Florida State Seminoles: Coastal Division

Headed to Greensboro for media day. Make sure you follow the ACC blog team on Twitter: Andrea will be tweeting from @ESPN_ACC, in addition to @DavidHaleESPN, @Matt_Fortuna and @JShankerESPN.

James in North Carolina writes: Do you think there is another division in college football as wide open as the Coastal? I think Duke, VT, Miami, and North Carolina are all very close talent wise, and any of them could beat each other on any given day. I don't feel that Pitt is on the same level, but with the other teams dishing out losses to each other, they could be right there in the mix. The same could be said for Georgia Tech. In my opinion, the only team that I don't think will compete is UVA, but strange things tend to happen in the ACC.

Andrea Adelson writes: The Coastal is without a doubt the most wide open division in college football. I have seen Duke, Virginia Tech and North Carolina all listed as preseason favorites; Miami won nine games last season; I expect Pitt to be much better; Georgia Tech has a long history of success in the Coastal and cannot be counted out; and Virginia will be much better and much more competitive. I would not be surprised if the entire division ended up with bowl eligibility this season, even the Hoos. I still think Duke and North Carolina are the front-runners, followed closely by Virginia Tech, Pitt, Georgia Tech and Miami. The Hokies have a favorable schedule (BC and Wake from the Atlantic) and I am going to go ahead and guarantee they will be better on offense. Virginia Tech and Pitt might be slightly ahead of Georgia Tech and Miami. The Jackets have a lot of question marks on defense, and so does Miami (along with uncertainty at quarterback). Check back next week to see how we each voted in the ACC preseason poll. I wouldn't be surprised if we all pick a different Coastal champ.

Jon in Atlanta writes: Hey AA, I've been looking at a few projections about the ACC Coastal. I think it's pretty safe to say, that no one is a stand out winner. Some have UNC, some VT and some Duke. I would love for my Jackets to sneak in and win it. However, with a new QB and a few questions on the "D" side, I think that will be a tough stretch. I'm thinking it's going to be another 7 win season for us, what's your thoughts? Can we win more?

Adelson writes: I have not been overly optimistic about Georgia Tech this season. Then I read some interesting notes about the Jackets in the Phil Steele college football preview magazine. Did you know the Jackets have a .500 record or better in ACC play for 19 straight seasons -- the longest streak in the country? That stat alone makes it hard to completely discount Georgia Tech. I think Justin Thomas will be an upgrade over Vad Lee, and the offense will be fine. My biggest concern is the defense, particularly up front. Having said that, the nonconference schedule is easier than it has been over the past two seasons, Miami, Clemson and Duke all play in Atlanta and there are no midweek games on the schedule. This team has the potential to win more than seven games.

UM student in SF, Calif., writes: The past month Miami has been tearing it up on the recruiting trail. I mean the 2016 class is already shaping up to be special. I was wondering how much the fact that the NCAA cloud has passed played into this, and how long you think Golden has to step up and win some real games now. Do you think he gets like a clean slate or something?

Adelson writes: NCAA closure has been absolutely huge for Miami. Players who shied away from the Canes, even in-state, are now really giving Miami a close look. I wrote a little bit about the impact in the Tampa area. Golden is not on the hot seat by any stretch. Everybody in the administration knows what he was saddled with over the past three seasons, especially since he took the job and had no idea there would be a major NCAA investigation that would essentially take up every single season he has had to date. As for winning some real games, let's not forget about last season. Yes, it ended in disappointment, but Miami won nine and also beat Florida. The Gators ended up having a disastrous season, but at the time they played, Florida was viewed as the better team. I thought that was a big win for Golden and the program. Now, I know what you are getting at -- getting back to beating Florida State and playing for an ACC championship. Miami has assembled some talent over the past several years, but I still think the Canes are a few years away from consistent 10-12 win seasons. Having said that, I do think Golden deserves some patience. I know expectations are always sky-high at Miami. He wouldn't want it any other way. But at the same time, he has had more on his hands than any other coach in the league.

Wayne in Tallahassee, Fla., writes: Can my Noles learn to stay out of trouble? I know you have to wait for the all facts, but kick (Jesus Wilson) off the team and set an example. I'm tired of seeing this!

Adelson writes: I understand your frustration. Certainly, you are not the first college football fan tired of seeing athletes getting into trouble. Will kicking him off the team set an example? This year, Jimbo Fisher kicked Ira Denson off the team after he was charged with petty theft and the illegal use of a credit card. Wilson still got into trouble. Now, I realize the cases are different and it is sometimes hard to compare each offense. Denson allegedly perpetrated a crime against a teammate; Wilson allegedly stole a scooter. Should a coach kick every player off the team who is arrested and charged with a crime? How does a coach prevent athletes from getting arrested? These are all difficult questions each coach must face.

Eds note: Earlier this week, I profiled Clemson offensive lineman Kalon Davis and his study abroad trip to Kyoto, Japan. Tragically, professor E. Leslie Williams -- who led the trip -- died suddenly last week. Thoughts and prayers are with Davis, Williams and the Clemson family.

ACC's lunch links

January, 28, 2014
Can't play much better than Duke did Monday.
We’ve spent some time this week looking back at the ACC’s accomplishments in 2013, but there’s always room for improvement -- even in a national championship season. The poor performances by Wake Forest and NC State in the Atlantic Division were glaring, and the lack of separation in the Coastal Division elicited criticism of mediocrity, not parity. So how can the ACC do better in 2014? Well, dream big.

Here are three things the ACC could do in 2014 to further build upon this past season’s success:

[+] EnlargeDavid Cutcliffe
Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY SportsDuke's rise in the Coastal Division was a great story, but the ACC needs more out of the other teams in the division.
1. Boost the strength of the Coastal Division. Five of the seven teams in the division finished with at least five losses. Duke was the only team in the division to finish the season ranked in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll. North Carolina and Pitt were the only teams in the division to win bowl games. The entire division could use a face lift, starting with Virginia Tech and Miami. After back-to-back pedestrian seasons, the Hokies have faded into the background of the Coastal Division race. Once one of the league’s premier and consistently ranked teams, Virginia Tech has been leapfrogged -- and beaten -- by Duke. Miami, meanwhile, has yet to play in the ACC championship game since joining the league, and the better Miami is, the better the ACC looks. From top to bottom, this division has to get better.

2. Have at least four teams ranked in the Top 25. It would certainly help make an argument against the SEC, which finished with four teams ranked in the top 10. Or the Pac-12, which finished with six ranked teams. Two ranked teams from each division would be ideal, reflecting strength throughout the conference and enhancing the league’s title game. Although Duke was ranked No. 20 at the time it played Florida State for the title, it was hardly a blockbuster matchup. With all due respect to Duke, the ACC needs more established programs such as Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Miami pushing for a spot in that game and carrying a top-15 ranking heading into it.

3. Finish with winning nonconference records against the big boys. The ACC went 4-9 during the regular season against teams from the other power-five conferences, and overall, the ACC went 0-for-4 against the Pac-12, with huge strikeouts in the bowl season against UCLA and Arizona. The ACC finished 4-6 against the SEC, which wasn’t bad, especially considering one of those victories was FSU over Auburn in the national title game, and Clemson beat Georgia when the Dawgs were ranked No. 5. That’s two wins over top-5 SEC teams. The bigger problem was the poor performances against the Pac-12, which was the ACC was measured closely against this past fall. Again, we’re talking about building upon the success of 2013, and if the ACC could end its streak of 10 consecutive losing seasons against the SEC and finish with a winning bowl record (it went 5-6 in 2013), it would make its case for a conference that goes deeper than just Florida State and Clemson.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 14

December, 1, 2013
Here’s a quick look back at five lessons learned in the ACC in the final week of the regular season, in no particular order:

1. Duke is the outright Coastal Division winner. No tiebreaker scenarios needed. No back doors opened. Duke marched right into the ACC championship game with a thrilling 27-25 win at North Carolina, leaving no doubt it was the best team in the division and the most deserving to line up against Atlantic Division winner Florida State. Duke’s fate was sealed when DeVon Edwards intercepted Marquise Williams with 13 seconds remaining. It was a fairytale ending to Duke’s Cinderella season, which included eight straight wins to end the season and an undefeated season on the road. With its 10 wins, Duke broke the school record for wins in a season. Duke’s six ACC wins were the program’s most since 1989 -- also the same year that Duke last won an ACC title.

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Gerry Melendez/The State/Getty ImagesTajh Boyd and Clemson again struggled in their rivalry game with South Carolina.
2. The ACC couldn’t get it done against the SEC (again). Six turnovers for Clemson. Six. It was déjà vu for the Tigers in their fifth straight loss to South Carolina. The turnovers continued to haunt Clemson in the series and be the difference in the game, just as they had in their past four losses to the Gamecocks. This looked like a prime year for the ACC to come out on the winning end against the SEC -- especially with Georgia veteran quarterback Aaron Murray done for the season with a torn ACL. Instead, Wake lost to Vandy, and Georgia Tech lost to Georgia. Florida State beat Florida, but you knew that was coming. And considering the state of the Gators, it wasn’t much worth bragging about. Georgia Tech squandered a 20-point lead and the defense came up short in the second overtime, losing a 41-34 heartbreaker. The ACC went 1-3 against the SEC this week, losing yet another chance to close the gap with its neighboring rival.

3. Syracuse is bowl eligible. In what was another one of the ACC’s most thrilling and entertaining down-to-the-wire games, Syracuse ended the season with a 34-31 home win over Boston College to reach bowl eligibility in its final chance to do so. With six seconds remaining, Terrel Hunt threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Josh Parris to win the game. It snapped BC’s four-game winning streak and was one of the best offensive performances of the season for the Orange. Unfortunately for BC, Heisman hopeful running back Andre Williams was injured in the third quarter and didn’t return. BC quarterback Chase Rettig accounted for three touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough, as Syracuse racked up 480 yards and won the turnover battle.

4. Maryland leaves the ACC on a winning note. The Terps won their final regular-season game as members of the ACC, a convincing 41-21 drubbing of an inept NC State team, to finish 7-5. It was a significant -- and much-needed -- turnaround for Maryland and coach Randy Edsall before heading to the Big Ten next season. It was also a terrific sendoff for quarterback C.J. Brown, who ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more in the win. It was Maryland’s first seven-win season since 2010. Maryland is likely bound for the Military Bowl, but as the Terps finish their season, they do so with the ACC’s lawsuit still hanging over their heads.

5. The Hokies still own the state. As much as Virginia Tech’s offense has struggled this season, rival Virginia’s offense was even worse on Saturday in a 16-6 loss. The Hokies’ defense held Virginia without a touchdown on its home field, and both quarterbacks -- starter David Watford and his backup, Greyson Lambert -- were ineffective. It was the 10th straight win against UVa for the Hokies, who have won 18 of the past 22 games in the series. Much has been made about Virginia’s strong recruiting class, but it has yet to add up in this rivalry or in the win column under coach Mike London. UVa ended the season on a 10-game losing streak and winless in the ACC for the first time since 1981.

ACC Saturday setup: Week 14

November, 30, 2013
Here's one final look at what's on tap on the final regular-season weekend in the ACC. All times are ET.

Florida State (11-0) at Florida (4-7), noon, ESPN

What's at stake: A win would move Florida State to 12-0 for the first time since finishing the 1999 national championship season with a 12-0 mark. A loss would ruin any shot at a national championship.

Statistically speaking: Coach Jimbo Fisher is looking to improve his record to 7-1 against in-state rivals Florida and Miami.

Quotable: "What we have to do is worry about playing well this weekend in Gainesville and if we do that, then the outcomes come. When you’re asked about it and you’re 18-22 years old, they can create distractions. It’s how much you believe in the system we have and what’s going on and can you compartmentalize all the other things and the questions that are going on about that. It is very tough. If it wasn’t tough, people would do it all the time." --- Fisher

No. 24 Duke (9-2, 5-2) at North Carolina (6-5, 4-3), noon, ESPN2

What's at stake: If Duke wins, the Blue Devils clinch a spot in the ACC championship game opposite Florida State, their first 10-win season and their first outright Coastal Division title.

Statistically speaking: Duke and Georgia Tech are the only teams in the nation that have converted 100 percent of their goal-to-go opportunities into touchdowns. The Blue Devils have converted all 22 of their chances, headlined by Brandon Connette’s 13 rushing scores.

Quotable: "You start out 1-5 then every one of them is more important. Each time you’re successful, the game becomes more important and a bigger game. They know where it’s at right now. I can assure you I’m not going to have to do anything to create more motivation for our guys. They’re going to be prepared and they’re going to be excited to play." -- North Carolina coach Larry Fedora

Wake Forest (4-7) at Vanderbilt (7-4), 12:21 p.m., GamePlan

What's at stake: The Deacs are trying to avoid their worst season since going 3-9 in 2010. A win would break a two-game losing streak in the series.

Statistically speaking: Wake Forest nose guard Nikita Whitlock has recorded a tackle for loss in 10 of 11 games this season. On the year, he has nine sacks (tied for No. 5 in the ACC) and 17 tackles for loss (third in the ACC). Both totals are team highs.

Quotable: "I think the thing that stands out with most of our seniors is that they've kind of maxed out what they can do. We may see a couple of guys that could have played better or could of had better careers, but most of these guys in the senior class really tried every year to be the best they could be and that's what you feel good about. I think these guys are a pretty close group and they care about each other and they've just tried as much as possible to be the best players they can be in our program." -- Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe

Maryland (6-5, 2-5) at NC State (3-8, 0-7), 12:30 p.m., GamePlan

What's at stake: The Terps surely want to win their final conference game ever, while NC State is hoping to avoid its first winless season in ACC play since 1959.

Statistically speaking: The games in this series are generally close. Of the last 13 contests between them, 11 have been decided by 10 points or fewer. Five of those 13 games have been decided by four or less points and 10 by less than 10 points.

Quotable: "As hard as it’s been we’ve grown very close as a team and these guys want to see our seniors finish the season the way they want to finish it. Playing at home, playing an ACC team at home and playing in our last game with these guys is enough of a reason for these guys to want to play well." -- NC State coach Dave Doeren

Georgia (7-4) at Georgia Tech (7-4), 3:30 p.m., ABC

What's at stake: Georgia Tech has an opportunity to beat the Bulldogs for the first time since 2008 and just the second time since 2000.

Statistically speaking: Georgia Tech, Ohio State and Wisconsin are the only teams in the nation to rank in the top 10 nationally in both rushing offense and rushing defense. The Jackets rank fourth in rush offense, 10th in rush defense.

Quotable: "I never had a chance to coach against him, but Herschel Walker. He's a big guy who runs through people and is fast. I mean he's a good player and he's going to be a good player for a long time if he doesn't get hurt. He's not only going to be good at Georgia, he's going to be a heck of an NFL running back too. He's got all the tools that they look for. He's good at running the football and is big and physical. He's a good receiver coming out of the backfield. He can do a lot of things." -- Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson on what player compares to Georgia running back Todd Gurley

Boston College (7-4, 4-3) at Syracuse (5-6, 3-4), 3:30 p.m, GamePlan

What's at stake: The Orange must win out to become bowl eligible for the second straight season. As for BC, running back Andre Williams is now in the Heisman race. Another 200-yard performance will certainly help the cause.

Statistically speaking: The most recent meeting between these teams came at the Carrier Dome in 2010, with Boston College winning 16-7. Williams, then a backup freshman, filled in for injured starter Montel Harris and rushed for 185 yards on a school-record 42 carries to lead the Eagles.

Quotable: “We always knew at Syracuse that we were going to come into this game at the end of the year and it was going to be a really rough, physical, black-and-blue game. We prided ourselves at that time on being a physical team, and I know BC did, and we just knew that it was going to be one of those games at the end where it was going to be a real fistfight. Everyone was jacked about it and everybody couldn’t wait to get to that game. It was targeted, it was red letter game. I learned that when I went to Syracuse my first year as an assistant coach. It was quickly explained to me how important the BC-Syracuse game was, and I never lost that. I have a unique perspective on it obviously and I have a great appreciation for it.” -- Boston College coach Steve Addazio

Virginia Tech (7-4, 4-3) at Virginia (2-9, 0-7), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU

What's at stake: Virginia Tech should know before this game starts whether it still has a shot at making the ACC championship game. The Hokies need Duke to lose to North Carolina, and then have to go out and beat the Hoos.

Statistically speaking: The Hokies have actually fared better on the road than at home over the last 11 seasons against the Cavaliers. In the five games at Scott Stadium since 2002, the Hokies have averaged 37.2 points per game. In six games at Lane Stadium since 2002, Virginia Tech has averaged just 18.7 points per game.

Quotable: "Well I think both of us compete very, very hard against each other. You try to have success against their program. I don’t think what has happened in the past makes a lot of difference, I think what happens this Saturday makes all the difference. Every year it’s a new year, different teams, different people and what happens this Saturday is what is really important for us." -- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer

No. 6 Clemson (10-1) at No. 10 South Carolina (9-2), 7 p.m., ESPN2

What's at stake: South Carolina has an opportunity to extend its winning streak in the series to a school-record five games. BCS hopes are on the line for both teams as well.

Statistically speaking: This is the third straight season Clemson and South Carolina have both been ranked in the AP top 20 entering the game. This series is one of just four nationally where that has been the case. The others are LSU-Florida, LSU-Alabama and Oregon-Stanford.

Quotable: "They are what you would expect when you look at a top-10 football team. They are a top-10 football team because they have a bunch of great players. They play hard and play tough and play with a lot of confidence. Our focus is on trying to finish and it has been. We want to have the best finish that we possibly can and, obviously, winning this game is huge part of that." -- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney

What we learned in the ACC: Week 13

November, 24, 2013
Here's a look back at the lessons learned in the ACC in Week 13, in no particular order:

1. The Coastal is Duke's division to lose, but there are still no definitive answers yet. Duke beat Wake Forest 28-21 to reach the nine-win mark for the first time since 1941 and is just one win away from playing in the ACC championship game, but there's still no clear-cut division winner. That will come down to the final week of the regular season. Duke's win tied a school record for victories and earned the program at least a share of the division title, but the door is still open for Miami, Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech to sneak in. Miami needs to win and have Virginia Tech and Duke lose. Georgia Tech needs Virginia Tech, Miami and Duke to lose. Virginia Tech might actually have the best shot if Duke loses. Regardless, we only learned one thing about the race: Duke is guaranteed at least a share of the division title.

2. The ACC is ready for the SEC, Take 2. Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson combined to score 198 points against unheralded teams with losing records, but those are exactly the kind of cupcake games -- and dominating performances -- they needed before heading into their SEC rivalry games this week. And Florida?! The Gators were flat-out embarrassed in a 26-20 home loss to Georgia Southern and have been lapped by Florida State's progress. The ACC began the season with a 2-2 record against the SEC, with wins over Florida and Georgia, and now has a chance to improve upon that -- with some momentum in its favor.

[+] EnlargeAndre Williams
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyAndre Williams posted his third straight 200-yard rushing game and topped 2,000 yards on the season.
3. East Carolina is one of the best teams in the state. With a 42-28 win at NC State, and a 55-31 win at North Carolina earlier this year -- emphasis on the fact they were both road games -- there's no denying that the Pirates are one of the better programs in the state this year. According to The Associated Press and pictures on Twitter, there were more ECU fans in the stands at Carter-Finley in the fourth quarter than there were Wolfpack fans. It was ECU's first win there since 2006 and the first time in program history that it had defeated both UNC and NC State in the same season. NC State now has lost seven straight games, including three straight by double digits, and has gone backwards in the first season under coach Dave Doeren. ECU, meanwhile, reached nine wins for the third time in six years and finished the year 2-1 against the ACC, its lone loss to Virginia Tech.

4. #Andre2000 reaches 2,000. It was another Heisman-worthy performance for Boston College running back Andre Williams, who passed the 2,000-yard rushing mark in the Eagles' wild 29-26 win at Maryland. Williams finished with 263 yards -- his third straight game with more than 200 rushing yards -- to become the 16th player in NCAA history to top 2,000 in a single season. Williams scored two touchdowns against the Terps and now has 2,073 yards on the ground this year. On third down, with the game tied at 26 in the final seconds, Williams cut to the outside for a 36-yard run that set up the game-winning field goal. It was his second game-changing play of the day, as his 72-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter closed the gap to 24-20. That play also put him over the 2,000 yd mark.

5. Pitt and North Carolina are bowl-eligible, Wake Forest is not. It's official: Every team in the Coastal Division is now bowl-eligible with the exception of Virginia. North Carolina reached the six-win mark in an 80-20 dismantling of Old Dominion, the program's fifth straight win after losing four straight and starting the season 1-5. Pitt reached the milestone with its 17-16 win over Syracuse. Syracuse is the only team in the ACC that still has its bowl hopes hanging in the balance, as the Orange still can become bowl eligible with a win over Boston College in the regular-season finale. Wake Forest had to win out to reach the six-win mark but squandered a 14-point lead at home against Duke.

ACC race update: Week 13

November, 20, 2013
The race to play Florida State in the ACC championship gets zanier and more unpredictable each week.

First, Miami was in control of its destiny. Now, the Canes face the longest odds of making it to Charlotte thanks to a three-game losing streak.

Then Virginia Tech seemed like the favorite. Until the Hokies lost to Maryland last week.

Now all eyes are on Duke (8-2), the only team in control of the Coastal Division. If the Blue Devils win out, they get their first trip to the ACC title game. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, when is anything ever this simple in the ACC?

Our friend Patrick Stevens over at Syracuse.com, bless his heart, laid out all 32 scenarios that could unfold in the Coastal over the next two weeks. Here, we present the simplest scenarios for the four teams with the best odds of making it to the ACC title game.

What Duke needs: Win out. A win over Wake Forest on Saturday would give Duke at least a co-division championship.

What Miami needs: Win out and have Virginia Tech lose and Duke lose; Miami would win a four-way tie with Duke, Georgia Tech and North Carolina (this assumes a Tar Heels win over the Blue Devils next week).

What Georgia Tech needs: The Jackets have finished league play with a 5-3 record. They have a win over Duke but loses to Miami and Virginia Tech. The Jackets need Virginia Tech to lose to Virginia, first and foremost. If that happens, scenarios that favor Georgia Tech include head-to-head tiebreakers with Duke and North Carolina; and a three-way tie with Duke and North Carolina.

What Virginia Tech needs: Beat Virginia on the final weekend of the regular season and have somebody beat Duke. Virginia Tech lost to the Blue Devils, but beat Miami, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. The Hokies would have the edge in several three, four and five-way tiebreaker scenarios based on those head-to-head wins and 5-1 Coastal record. Must avoid head-to-head tiebreaker with Duke.

ACC race update: Week 12

November, 13, 2013
The ACC’s Coastal Division race has never lacked drama in November, and yet somehow the result always seems to be the same: Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech are usually the last teams standing.

This year isn’t much different.

None of the four teams remaining with two losses –- Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Duke and Miami –- control their destinies. Each team needs somebody else to lose in order to get to Charlotte. One thing we do know: The Coastal Division winner will be playing Florida State, which has already locked up its spot in the ACC title game, but can win the Atlantic Division title outright with a win over Syracuse. A win by Florida State would give the program its eighth unbeaten ACC regular season since joining the league in 1992, but the first since 2000.

A win by Georgia Tech over Clemson on Thursday night would give the Jackets a 6-2 league record and no worse than a share of the Coastal Division title. Georgia Tech, which lost to both Miami and Virginia Tech, would need to avoid ties with both of those teams.

The only possible Coastal Division-clinching scenario this week would be if Georgia Tech beats Clemson AND Virginia Tech AND Miami both lose. That would send the Jackets to Charlotte.

Here’s exactly what your team needs to get to Charlotte:

What Duke needs: Win out and have somebody beat Georgia Tech

What Miami needs: Win out and have somebody beat Virginia Tech

What Georgia Tech needs: Beat Clemson and have Miami AND Virginia Tech lose

What Virginia Tech needs: Win out and have somebody beat Duke

The latter seems the most likely. At this point, we have the Hokies in Charlotte.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 11

November, 10, 2013
What did we learn in the ACC in Week 11? Glad you asked.

1. Florida State controls its national championship destiny. The nation watched No. 3 Oregon lose to No. 5 Stanford on Thursday, then saw No. 2 Florida State completely dominate Wake Forest 59-3 Saturday to clinch a spot in the ACC title game. There is little doubt the Seminoles will remain at No. 2 when the BCS standings are released later Sunday. Nor is there any real doubt Florida State is one of the best teams in the country, not after a third win this season by 50 or more points. Florida State has won all nine of its games by double figures and got big-time contributions from its defense and special teams against the Deacs. The Noles ended up with six interceptions -- nearly the same number of Wake Forest pass completions (seven). There are other unbeaten teams lurking, namely Ohio State and Baylor, but Florida State is in control of its championship destiny.

[+] EnlargeVirginia Tech
Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/Getty ImagesVirginia Tech left Miami lying helpless and reinserted itself into the Coastal Division race.
2. The Coastal, however ... up for grabs! If you thought this weekend would provide a much clearer picture in the Coastal, then you do not truly know ACC football. Four teams have two conference losses each -- Miami, Virginia Tech, Duke and Georgia Tech. So start getting yourselves reacquainted with the tiebreaker scenarios that seem to come into play just about every season. The Hokies put themselves back into the thick of the race with a 42-24 win over Miami on a rainy Saturday night, thanks to a mistake-free performance from Logan Thomas and some pretty shoddy special teams play from the Canes. Duke sat on the brink of disaster against NC State, trailing 20-17 with 6:37 to go. The Blue Devils benched starter Anthony Boone after an uneven performance. Brandon Connette delivered the game-winning drive, then DeVon Edwards sealed the win with back-to-back pick-6s. Georgia Tech was off and needs a win over Clemson on Thursday night to keep its hopes alive. The lucky winner to emerge from this muddled mess gets to play Florida State in the ACC championship game.

3. Miami falling back to earth. We all saw the warning signs that Miami was not as good as its ranking when it struggled to beat North Carolina and Wake Forest in back-to-back weeks. Now the Canes are back to reality after consecutive losses to Florida State and Virginia Tech. Miami was able to get away with turnovers early in the season, but the Hokies made them pay for their mistakes. Two early fumbles on special teams led directly to 14 Virginia Tech points, and Miami could never seem to recover. Perhaps most disheartening for Miami -- the loss was the worst defensive performance of the season, against an offense that ranks among the worst in the nation. The Hokies scored more points and gained more yards on the Canes than the Noles did last week. Miami has given up 400 yards or more in four of its last five games. And the run game without Duke Johnson? Miami ended up with 28 yards rushing, its lowest total since gaining 29 against Florida State last year.

4. Breakthrough win for Pitt. It was easy to doubt the Panthers heading into their game against Notre Dame. They entered the contest off back-to-back losses, and their run game was nearly nonexistent. But something about the Irish brings out the best in Pitt, which came oh-so-close to pulling the upset in each of the previous two seasons. Well, the Panthers finally broke through Saturday night, forcing three turnovers and getting inspired play from their offensive line and Tom Savage in a 28-21 win. It certainly helped Pitt's cause that Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt was ejected on a questionable targeting call early in the game, further depleting an injury-riddled group. But Pitt earned this win. The Panthers moved one victory away from bowl eligibility and gave coach Paul Chryst victories over ranked teams in consecutive seasons.

5. Bowl mania. Six teams are already bowl eligible, but the ACC could have as many as 11 by the time the season ends. Four teams have five wins: Maryland, Syracuse, Pitt and Boston College. North Carolina has four wins but has won three straight after a 1-5 start and is now in contention to get to six. How did the ACC get here? Syracuse once again used its power run game in a 20-3 win over Maryland, winning its second straight contest. Boston College also used its power run game to win a tricky contest over New Mexico State. We know what Pitt did Saturday. Interestingly enough, Maryland might have the worst chance of becoming bowl eligible out of this group. While North Carolina is on an upswing, the Terps have lost three straight following a 5-1 start with games remaining against Virginia Tech, Boston College and NC State. There are winnable games in that bunch, but not if Maryland commits four turnovers the way it did against Syracuse. Key injuries on both offense and defense have severely hampered this squad.

ACC race update: Week 11

November, 6, 2013
The race in the Atlantic is all but over. The Coastal is a different matter, as four teams remain in serious contention.

  • Florida State (8-0, 6-0) clinches a berth in the ACC championship game with a win against Wake Forest on Saturday. Wins against Wake Forest and Syracuse next week give the Seminoles the outright Atlantic Division title.
  • Clemson (8-1, 6-1) can make the ACC championship game with a win against Georgia Tech on Nov. 14 and Florida State losses its final two ACC games. OR Clemson can win the Atlantic with a loss to Georgia Tech should Syracuse win out and FSU drop its games against Wake Forest and Syracuse. Under this scenario, Clemson, Syracuse and FSU would end up in a three-way tie in the Atlantic, each 1-1 against the other two teams. The next tiebreaker is divisional record. Syracuse and Clemson would be 5-1 in the division (Syracuse lost to Clemson, Clemson lost to FSU) while the Seminoles would be 4-2 (losses to Wake and Syracuse). This would then revert to the two-team procedure, in which Clemson beat the Orange head-to-head.
  • Miami (7-1, 3-1) remains in control of the race to the ACC championship. If the Hurricanes win all four of their remaining games -- Virginia Tech, at Duke, Virginia at Pittsburgh -- they are in. The Canes' next two games, against Virginia Tech and Duke, could potentially serve as Coastal Division elimination games.
  • Virginia Tech (6-3, 5-2), on a two-game losing streak, will stay in the race for the division crown with a win against the Hurricanes. If the Hokies win out, they need Duke to lose at least once more because the Hokies would lose a head-to-head tiebreaker. OR Virginia Tech can win the Coastal if it wins out and finishes in a three-way tie with Duke and Georgia Tech. The teams would be 1-1 against each other and the tiebreaker would go to divisional records. The Hokies would be 5-1 in the Coastal (loss to Duke), while Georgia Tech and Duke would both be 4-2 (GT losses to VT and Miami, Duke losses to GT and Pittsburgh).
  • Georgia Tech (6-3, 5-2) and Duke (6-2, 2-2) also have two conference losses each. Duke can win the Coastal with wins in its final four games -- NC State, Miami, at Wake Forest, at North Carolina -- AND a Georgia Tech loss to Clemson. The Jackets need help to make a return trip to Charlotte. They have to beat Clemson next week, then avoid tie-breaking scenarios with Miami and Virginia Tech -- the teams responsible for their losses this season.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 10

November, 4, 2013
There was a bit of shuffling in the middle this week, and it’s getting more difficult to use head-to-head results to determine the pecking order. The bottom, though, remains status quo with only two teams still winless in league play. Here’s how the ACC stacks up with just four weeks remaining:

1. Florida State (8-0, 6-0 ACC; LW: No. 1) – The Noles left no doubt they were the better team in their 41-14 win over Miami on Saturday, further stating their case as a national title contender. With Wake Forest, Syracuse, Idaho and Florida left on the schedule, the most difficult stretch is now behind FSU. The Noles have scored at least 40 points in every game this season.

2. Clemson (8-1, 6-1; LW: No. 3) – The Tigers played arguably their most complete game of the season in a 59-10 drubbing of Virginia. Quarterback Tajh Boyd became the ACC's career leader in touchdowns responsible for, and he threw for three touchdowns and ran for another. Clemson has a bye week to prepare for a tricky game against Georgia Tech, which has won three straight and has historically given the Tigers some headaches.

3. Miami (7-1, 3-1; LW: No. 2) – Not only did Miami lose the game, the Canes also lost star running back Duke Johnson to an injury. The good news for Miami is that it is still in the lead to win the Coastal Division. The task for the Canes now is to shake off the disappointment and realize that a rematch with Florida State is still possible. First, they have to get past the Hokies on Saturday in a game that will either further distance Miami from the pack, or cause more confusion in the division race.

4. Georgia Tech (6-3, 5-2; LW: No. 6) – The Jackets became bowl eligible with their 21-10 win over Pitt, a performance in which the defense was the highlight with five sacks. Georgia Tech is playing well now, but it’s probably too little, too late. The Jackets likely played themselves out of the Coastal Division race earlier with back-to-back losses against Virginia Tech and Miami. It’s only going to get tougher with a road trip to Death Valley looming.

5. Duke (6-2, 2-2; LW: No. 4) – The bowl-eligible Blue Devils had a bye week to revel in their monumental win at Virginia Tech. The next step is winning the unofficial state championship. Duke hosts NC State this weekend, and ends the season with back-to-back road trips against Wake Forest and North Carolina. Every game left on the schedule -- including Miami -- is winnable.

6. Boston College (4-4, 2-3; LW: No. 10) – The Eagles have been oh-so-close to a breakthrough win this fall, and they finally knocked the door down against Virginia Tech. BC has established its identity as a disciplined, power running team with a determined defense, and it’s been a remarkable turnaround in the first season under coach Steve Addazio.

7. Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2; LW: No. 5) – The Hokies took two steps back in the past two weeks, and now face what could be an elimination game in the Coastal Division race. After back-to-back losses to Duke and BC, Virginia Tech is now in a must-win situation on the road against Miami. The Hokies have turned it over eight times in the past two games, though, and on Saturday, the defense didn’t help.

8. Pitt (4-4, 2-3; LW: No. 9) – The Panthers’ 21-10 loss to Georgia Tech significantly decreased their chances of playing for the ACC title, but their bowl hopes are still alive, and they’ve got a big game against Notre Dame looming. Once again, the pass protection was an issue. Keeping quarterback Tom Savage on his feet will be critical in becoming bowl eligible.

9. North Carolina (3-5, 2-3; LW: No. 12) – The Tar Heels helped redeem themselves from an otherwise disappointing season with a 27-19 win at NC State, the program’s first win in Raleigh since 2005. UNC is likely out of the ACC race, but the Tar Heels can still salvage the season by reaching six wins.

10. Syracuse (4-4, 2-2; LW: No. 11) – It was a defensive struggle en route to a 13-0 home win over Wake Forest, but the Orange kept its bowl hopes alive. Syracuse faces a tough two weeks, though, as the Orange play back-to-back road games against Maryland and Florida State.

11. Wake Forest (4-5, 2-4; LW: No. 7) – The Deacs were devastated not only by the loss, but also by the season-ending injury to top playmaker and wide receiver Michael Campanaro, who broke his collarbone in the first quarter and will miss four to six weeks. Wake’s bowl hopes are now hanging by a thread, as the Deacs need two more wins and still have to face Florida State, Duke and Vanderbilt.

12. Maryland (5-3, 1-3; LW: No. 8 ) – The Terps had a much-needed bye week to rest and heal, and coach Randy Edsall said last week he expects to have more players healthy for Saturday’s game against Syracuse. Maryland has been just one win away from bowl eligibility for three weeks now, but the Terps have a good chance to get it done at home this weekend.

13. NC State (3-5, 0-5; LW: No. 13) – The hits just keep on coming for the beleaguered Pack, which dropped to 0-5 after their loss to rival North Carolina – the team’s fifth straight ACC loss under first-year coach Dave Doeren. Doeren called a regrettable fake punt, and quarterback Brandon Mitchell threw two picks. There was plenty of blame to go around.

14. Virginia (2-7, 0-5; LW: No. 14) – The Hoos were absolutely rolled over at home by Clemson in a 59-10 loss. Clemson racked up 610 total yards, and Virginia has now lost six straight games. UVa has back-to-back road games against North Carolina and Miami before ending the season at home against rival Virginia Tech.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 10

November, 3, 2013
Here's a look back at five lessons learned in the ACC, in no particular order:

1. The Coastal Division is wide-open. With Miami and Virginia Tech losing Saturday, there are plenty of scenarios in the Coastal Division race. It's still the Canes' division to lose, as they're the only team remaining with just one ACC loss, but they end the season with four straight division games, including a home game against Virginia Tech this week. With the Hokies' loss to Boston College, their game against the Hurricanes is basically an elimination game. If Miami loses to Virginia Tech, confusion will ensue. Right now, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke are all tied with two ACC losses each. With Pitt's loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday, the Panthers lost their best shot at staying relevant in the race.

[+] EnlargeAllen Hurns, P.J. Williams
Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/MCTMiami was tied 7-7 with FSU after Allen Hurns' touchdown catch, but the Noles were too strong.
2. Miami ran out of magic. For three straight weeks, the Canes found a way to overcome double-digit deficits and win. Not against the Noles. Miami finally ran into a superior team that brought the Canes back to reality with a 41-14 loss. Earlier this week, Miami coach Al Golden told ESPN.com that Florida State lost 11 NFL draft picks and was able to reload, and his program isn't there yet. Golden has the program heading in the right direction, but Saturday was a reminder that it's not there yet, and that rival FSU still has the upper hand between the two programs. It was also yet another example of just how dominant the Noles are this year.

3. Wake Forest is in big trouble. Not only did the Deacs lose to Syracuse 13-0, but they also lost their best offensive player, receiver Michael Campanaro. Campanaro broke his collarbone and will miss four to six weeks, according to a school spokesman. With that projected timetable, he is likely to miss the rest of the regular season. Wake Forest has games remaining against No. 3 Florida State, Duke and Vanderbilt. The Deacs have a bye on Nov. 16. Saturday was a game Wake really needed to win to keep its bowl hopes alive. Now, the Deacs need to win two of their last three, and it seems unlikely -- especially without "Camp."

4. Virginia Tech isn't getting better -- but BC is. For the second straight week, Virginia Tech turned it over four times in a loss, this time to Boston College. Following the season-opening loss to Alabama, Virginia Tech reeled off six straight wins and appeared to have turned the page on last year's subpar season, but back-to-back losses against Duke and Boston College -- two programs that combined for eight wins last year -- have been a not-so-subtle reminder that the problems persist. BC deserves credit for its 34-27 win, but Logan Thomas was picked off twice and fumbled twice, leading to 17 points for BC. The Eagles, though, are clearly a different team under Steve Addazio. It finally was reflected in the win column.

5. Larry Fedora remains a step ahead of NC State. For the second straight season, Fedora beat rival NC State, and this time he did it in Raleigh. It was UNC's first win in Carter-Finley Stadium since 2005, and Fedora became just one of four coaches to beat NC State twice in his first two tries. North Carolina has its problems this year, but NC State isn't one of them. The Pack are still winless in conference play in the first season under Dave Doeren.

ACC: November stretch run

November, 1, 2013
The biggest games on the ACC schedule have come and gone. Instead of November being the highlight of the season, which it typically is, it seems more like a formality in the ACC. October held the gems, the Florida State-Clemson and FSU-Miami games, both matchups between top-10 teams. The biggest game remaining on the schedule will be Virginia Tech’s trip to Miami on Nov. 9 for a game that will likely determine the Coastal Division winner. Even that game has lost much of its luster since the Hokies were upset at home by Duke.

What we do have to look forward to is more rivalry games. Can Clemson finally get the better of Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, or will the Tigers lose for a fifth straight time to their in-state rivals and fall out of the BCS picture? Georgia Tech will face Georgia, and Florida State still has to travel to rival Florida. The ACC enters November with a 2-2 record against the SEC, and now looks like a good time to take advantage of unranked, injury-riddled rivals. Virginia will have home-field advantage against Virginia Tech, and Boston College and Syracuse finally will meet again.

The ACC has had a great season so far, with three teams in the top 10 of the BCS standings, and has a good shot at earning two BCS bowl bids. For the ACC, November is less about marquee matchups and more about sustaining its place in the BCS standings. Here’s a look at what lies ahead for the ACC in November:

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesLogan Thomas and the Hokies have a month to prove they're not the team that inexplicably lost at home to Duke.
Team with most to prove: Virginia Tech -- The Hokies can still win the Coastal Division and play for the ACC title if they can beat Miami and avoid any further letdowns. Against three straight division opponents -- Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Pittsburgh -- the Hokies found a winning formula by pairing minimal mistakes on offense with an elite defense. Against Duke, they reverted to their old turnover-prone ways, and quarterback Logan Thomas struggled. The program came under scrutiny for similar performances after last year’s pedestrian 7-6 finish. Just when it looked like the Hokies were back to their winning ways, they suffered the monumental upset against Duke. Which version of Virginia Tech will we see in November?

Team with the most to lose: Florida State – There is simply no margin for error if the Seminoles are going to have a chance at playing in the national title game. FSU and Oregon will continue to jockey for the No. 2 spot, but the minute the Noles let up, their ranking will go down. Expectations are soaring for FSU right now, as the Noles will be favored to win all of their remaining games.

Three players to keep an eye on: Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and FSU quarterback Jameis Winston. For the Hokies, Thomas has been at the heart of the team’s offensive woes for two years now. He took another step back in the loss to Duke and will have to make better decisions to keep the Hokies in the Coastal Division race. Clemson’s Boyd entered this season intent on leaving his legacy, but his Heisman hopes slipped away with the loss to Florida State. The question now is whether he can finish his career with a win against rival South Carolina or if he’ll go oh-fer. As for Winston? Well, he’s so good you simply can’t miss a play. At 19, he’s already a leading candidate to win the Heisman.

Biggest trap game: Miami at Duke, Nov. 16 -- The Blue Devils believe they can win every remaining game on their schedule. After their historic win in Blacksburg, don’t doubt them -- especially considering the unconvincing way Miami has gone about winning its games.

Fearless November prediction: The ACC finishes .500 or better against the SEC. That’s including wins over South Carolina and Florida and a loss at Vanderbilt. The Georgia game is the toss-up, but it’s in Atlanta. The ACC hasn’t had a winning record against the SEC since 2003, but this is a good year to change that. At the very least, it should be .500 for the first time since 2008.

ACC race update: Week 10

October, 30, 2013
Now that we are down to the final month of the regular season, it is time to begin our weekly look at the conference race in both divisions. We are going to keep this as simple as possible, focused on the teams with the best chances today of winning their respective divisions.

Florida State is in the driver's seat. In fact, the Noles could clinch as early as Saturday. For that to happen, Florida State needs to beat Miami; Wake Forest needs to beat Syracuse; and Virginia needs to beat Clemson. If all that happens, Florida State would be guaranteed no worse than a tie with Clemson. Because of the head-to-head win, the Noles would clinch the Atlantic Division berth in the ACC championship game.

Clemson is the only team in the Atlantic with one loss, but it needs to help to get back to the ACC title game. The Tigers need to win out in league play and have Florida State lose two conference games.

Miami is the only team unbeaten in conference play in the division at 3-0, so the Hurricanes are in control. Even if Miami loses to Florida State, the Canes would make the ACC title game if they win their remaining conference games.

Virginia Tech is next, with one conference loss (3-1). The Hokies go to the ACC title game if they win out. Indeed, the Coastal might very well be decided next weekend in Miami when the Canes and Hokies play.

Georgia Tech, Duke and Pitt each have two conference losses. Of the three, Duke has the least convoluted scenario to get into the ACC title game. Duke needs to win out -- that means a victory over Miami -- and then have Virginia Tech and the Canes finish with at least two conference losses. If Duke, Miami and Virginia Tech finish in a three-way tie with two conference losses apiece, Duke goes because it has the head-to-head wins over the Canes and Hokies. Pitt already lost to Virginia Tech and has Miami to close the regular season, so the Panthers are still alive but need to win out and then get some help. Georgia Tech is at the biggest disadvantage of the three because it lost head-to-head against Miami and Virginia Tech.

Collision course: ACC

October, 8, 2013

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The premise for last week's game was set in advance by the lingering critics of Florida State's fast start. The quality of competition hadn't been great, the theory went, but No. 25 Maryland would offer some real insight.

In the wake of the Seminoles' 63-0 dismantling of Maryland, however, Jimbo Fisher isn't entirely thrilled with how emphatically his team provided those answers.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsIn dismantling Maryland last Saturday, FSU quarterback Jameis Winston padded his already Heisman-worthy numbers.
"Now we're going to be world-beaters," Fisher said. "We've got to remember why we've been good."

Such is the life of a football coach, particularly one coming off a dominant win with a bye week standing between his team and its most significant game of the season. The thin line between confidence and comfort becomes microscopic, and Fisher began working to ensure the Seminoles stayed on the right side of it from the moment Saturday's game against Maryland was over.

There was virtually no aspect of the game Florida State didn't win handily. Jameis Winston burnished his Heisman credentials with a career-best 393 yards passing and five touchdowns. The defense pitched a shutout, allowing Maryland just 33 yards on the ground one week after Boston College racked up 200. Even the special teams looked improved after a shaky game against the Eagles, and nothing gets Fisher more concerned than when everything's coming easily.

So when it was over, Fisher offered sufficient praise, then began the task of downplaying everything Florida State had just accomplished.

"Sometimes a few inches here and there can be drastic, and the momentum of the game, things that go on and your focus -- we were much more consistent," Fisher said. "We had a chip on our shoulder and we did what we had to do. That's what you've got to do all the time."

Up next for Florida State is a trip to Clemson on Oct. 19. It's a battle likely to decide the ACC Atlantic Division, and the winner will vault into the center of the national championship discussion. The stakes couldn't be bigger, and Fisher wants his team to forget its impressive win over Maryland and eschew the hype that promises to build until kickoff in Clemson.

"Our goal is not on Clemson right now," Fisher said. "It's on what we do in practice Tuesday."

Fisher will do his best to insulate his team, but the national hysteria is already working toward a crescendo.

Start with Winston, whose highlight tape keeps getting longer with each game. His brilliant game against Maryland offered everything from the mundane (a willingness to check down to his backs more often) to the sublime (a dazzling escape from a sack before a TD throw to Nick O'Leary). Fisher, of course, suggested Winston played well but had much more work to do.

"That's one thing I love about Coach Fisher," Winston said with unwavering earnestness, "even if I make an outstanding play, or we make a great touchdown, he's always going to correct me, and I need that."

Winston knows all too well the dilemma his coach faces this week.

A year ago, Winston was on the bench as a redshirt. He watched his predecessor, EJ Manuel, lead a triumphant win over Clemson that certified Florida State had regained its prominence on the national stage. Then, two weeks later, it all unraveled in a moribund performance at NC State.

The difference was emotion, energy and focus, and even Winston knew it. In that game, he marched the sideline, going from player to player pushing them to get their heads in the game and avert disaster, but it wasn't enough. This year, though, Winston will have the ball in his hand, and he's eager to ensure there's no letdown during the long wait between FSU's most impressive win and its biggest game of 2013.

"The team is so ready," Winston said. "We've been ready for this, and now the time has come. Everybody told us, don't look forward to the Clemson game. The time is here, and we know we've got to get everything right."

Game: Florida State at Clemson

What’s at stake: For both teams, the season will likely be defined by the outcome of their Oct. 19 showdown in Death Valley. Clemson has already felt the enthusiasm of a big-game environment, toppling Georgia at home in the season opener. Florida State is riding the wave of excitement its freshman QB has generated. The winner of this matchup has won the Atlantic Division in each of the past four seasons, and this year a win could be the biggest accomplishment on a national-championship résumé.

Roadblocks/derailment opportunities: Clemson's stumbling block is obvious. The Tigers still have a game to play, with upstart Boston College paying Clemson a visit this weekend. The Tigers are heavily favored, but BC is no pushover. The Eagles pushed Florida State just two weeks ago, and their power running game should be a good test of Clemson's defensive front. For Florida State, the stumbling blocks are more abstract. Players admit they've gotten too enamored with their own hype in years past, pointing again and again to a 2011 loss to Oklahoma as evidence. The Seminoles have two weeks to hear how good they are, and their biggest goal will be to tune all of that out.

How it unfolds: The battle will almost certainly be sold as a showdown between two of the country's top quarterbacks. Winston and Tajh Boyd are Heisman favorites, and the two have combined for 31 touchdowns and just four interceptions. But while the QBs figure to get the hype, the game might be decided by the defenses. Clemson's pass rush, led by Vic Beasley, is among the nation's best, and the Tigers will be eager to rattle Florida State's young quarterback in his biggest game to date. Boyd isn't nearly as likely to be intimidated by the surroundings, but FSU's dominant secondary still quieted him a year ago. The Seminoles D is fresh off a shutout against Maryland, and it appears to finally have a firm grasp on new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's system.

With almost half the season in the books, the Coastal Division race is starting to become more clear. Georgia Tech has lost two straight games to Coastal Division opponents, joining Duke and North Carolina with two league losses each. The only teams left in the division that haven’t lost a conference game yet are Virginia Tech and Miami, setting those programs up on a collision course for a season-defining game next month.

- -David M. Hale

Game: Virginia Tech at Miami Nov. 9

What’s at stake: The lead for the Coastal Division title and a chance at the ACC championship game could be on the line, as Miami and Virginia Tech are currently the front-runners to win the division. Miami has not played for the ACC title since joining the conference, and for Virginia Tech it would be validation for a team that many had doubted entering this season. The Hokies’ offense has long been its Achilles’ heel, but so far this team has proved it has enough to be a contender.

Roadblocks/derailment opportunities: Virginia Tech will face its toughest roadblock on Saturday, when Pitt comes to Blacksburg. The Hokies have lost four straight to the Panthers, including last year’s game in which Virginia Tech was ranked No. 13. A road trip to Boston College also won’t be easy, as the Eagles are a gritty home team, but their one-dimensional offense should be overmatched by Virginia Tech’s defense. Miami’s biggest obstacle will be the Nov. 2 game at Florida State, but the Canes also have a tricky Thursday night game at North Carolina coming up. Considering how much the Tar Heels have struggled, though, Miami’s best chance at a loss before hosting Virginia Tech is in Tally.

How it unfolds: Virginia Tech’s defense will force Pitt quarterback Tom Savage into a key interception, and the Hokies will snap their losing streak to their former Big East foes. The Hokies will head to Miami on an eight-game winning streak, but their inability to run the ball will finally catch up to them. Miami, fresh off a loss at Florida State, will rebound at home against the Hokies and Duke Johnson will be the game’s MVP.

-- Heather Dinich


Goodell Has Sit-Down With Jameis Winston
ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates discusses Roger Goodell's meeting with presumptive No. 1 draft pick Jameis Winston.