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What we learned in the ACC: Week 6

10/5/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

1. It's not the "Almost Competitive Conference," it's an "Absolutely Competitive Conference." At least it is when they're left to fight amongst themselves. The ACC isn't the best in the BCS, but it might be the most competitive. We're not talking five teams bunched at the top here, we're talking all 12, and Virginia (2-3, 1-1 ACC) proved it with its win against Maryland (4-2, 1-1). Trying to find a clear-cut winner in the ACC this season is like trying to find the right John Smith in the phone book. They're all looking pretty similar right now. Only Virginia Tech and Wake Forest haven't lost an ACC game yet, but overall, everyone has shown their vulnerability. The only two teams looking from the outside in are Miami and NC State, as they're the lone teams winless in league play, but both looked respectable in their losses.

2. That being said, Miami probably played its way out of the running for the Coastal Division title. It was a gritty second-half performance, but too much to overcome. With Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Georgia Tech at the top of the standings with one loss, it's going to be hard for a two-loss team to play for the ACC title. Miami is 0-2 in league play and 2-3 overall. Then again, considering No. 1 on this list, who knows? Miami is a team brimming with young talent and could put it all together in the second half of the season, just as it did in the second half against Florida State. Odds are, though, the Hurricanes are a year or two away from being the team fans would like to see.

3. Boston College and Virginia have offenses. It just took a while for them to find it. Quarterbacks Chris Crane and Marc Verica both had career days in winning performances and redeemed themselves after rocky starts to the season. Both of them were put into tough situations - Crane having to replace Matt Ryan and Verica having to replace two starting quarterbacks. They faced doubt from the outside but were put in positions to succeed by their offensive coordinators. The question now is whether they can build off of their recent success.

4. Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder can run. Remember a few weeks ago, when Jimbo Fisher said something along the lines of, "one's a better runner than y'all think, and the other is a better thrower than y'all think?" Well, he was referring to Ponder's ability to run and D'Vontrey Richardson's ability to throw, and after watching Ponder rack up over 100 yards on the ground against Miami, it's obvious Fisher wasn't being flippant. Ponder appears to have asserted himself as the leader of this offense. It's his team now.

5. Duke still has a long way to go before it is a legitimate contender in the ACC. David Cutcliffe is right in that there is so much work to do to overhaul the Duke football program it's not necessarily fair to measure their progress in wins and losses. The Blue Devils have indeed taken steps toward being competitive again, but Georgia Tech exposed the gap between where Duke is and where it needs to be.