Tied at 13 in the fourth quarter, fans roaring down in Tallahassee, Florida State was poised to spring the upset. Even with starting quarterback E.J. Manuel sidelined by injury, the Seminoles were in the game, with a real chance of beating the #1 team in the country. Unfortunately for Seminole and ACC fans, the Oklahoma Sooners proved their championship mettle by scoring 10 points to put the game away, while shelving, at least for now, any championship dreams. But given the fact that the Semionles were run off the field in this matchup last year, the fact that they ran with a top national contender for 3 1/2 quarters let the team know they can compete at the national level. For too long, watching ACC teams go up against the best and lose, often by wide margins, you could tell they couldn’t measure up. While the result wasn’t the marking point that said ACC football is back, it definitely showed that things are on the rise.
As far as the other matchups involving ACC teams against ranked teams, the Miami Hurricanes made a resounding return to the win column with a 24-6 victory over Ohio State. Clemson roared back from an early deficit to break Auburn’s 17-game winning streak by defeating the SEC Tigers, 38-24. Maryland got within 3 points late, but couldn’t overcome the hole it had dug against West Virginia, as the Mountaineers held on for a 37-31 win. So in the big four games from last weekend, the ACC split, with all four games showing that the ACC had improved, but still couldn’t quite get over the hump. Certainly disclaimers were handed out for Miami’s and Clemson’s victories; Ohio State had players suspended (and so did Miami, as it happens), and Auburn wasn’t the same team that won the national championship-but they were undefeated coming into the game. So while they didn’t completely succeed, the weekend was a success overall.
Perhaps the most surprising performance involved another ACC-BCS matchup. Georgia Tech rolled up almost 800 yards of offense, with 604 yards rushing in a rout of Kansas, avenging a loss from last season. Paul Johnson’s triple option attack is currently leading the nation in rushing, but will face it’s toughest test yet in a matchup against the Tar Heels, themselves also surprisingly unbeaten. The Tar Heels moved to 3-0 by beating Virginia in their first conference game over the weekend. Duke also won a conference game, squeaking by Boston College when a last second field-goal hit the upright. Rounding out the weekend, N.C. State, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest all posted victories.
The other big conference game scheduled for the upcoming weekend has Clemson hosting Florida State in what could be a huge Atlantic Division game. Florida State has to rebound from the tough loss to the Sooners and get ready for a Clemson team riding high off the big win over Auburn. It is unclear if the Seminoles will have Manuel back at this writing, but if he can’t go, the defense will have to rise to the occasion in a tough road test. Elsewhere, the Wolfpack of N.C. State kick things off Thursday night with a trip to Cincinnati in another out of conference matchup, Boston College looks for its first win with a home game against FCS Massachusetts, and Virginia Tech heads to Marshall in the only out of conference road game on the schedule. Finally, Duke, Maryland, Miami and Virginia all have out of conference home games with Tulane, Temple, Kansas State and Southern Mississippi respectively. Wake Forest has the week off.
Of course, the conference made a statement off the field that threatened to overshadow Saturday’s games, but that has already been covered...