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Sunday, October 14, 2012
What we learned in the ACC: Week 7

By Heather Dinich

There were only four games, but plenty of action in the ACC this past weekend. Here’s a look at what we learned from Week 7:

1. Virginia Tech still has it. The Hokies had a horrendous start -- both to the season and in the first quarter against Duke -- but the Coastal Division favorites have developed a reputation for their comebacks. Not even Frank Beamer, though, had seen one like this. Virginia Tech overcame a 20-point deficit in the first quarter for the biggest comeback in Beamer’s tenure. Prior to Saturday, Virginia Tech had never won a game under Beamer when giving up 15 or more points in the first quarter. The Hokies scored 41 unanswered points to remain in contention for the division title. It was the kind of convincing comeback that could be the turning point in Virginia Tech’s season.

Giovani Bernard
Giovani Bernard gave Miami's defense all it could handle in North Carolina's 18-14 victory.
2. Reality set in for Duke and Miami. Both were undefeated in league play heading into this weekend and leading the Coastal Division standings -- they were the Cinderellas of the ACC -- but they were both humbled in their respective losses this weekend. North Carolina handed Miami its first ACC loss of the season, and Duke? Well, see No. 1. The Blue Devils had a chance to become the ACC’s first bowl-eligible team, but were beaten soundly for the final three quarters and finished with four turnovers. Miami’s rushing defense continued to struggle and had no answer for tailback Giovani Bernard. Both programs are still in the division race, but they were unable to further distance themselves from the rest of the pack.

3. Florida State is still chasing goals. It didn’t start out as the prettiest of performances, but Boston College was just the doormat FSU needed to make itself feel good again after a deflating road loss to NC State last week. The Seminoles have likely lost their shot at the national title, but know they can still have an impressive one-loss season and win the ACC title and play in the Discover Orange Bowl if they finish strong. Saturday’s win over Boston College showed they were able to put the loss to the Wolfpack behind them and move on -- for over 600 total yards.

4. Maryland is leading the Atlantic Division -- for now. At 2-0 in league play, Maryland is the only ACC team to remain undefeated in league play. Coach Randy Edsall deserves credit for a turnaround after last year’s 2-10 finish. Anyone who has actually watched the Terps, though, knows this success could be short-lived. Maryland ran for minus-2 yards in the win over Virginia, and has relied on its defense to win games. So far, that plan has worked -- against a Wake Forest team that had six suspended players, and against a Virginia team that has now lost five straight. Tougher competition lies ahead, but Maryland has certainly turned things around in Year 2 under Edsall and positioned itself for a bowl game.

5. The ACC race is even more wide open than it was a week ago. With Maryland’s win, and losses by Duke and Miami, the ACC standings are a jumbled mess. Four teams -- Virginia Tech, Miami, Duke and North Carolina -- have one conference loss in the Coastal Division, and three teams -- Clemson, NC State and Florida State -- have one league loss in the Atlantic Division. We’re at the midpoint of the season, and no one team -- not even FSU -- has distanced itself enough to appear the undisputed front-runner.