(Ten observations from this week's action around the ACC)
1. N.C. State is legitimate. The Wolfpack might not be the ACC's top team (Miami probably earns that honor), but no one had a better September than Tom O'Brien's team. Blowout? Check. Road win over a decent team? Check. Strong performance on national TV? Check. Toppling defending conference champ in its stadium? Check.
The 45-28 defeat of Georgia Tech was, with the exception of the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, a beatdown. The score is completely appropriate, and it is a testament not just to Russell Wilson's ability to spread the wealth but also to the Wolfpack's ability to establish the run with Dean Haynes and Mustafa Greene. The Nate Irving-led defense might not be great, but its better than its 2009 predecessor and can be overlooked so long as the offense continues to purr.
2. No worries about Miami. Despite the asterisk any "big win" against a Dave Wannstedt-coached team warrants, the Hurricanes still throttled Pittsburgh on Thursday night. Jacory Harris shrugged off his four-pick game 12 days earlier, and the Miami defense simply hammered a talented Panthers attack.
A 2-1 September --- particularly with the date at Ohio State --- was going to constitute a fairly decent month. Get to 3-1 with a win at Clemson next week, and the Hurricanes will be set up as the early-season favorites in the ACC.
3. North Carolina's season is saved ... for now. Let's not pretend a 17-13 victory in a slapfight at Rutgers is the greatest accomplishment in the world. Nonetheless, North Carolina earned a road victory, avoided an 0-3 start and inched a bit closer to getting at least a couple of its missing players back.
The Tar Heels were going to win their share of ugly games no matter their personnel, and a single victory doesn't change the fact Carolina won't have an easy time once it dives deeper into conference play. But the defense is still decent, and T.J. Yates continues to play relatively mistake-free games. Hope is not lost in Chapel Hill.
4. The Hokies are up to their old tricks. Virginia Tech has shrugged off a slow start to the season now that league play is upon them. The Hokies slugged Boston College 19-0, demonstrating some of their traditional defensive toughness while the offense sputtered frequently leading to a barrage of field goals.
So, where have we heard this before?
In fairness to Virginia Tech, it was without Ryan Williams and it was facing a solid defense in Boston College. But regardless of the expectations, it's the same old Hokies. Make way for a nine- or 10-win season --- the folks in Blacksburg are working off a recycled script.
5. Dave Shinskie will have nightmares about Bud Foster. It's time for quarterback roulette in Chestnut Hill again, and it has everything to do with Dave Shinskie's inability to deal with Virginia Tech.
Shinskie wasn't historically inept like he was last year against the Hokies, but his two-game totals against Virginia Tech --- 13-for-37, 134 yards, four interceptions --- are awful. Maybe he'll be fine now that Bud Foster is in the rear view mirror for the year, but there's no telling if Mike Marscovetra will be a greater factor for the Eagles (2-1) going forward.
6. Duke's in trouble. The Blue Devils have dropped three straight, and the latest was the most unsettling. Army left Durham with a 35-21 victory that really wasn't remotely competitive, with quarterback Sean Renfree's miscues particularly troublesome.
Next week is the point of no return for David Cutcliffe's team. A loss to Maryland leaves Duke 1-4 entering a bye week, which is followed by consecutive dates with Miami and Virginia Tech. There may be no salvaging this situation, but if it is possible, Duke needs to make some quick fixes. Yielding 44.5 points a game in the season's first month doesn't help matters.
7. So's Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are 2-2, so things aren't quite so dire, but it's now three weeks running that one unit was a complete no-show. After two straight defensive flops, it was the Wake offense that managed to do nothing in a 31-0 loss at Florida State.
The Demon Deacons get a cranky Georgia Tech bunch in Winston-Salem next week, and Navy will pay a visit to the Dash on Oct. 9. Follow that with a trip to Virginia Tech, and things could get ugly in a hurry if Wake can't figure things out soon.
8. The Florida State defense took a step forward. The Seminoles might not have faced a great opponent, but blanking Wake Forest (Florida State's first conference shutout since 2006) is a definite sign of progress.
The Seminoles yielded 2.2 yards per rush and 4.7 yards per pass play. That's good against just about anyone. Things will get more complicated soon enough, but next week's visit to Virginia should be another opportunity for Mark Stoops' defense to grow. Maybe Florida State flunked its biggest test, but it should still be happy with its September returns.
9. Speaking of Virginia, the Cavaliers did precisely what they were supposed to against VMI. Even when Virginia gave up a touchdown, it followed up with a kickoff return for a score.
No, there are no vast conclusions to draw from a 48-7 demolition of the Keydets. But Virginia already is closing in on its win total from last year, and seems to have things together more. That's especially true of Marc Verica, who tossed three touchdowns in the rout.
10. The Danny O'Brien era is underway in College Park. From the moment O'Brien entered a tie game on Labor Day in the fourth quarter, the seemed like the clock was ticking on Jamarr Robinson's days as a starter. O'Brien's 250-yard, two-touchdown debut as a starter for the injured Robinson does little to quell such thinking.
O'Brien drew raves beginning with his first week on campus, and while not perfect, he did what was needed against Florida International in a 42-28 victory. Coach Ralph Friedgen said both quarterbacks will play, and he's probably right. It's just the perception is O'Brien will probably be much tougher to bench after he got Maryland to 3-1. That might not be entirely fair to Robinson, but it certainly looks like O'Brien will play an even larger role going forward.