Florida State, Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech have separated from the rest of the ACC.

Clemson's Andre Ellington, left, scores a touchdown in front of Florida State's Ochuko Jenije during fourth-quarter action in Clemson, S.C. on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009. (Travis Bell/Sideline Carolina)

The ACC never needed to be great from top to bottom to start gaining respect as a football conference. What they needed was for a group of teams to start separating themselves from the rest of the conference. In the last 2 years Florida State and Clemson were already very much doing that. That’s was good for conference, but it still set things up for a 1 game conference season, and not a lot of interest in the conference championship game or many other games late in the season.

The best scenario is that 3 or 4 teams rise above the pack. If it’s deeper than that great, if not that’s ok. Your set of elite teams is all you need.  That’s what’s happening this year in the ACC. Saturday we saw even more separation in the ACC. Florida State went mid 90s on a hopeful Maryland team 63-0. In their hey day the Noles would routinely destroy any ACC team that tried to build any momentum in a season. Clemson cruised to a 49-14 win over Syracuse. Florida State and Clemson look like they are on a collision course toward the ACC’s biggest regular season game in recent memory on October 19. That game will be an epic clash.

Here’s what has to make John Swofford smile though… That’s your biggest game, but the Coastal Division suddenly got very interesting.

Miami is now 5-0 after their 45-30 win over Georgia Tech. All they need to do to be 7-0 when facing Florida State is beat a reeling UNC team, and Wake Forest at home. The Noles will certainly either be 6-1 or 7-0. The Canes already their marquee win over Florida to prove their worth. Last but not least is Virginia Tech. I can’t put the Hokies in the same category as the other 3. They don’t have a lot of offensive punch, and don’t have a signature win. I wouldn’t really count Georgia Tech as a signature win. The Jackets are a relatively well coached team, but one that is at bottom third of the ACC in terms of talent. That said the Hokies now sit 5-1, have an elite defense and should be ranked in the next polls.

As we’ve said before the Hokies stand a great chance to be 8-1 when they face Miami on November 9th in the game that will decide the ACC Coastal. While it won’t match the FSU/Clemson matchup in terms of hype, you could be seeing two top 20 teams go at it. When you play the type defense the Hokies do you can play with anyone. Of the teams that looked like ACC darkhorses, North Carolina was eliminated early. Georgia Tech and Maryland joined them today. NC State had their chance, but suffered an embarrassing loss at Wake Forest Saturday.

If the conference didn’t get better from top to bottom it was critical a few teams started the separation we are talking about.  The ACC’s 4 best teams are clear from the rest of the field and that’s a good thing.

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