What we learned in the ACC: Week 8

Here’s a look at five things we learned in five games this weekend:

Miami has a pulse. After lackluster performances in a loss to Florida State and a win over Duke, Miami finally showed up with -- dare I say it -- some swagger against North Carolina. I know, I know, it’s a word that can tire quickly, but it’s exactly what this program has been missing. I don’t know what safety Vaughn Telemaque said to his teammates on the sideline, but I do know this team has sorely been lacking somebody willing to get up in everyone’s face and challenge them. Telemaque was the one who told me so. Somebody lit a spark under these guys and it paid off in a Coastal Division win that keeps the Canes in the hunt for their first ACC title and snapped a three-game losing streak to their former coach, Butch Davis.

Maryland is to be taken seriously now. A conference road win counts for something, even if it did come against a downtrodden Boston College team that lost three of its top defenders to injuries. The Terps hadn’t won on the road since September 2008 and they got what they needed on both sides of the ball -- even without injured starting offensive lineman Pete DeSouza. With the win, Maryland and NC State are tied for second place in the Atlantic Division standings with 2-1 records. While Thursday night’s game between Florida State and NC State will go a long way toward determining the division winner, the Terps are equally in the mix.

Georgia Tech and North Carolina are on the outside looking in. The loss to Miami put a significant dent in the Tar Heels’ chances of contending for the Coastal Division and finishing an otherwise nightmarish season in storybook fashion. With two conference losses, both Georgia Tech and UNC will not only have to beat Virginia Tech, which is undefeated in conference play, they’ll also have to get some help against the Hokies. The defending ACC champs didn’t look like ACC champs in Death Valley on Saturday.

Paul Johnson’s offense can be stopped. All it takes is a disciplined, determined defense, and Clemson was both on Saturday. For the Tigers to hold Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt to 2 rushing yards -- 2! -- was simply unbelievable. In fact, I still don’t believe it. The Tigers’ defense held Georgia Tech to 325 yards and 13 points -- the fewest yards and points for Georgia Tech this season. The Jackets entered the game averaging 328 rushing yards per game and were held to 242 yards.

Virginia can beat an FBS team. It took until the second half for the Cavaliers to pull away, but with their 48-21 win over Eastern Michigan, they earned their first win of the season against an FBS program. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, there weren’t many people there to witness it, as the crowd of 36,600 was the lowest since Virginia played Duke in 1997.