusing, but Miami, Virginia and Virginia Tech have an edge. Despite Miami's back-to-back wins and Virginia being the hottest team in the division right now, it's still anybody's game. Try and follow this: Miami lost to North Carolina. North Carolina lost to Virginia. Virginia lost to Duke. Duke lost to Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech lost to Virginia. Virginia Tech is the only team in the division that hasn't lost to another Coastal Division opponent. And Virginia still plays Miami and Virginia Tech. The teams hurting the most right now are Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Duke, which each have lost two division games.

Florida State and Maryland have separated themselves from the rest of the Atlantic Division. Finally. Some front-runners. Maryland is actually in a better position because, with its win over NC State this weekend, it still doesn't have any losses to Atlantic Division opponents. FSU isn't as fortunate because of its early loss to Wake Forest. The Seminoles need to win out in order to win the division, and for that to happen, they're going to have to beat the Terps on Nov. 22. The Seminoles are the only one-loss (overall) team remaining in the ACC.

North Carolina can still win -- and win big -- without injured star Brandon Tate. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks knew he had a breakout performance in him and he was a major reason why the Tar Heels became bowl eligible for the first time in four years. Cam Sexton has also proved to be a winning alternative to injured starter T.J. Yates. Their 24-point second quarter was the most productive period they've had in eight years. They finally put it all together in what coach Butch Davis called their "most complete game of the season." Impressive, because it came with an incomplete roster.

Duke is different. I know, it doesn't sound like a newsflash, but in order to really see that the Blue Devils weren't stuck in their old ways, they had to win a game after losing a few. Not only did they come back from back-to-back losses, they did so on the road against a much-improved SEC team trying to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1982. Oh, and it was homecoming, too. David Cutcliffe can join Groh on the list of Coach of the Year candidates. He is 6-0 against Bobby Johnson as a head coach. The Blue Devils' biggest problem might be keeping him.