At the halfway point of the season, a look at what is the same, and what is different in this ACC football year:
Same: Teams knocking each other off. Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, previously unbeaten in conference play, suffered their first losses on Saturday-to Virginia Tech and Virginia respectively. Those losses leave Clemson as the only unbeaten team in conference play after the Tigers outlasted Maryland later in the evening.
Different: Clemson beating Maryland. That’s not to say Clemson never beats the Terps; it just means that in previous seasons talented Tiger teams with high expectations and often favored to win would find themselves losing to the Terps, often after beating other good teams. That this Clemson team didn’t fall victim this time might mean things will be different this time around.
Same: Jumbled conference races. Clemson is in control in the Atlantic Division, but Wake lurks just a game behind. If they both get past the next two weeks, their meeting on November 12 could be for first place in the division. The seeming calm in the Atlantic is contrasted by the chaos in the Coastal as all six teams are within 2 games of first place. The Yellow Jackeets are still on top, followed closely by the Hokies. North Carolina and Miami, each with two conference losses, aren’t totally out of it, but they need to start getting some wins.
Different: An ACC team still in the national conversation in mid-October. With unbeaten Clemson ranking in the top ten in the polls and the BCS standings, the Tigers have hung around and made themselves a name in the national picture. While they are on the outside looking in at a national championship game berth (and probably will stay that way), if they finish strong they will still be considered one of the best teams in the country, something an ACC squad hasn’t had happen for a while. But before we get ahead of ourselves, Clemson has to win the title, and then the BCS game it gets an invite to.
Same: Florida State being not quite back to prominence. Although it started out as everyone thinking they were about to regain their stature as one of the great teams in college football, a three game losing streak derailed their comeback. Though they beat Duke to stop the streak on Saturday, the Seminoles are tied for third in the Atlantic Division with Maryland. The two teams square off in Tallahassee on Saturday, with the winner keeping its bowl game chances alive, while the loser may be on the outside looking in at going to a bowl game after the season.
Different (at this point in the season): no bye weeks and all teams playing conference games. The matchups for the weekend:
North Carolina vs. Clemson-The Tar Heels need another conference win to hang in the Coastal Division race. What bigger win would there be than this?
Wake Forest vs. Duke-Can Tanner Price keep the Deacons in the Atlantic Division hunt? A win over the Blue Devils would do the trick.
Boston College vs. Virginia Tech-BC now enters the tough part of the schedule looking for wins. They will find them hard to get, beginning here in Lane Stadium against the rejuvenated Hokies.
Georgia Tech vs. Miami-If Miami wants to make some noise in the Coastal Division race, it has to start with a takedown of the Yellow Jackets. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes won’t have two weeks to get ready for the triple option attack like the Cavaliers did.
Maryland vs. Florida State-C.J. Brown had his coming out party against Clemson, but can he keep it up against the Seminoles in Tallahassee? And if not, will Randy Edsall bring back Danny O’Brien?
N.C. State vs. Virginia-Virginia needs to prove that the win over the Yellow Jackets signals forward progress for the program. Keeping the momentum going against a struggling N.C. State team would mark another step in the right direction.