Posted by Chip Patterson
The Midseason Report separates the contenders from the pretenders in each conference race. The Seminoles and Hokies are leading the way in the ACC for now, but the conference race is wide open should one of them drop a game. Quite frankly, with the way the ACC has been this year, we're counting on that happening at least once.
Florida State (4-0)(6-1) - The Seminoles are back in their familiar place atop the ACC, but their inconsistent gives reason for concern in Tallahassee. While their 45-17 rout of the Hurricanes in Coral Gables showed off a stellar defense and smash-mouth running game, they followed that by squeaking out a 24-19 win at home against Boston College. Florida State, particularly quarterback Christian Ponder, could not seem to take care of the ball against the Eagles. Ponder's three interceptions nearly equaled his total for the season coming into the game, and for the first time this year there were murmurs from FSU fans about benching the preseason ACC POY candidate. Regardless, the Seminoles are undefeated in conference play, and they really have one big hurdle left on the schedule. A win against N.C. State on Thursday night in Raleigh could give the kind of separation in the division to lock up the division barring a complete meltdown. Of course, we can never rule that out.
North Carolina State (2-1)(5-2) - Two losses in the last three games have calmed some of the buzz around the Wolfpack, but they are still just as much in the ACC title hunt as they have been all season. Russell Wilson has looked far more human than usual, throwing eight interceptions in those three games, but that will likely change when the Seminoles visit on Thursday night next week. Wilson has a history of stepping up in big games, and none will be bigger than Florida State. Not only would a win close the gap, but it would give the Wolfpack the advantage in the event of a tiebreaker. Additionally, it would only leave trips to Clemson and North Carolina as their greatest challenges. While those are both far from guaranteed, they are winnable games for this year's squad.
Maryland (1-1)(4-2)/Clemson (1-2)(3-3) - For the most part, the ACC Atlantic is a two-headed race for now. But should either/both of the teams slip, the Terrapins and Tigers will be hoping for a chance to contend. Clemson faces an issue of already picking up their second conference loss with N.C. State and Florida State still left on the schedule. Their best chance to make it interesting is for the Seminoles to lose in Raleigh, and for the Tigers to run the table in the conference. The problem with the Terrapins is that they are not a very good football team. "Fluke" does not accurately describe a scenario that puts them in the conference championship game. "Anomaly" is more appropriate.
Virginia Tech (3-0)(5-2) - The nation may have forgotten about the Hokies after Week 2, but head coach Frank Beamer clearly did not. Since the upset loss to James Madison, the Hokies have gone 5-0 and are averaging a 21.4 point margin of victory in those games. Sophomore David Wilson has exploded in Ryan Williams' absence, and Tyrod Taylor has been given the keys to the offense with at least 240 yards of total offense in the last four games. Their road to Charlotte is not obstacle free, but no one in the Coastal has an easy ride from here. The Hokies still have trips to North Carolina and Miami, but get the Yellow Jackets at home on a Thursday night. With "Enter Sandman" blaring and Lane Stadium on their feet for the primetime showdown, I have a hard time seeing the Jackets pulling the upset.
Georgia Tech (3-1)(5-2) - Georgia Tech has not looked as dominant as the conference champions from a year ago, but they find themselves in a familiar spot at the season's midpoint. Georgia Tech has not been winning pretty, but they are finding a way. That may not last for long with their conference schedule getting significantly more difficult in the coming weeks. Road games at Clemson and the aforementioned showdown with Virginia Tech stand in the way between Georgia Tech and a return to the ACC Championship game. If they do happen to pull the upset in Blacksburg, there will still be a home date with Miami that could decide the division. Georgia Tech has the tools and opportunity to defend their division, but it will all come down to execution on the field.
Miami (2-1)(4-1) - Similar to Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes may be considered a "bust" in the national scene, but still are very much in contention to win the ACC Championship. Unfortunately for Miami fans, the team has not looked the same since their 30-21 victory at Clemson. After getting embarrassed at home by Florida State, Miami needed 7 forced turnovers from their defense to beat Duke 28-13. However, there is not a better chance to get back on track than with a pivotal division victory, and they will get that chance on Saturday against North Carolina. A win over the Tar Heels at home could put them back on track to challenge Virginia Tech for the division crown. The Hurricanes and Hokies have a showdown in Coral Gables on November 20 that should carry huge conference championship implications, so go ahead and circle your calendar.
North Carolina (2-1)(4-2) - After a depleted roster started the season 0-2, the Tar Heels have rattled off four straight wins and become relevant in the ACC again. They suffered a huge loss in the victory against Clemson, losing Zach Pianalto for the season with a broken leg. Pianalto was the Tar Heels' leading receiver and favorite target of quarterback T.J. Yates. Yates has put up phenomenal numbers so far, averaging 249 yards per game and throwing for 11 touchdowns and only 1 interception. If the rest of the North Carolina receivers can step up in Pianalto's absence, the Tar Heels have a chance at making a run. It won't be easy, but it is still a chance. North Carolina still has road games against Miami and Florida State, and have to host Virginia Tech and N.C. State at home. Butch Davis is 0-3 against the Wolfpack, and there is a good chance that the late season showdown between in-state rivals will carry serious weight for both teams.