(Ten observations from this week's action around the ACC)
Would you like knee-jerk reactions from the week that was? Look elsewhere. It's time to contextualize the ACC including the results of Week 6, not based exclusively upon them. That said ...
1. It's nearly impossible to discount Florida State at this point. Last night's 45-17 rollicking romp over Miami is a game-changer for the Seminoles, effectively negating any of the bad vibes from the early September loss at Oklahoma and making Florida State the conference favorite.
Facing a staunch Miami defense, the Seminoles ran for nearly 300 yards and controlled affairs from the beginning. Florida State came away with its second-largest margin of victory against the Hurricanes in Miami (it won 38-3 in 1984). Oh, and that 28-point spread? That was the combined margin of victory in the teams' last seven meetings.
The defense still isn't perfect and penalties are a tick high (though that never stopped the Seminoles in their 1980s/1990s prime), so don't get too carried away. But at this stage, the evidence suggests Florida State might return to Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Dolphin/Land Shark/Sun Life Stadium to begin the new year.
2. Clemson and Miami were victims of less-than-stellar coaching --- but at least the men in charge manned up to it. It was not a good night for either Dabo Swinney or Randy Shannon. At least Shannon (a) Has the excuse of being along for the ride with the Jacory Harris Experience and (b) Faced a team that played incredibly well. That doesn't mean he won't shoulder some blame, and he certainly accepted it. But Miami wasn't beating that version of Florida State.
The same can't be said of Clemson in its date with North Carolina, which is playing its usual brand of uglyball. It's led to a three-game winning streak for the Tar Heels, but it sure helps when an opponent doesn't use its best offensive weapon. Andre Ellington had 13 touches, including just five in the second half and none in the fourth quarter.This against a team with a depleted defensive front.
It should be pointed out such shenanigans eventually caught up with Swinney's predecessor, Tommy Bowden. Swinney, to his credit, repeatedly placed the onus on himself after the 21-16 loss. Some Clemson fans might be crazy enough to think 1981 should happen every year, so they'll never be pleased. But more rational folks who believe the Tigers could actually win games they're supposed to are no doubt disappointed this weekend. And they should be. In a year with a loaded schedule, Clemson can't give away games with illogical playcalling. It did yesterday.
3. Boston College's mess isn't Frank Spaziani's fault. But it's not unfair to wonder if he's the guy for the long-term, either. It's impossible to have a sound conversation about a coach's status after a third straight ugly loss, but let's try. Boston College coach Frank Spaziani isn't to blame for the listless offense his team is fielding, at least not too much, despite a blowout loss at N.C. State.
This easily could have happened a year ago, when the Eagles were scurring around the recruiting equivalent of the Quarterback Dollar Store to find a signal-caller. Dave Shinskie wasn't great but was adequate, and he handed off to Montel Harris enough to make things work. Now, Harris isn't getting as much room, the offensive line isn't quite as strong and teams (notably Virginia Tech and N.C. State) have discovered Shinskie doesn't respond well when he has a hint of company in his personal bubble in the backfield. Expect future BC opponents to pay heed.
Basically, the hole in the program has caught up with Spaziani and the Eagles, and there's not much he could have done. The "Fire Spaz" sentiment that popped up on Twitter yesterday is a bit unreasonable. But for a guy in his early 60s, he's still untested as a head coaching commodity, and BC fans have every right to wonder if the Eagles are going to settle into the bottom half of the ACC in the next couple years after coming close to maximizing their opportunities since joining the conference. It's a fair question, and no one knows the answer a dozen and a half games into Spaziani's stint.
4. When one door opens for Wake Forest, another one slams shut in the Demon Deacons' faces. With half the season in the books, it's pretty safe to assert Wake Forest has a quarterback for the long haul (Tanner Price) and that he'll probably win his share of gams going forward.
But even with Price's return helping the Demon Deacons, there was still a ridiculous loss waiting for them in the end in the Dash last night. Wake frittered away another lead in the final minute, falling 28-27 to Navy. It's the Deacons' ninth straight loss in a game decided by four points or less --- and this one might as well finish off Wake's bowl hopes. Four of the next six are on the road; for a 2-4 team, that's not good in the slightest.
5. Maryland could be bowl eligible by month's end. This, of course, was already a possibility for the 4-1 Terrapins, considering they play three more times before Halloween. But taking two of three coming out of the bye never looked so attainable.
Clemson is enthralled in its annual search for how best to deploy its talent. Boston College's offense is struggling. Wake Forest can't finish anyone off. Maryland is by no means a tested quantity, but the possibility of swiping a game on the road and then handling Wake Forest at home shouldn't be discounted. Not after this week, anyway.
6. Anthony Allen's alive. It was almost time to put out an APB on the Georgia Tech running back, who didn't have a touchdown in the Yellow Jackets' first five games. No matter. He ran for 195 yards and three touchdowns to help carve up Virginia.
This is a significant development for Georgia Tech, because a reliable Allen would alleviate some of the attention from quarterback Joshua Nesbitt. Perhaps this is merely a matter of the Yellow Jackets taking what was available. But it's also possible Allen is primed for a strong second half, and that would go a long way toward making Paul Johnson's team a stealthy ACC title contender. Georgia Tech is already 3-1 in the league. Just saying.
7. If Virginia is going to make a push, it needs to happen now. The Cavaliers get North Carolina and Eastern Michigan at home the next two weeks. The Tar Heels haven't won in Charlottesville since 1981. The Eagles haven't won anywhere since 2008.
Realistically, the Cavaliers don't have a huge push in them. They managed to annoy Georgia Tech, so they're still competitive when playing teams not named Florida State. But at 2-3, the chance at a .500 season could quickly fade without wins in the next two games.
8. North Carolina is probably going bowling. The Tar Heels, for all their many off-field foibles, needed to swipe one game from a presumptive conference contender to have a chance at a postseason game. That happened Saturday against Clemson.
The Tar Heels are 3-2, and they still have Virginia, William and Mary and Duke on the scheduke. Evenif they lose one of those (hello, Virginia), their defense is gradually getting stronger as players return from suspensions and are otherwise cleared. Carolina's offense is not the prettiest thing, though T.J. Yates: Pigskin Caretaker still isn't turning the ball over. That formula should lead to a trip to Nashville or Shreveport before the year's through.
9. Russell Wilson was the ACC's best player in the first half of the season. This might as well be the halfway point of the season. But even if you want to say that's next week, the numbers will probably look about the same then. N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson is averaging 300 yards a game and has thrown 17 touchdowns against six interceptions.
For those who wish to accord individual honors to players on thriving teams, well, the Wolfpack is 5-1 with a delightfully curious meeting with Florida State in Raleigh on Oct. 28. That game could easily decide the Atlantic Division.
10. Let's not get too carried away with Virginia Tech. The Hokies are doing precisely what they are supposed to --- particularly on defense when they're not facing the aforementioned Wilson --- and they warrant praise for winning four straight since a disastrous start.
Of course, only one of those victories (at N.C. State) looks like it will be worth a whole lot in the long run. Certainly, gradually dispatching Central Michigan inches a team closer to bowl eligibility, makes Tyrod Taylor look exceptional ... and, well, that's about it.
The Hokies are going to climb a little bit closer to the national rankings this week, and they've already shown they're just fine without running back Ryan Williams (who realistically might not be needed in a significant capacity until November). They'll play a role in the ACC title chase. They'll do everything they were supposed to do this year besides be a darkhorse for a national championship.
People will declare Virginia Tech is "back" soon enough. The truth is, aside from the second half against James Madison, the Hokies never really left. That's not a compelling story, of course, but it is reality.