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Sep
19
2011

Next few weeks will separate the ACC Division Contenders from Pretenders.

So I’m as guilty as anyone getting caught up on all this expansion business, but there are actual games to be played in the ACC. Big games, real big games, with division and even national title hopes at stake. Who are the contenders and who’s on the outside looking in ready to join them?

Contenders

Clemson – I know Auburn’s defense is bad, but that was still the defending national champions that the Tigers shredded for over 600 yards of offense. The Tigers are deep enough that star RB Andre Ellington didn’t play most of the second half, and D.J Howard and Mike Bellamy stepped right in without missing a beat. Sammy Watkins is most gifted wide receiver to enter the ACC since Calvin Johnson was at Georgia Tech. If Clemson can beat Florida State this Saturday, they will take an important step to winning the ACC Atlantic Division.

Florida State – The Noles defense is for real and the ACC’s best. The offense has injuries to multiple WR’s and their starting QB E.J Manuel, but they’ve been inconsistent running the ball all year. In one game the Seminoles can wrap up the ACC Atlantic. If they win at Clemson there aren’t any more roadblocks to the division, lose and they can still win the Atlantic, but then they’ll need Clemson to lose at least 2 ACC games. If I’m FSU I don’t want to rely on a Clemson team that crushed Auburn and beat me.

Virginia Tech – The Hokies play at Marshall this week, but next week is a showdown with the Clemson Tigers. Virginia Tech has been considered a darkhorse national title contender since the pre-season, and they need marquee wins. A 4-0 Clemson team with wins over Auburn and Florida State would provide that. Even if Clemson loses to FSU, the Tigers are one of the few teams the capable of throwing a scare into Virginia Tech. If Virginia Tech loses though the ACC Coastal suddenly looks a little more wide open and the next two teams may be able to make a run at the Hokies.

Not quite a Contender, but close.

Georgia Tech – The Yellow Jackets are leading the country in offense, rushing and scoring. Sure Western Carolina, Middle Tennessee, and Kansas aren’t the greatest teams out there, but averaging 59 points and 675 yards of offense is still pretty unbelievable. Are the Yellow Jackets for real? The next two weeks will tell us. The get an athletic North Carolina team this week in Atlanta, and next week go on the road to face an NC State team that routed them last year.

North Carolina – The Heels haven’t played perfect thus far, but they are 3-0, and if they win at Georgia Tech they’ll probably be 6-0 when Miami comes to Chapel Hill on October 15th. QB Bryn Renner has played extremely well in spurts. North Carolina will be far the best team Georgia Tech has faced this year. Winner of their game this week becomes Virginia Tech’s biggest threat in the ACC Coastal.

Would need a lot of help

Maryland/Miami – These are two teams that may be able to work their way into contender status. I don’t care how down Ohio State is, the Canes still dominated the Buckeyes, and Maryland has one the conference’s best quarterbacks in Danny O’Brien. The Canes already have an ACC loss to Maryland, and still have road games at Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Florida State. That’s just too many landmines. Maryland could have really proved something this past week, but lost to West Virginia at home. The three game stretch of playing at Georgia Tech, Clemson, and at Florida State will be too much for the Terps to join Clemson and Florida State as Atlantic Division Contenders.



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