Around the ACC

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

The ACC closed the regular season with a bang, not a bust. Clemson and North Carolina State both earned their bowl eligibility, and so far the league is 2-1 against the SEC with the Wake/Vandy game still in progress. (I'll check back on that one when I get back to the hotel, which won't be for a while.) Until then, here are a few thoughts from all of today's games, and what a week it was:

This was arguably the ACC's biggest win of the season, and will be even tougher to beat in the Orange Bowl. Now, that's how you represent. On the road against a ranked SEC team. If this is what Paul Johnson did in his first year, imagine how tough the Yellow Jackets will be to beat in his third, when he's brought in his own recruits. And no doubt the win over Georgia helped win some local talent over. Even without an ACC title, Georgia Tech fans have at least nine other reasons to celebrate, the latest being the biggest.

Regardless of how they did it (with defense and coaching) the Hokies deserve credit for making it to the ACC championship game again. Virginia Tech was probably the one team in the ACC that met preseason expectations, as they were picked by the media to win the division. Nobody, though, probably expected it would be this difficult. Virginia, on the other hand, ended its season with a four-game losing streak and failed to become bowl eligible for the second time in the past three years. AD Craig Littlepage stands behind his earlier statement this season that Al Groh's job is secure, regardless of how he finishes the season.

Dabo Swinney hasn't had an official interview yet for the head coaching job, but his win over rival South Carolina spoke louder than anything he probably could have said anyway. The Tigers are now bowl eligible and will be an attractive team to a lot of bowls. One of the most impressive aspects of this win is that Clemson's defense outplayed South Carolina's, which was one of the best in the SEC. Swinney made a tough call firing former offensive coordinator Rob Spence, but judging by the success they've had since that move was made, it was the right one. Of course, having a healthy offensive line and the right combination there has also made a tremendous difference.

The Wolfpack are now bowl eligible, and odds are they wind up in D.C. for the first Eagle Bank Bowl. It's hard to believe NC State entered the month 2-6. The turnaround can be attributed to the coaching staff, the health of the team, and quarterback Russell Wilson. He did it again today, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. They racked up 439 yards against what was one of the better defenses in the ACC. While NC State made a run similar to the one it did last season, the program took another step forward by finishing the job. Last year, their four-game winning streak was marred by back-to-back losses.

Dominique Davis proved he is a capable quarterback and an accurate passer. He's good enough to win his next game, especially if he gets another outstanding performance from the defense and Montel Harris adds another 100-yard rushing performance. When the Eagles hold opponents to under 100 yards rushing like they have their past five opponents and the offense doesn't make mistakes, it's usually a winning formula. It's also a formula that doesn't bode well for the one-dimensional Hokies.

FSU coach Bobby Bowden said before this game it would be interesting to see how much they had closed the gap with their rivals. Maybe he'd rather not know. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the Gators this season. They've made their case as the best team in the country. FSU placekicker Graham Gano was the best offense the Noles had. It was another learning experience for Christian Ponder, who was benched in favor of Drew Weatherford.

The Tar Heels finally got what they needed from quarterback T.J. Yates, and were able to snap the two-game losing streak. Yates threw three touchdown passes, and the defense looked like it did a few weeks ago when Trimane Goddard intercepted a pass in the final minute to seal the win. Duke fans should still be happy with the job David Cutcliffe did this season as he brought the program back to respectability.