What we learned in the ACC: Week 9

It’s not hard to believe Clemson lost. It is, however, hard to believe Georgia Tech played THAT well after playing so poorly for two weeks. What did it teach us? Check out the lessons learned in Week 9:

The ACC no longer has a national title contender or Heisman candidate. It happened that quickly. It was a great win for Georgia Tech, but the truth is, it was bad for the ACC. Clemson’s chances of playing for the national title were slim as an undefeated team, but now, with one loss, the Tigers will have to hope a trip to Charlotte is their consolation prize. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd threw one touchdown and two interceptions, and now that he's no longer playing for a national title contender, his Heisman hopes will take a dive.

Georgia Tech is (still) good enough to win the Coastal Division. If the Yellow Jackets play as well against Virginia Tech as they did against Clemson on Nov. 10, there should be a new leader in the Coastal Division standings. Despite back-to-back losses, Georgia Tech managed to put together its best game of the season against its best competition. On the same day, Virginia Tech barely beat Duke, and its lead in the Coastal Division standings now seems even more precarious. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said not to bury his team just yet. How fitting that right before Halloween the Jackets chose to come back to life.

And yet the Coastal Division is deeper than a two-team race. Speaking of coming back from the dead, North Carolina and Virginia shook off some ghosts, too. After six turnovers against Clemson two weeks ago, the Tar Heels turned the tables on Wake Forest and had five takeaways in a convincing win. UNC is now bowl eligible. And Virginia, one week after losing at home to NC State, beat Miami on the road. Virginia would win the head-to-head against Georgia Tech and is right there behind Virginia Tech. With wins by UNC, UVa and GT this past weekend, the drama continues.

Wake Forest vs. Clemson is still interesting, but for a different reason. Had both of these teams won, their November date would have been a showdown for the Atlantic Division lead. It still is, but it’s a less compelling national story now that both teams lost and Clemson is no longer a national title contender. That and that both teams combined for nine turnovers on Saturday. With Clemson’s loss, the gap between the Tigers and the rest of the division shrunk considerably, but Wake Forest remains its biggest obstacle in the standings right now.

In the battle for the bottom, Maryland wins. It’s about the only thing the Terps have won in the ACC this year. Boston College was due for an ACC win, and Maryland opened the door. Wide. The Terps didn’t just lose at home, they got run over by a sophomore reserve running back who had a career day. BC and Maryland both have identical records (2-6 overall, 1-4 ACC), but after the head-to-head competition, Maryland now officially sunk to the bottom of the division, though NC State made a statement in its loss to FSU that it’s still a candidate.