A weekend that, on the surface at least, lacked excitement around the ACC turned into a couple of upsets and some massive near-misses.
Perhaps it was the full moon, but the wackiness that is conference play was fully on display this weekend and rearranged both the conference standings and the national rankings.
More Hokie Nightmares in the Carrier Dome
The biggest shocker of the weekend came in the form of a 31-17 Syracuse upset of No. 17 Virginia Tech.
Orange quarterback Eric Dungey continued to prove why he’s the fourth leading passer in the nation, tossing for 311 yards and rushing for 106 to key the upset. The Teach defense limited top target Amba Etta-Tawo to five catches for 54 yards but Ervin Phillips (139 yards, TD) and Brisly Estime (131 yards, TD) both stepped up big time for Syracuse (3-4, 1-2).
This is wild. You can hear Syracuse players going nuts in locker room during the Justin Fuente press conference. https://t.co/C52ONiKByk
— chris carlson (@ccarlsononSU) October 16, 2016
“It bothers me that we’re not consistently good, and that’s what we’re striving for,” Dino Babers said. “And we may get there this year, we may not. But that’s where we’re headed, to be consistently good.”
The Hokies (4-2, 2-1) are now just 2-7 all-time in the Carrier Dome, and you have to go all the way back to 1986 under Bill Dooley for one of those victories.
Miami Learns the ‘Carolina Way’
Mitch Trubisky and the Tar Heel offense recovered from a dud last week in Hurricane Matthew with a solid performance in a 20-14 upset of No. 16 Miami. Trubisky threw for 299 yards and two scores against a tough Canes defense.
“It’s a huge bounce-back game for us, coming down on the road against a very good opponent,” Trubisky said afterwards.
UNC WR Mack Hollins suffered a broken collar bone during victory at Miami. Unclear if/when he'll be able to return this season.
— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) October 16, 2016
Indeed. The win puts Carolina (5-2, 3-1) back at the top of the heap in the ACC Coastal division race and leaves Miami (4-2, 1-2) squarely behind the eight ball headed into a tough game on the road Thursday night against Virginia Tech.
The Miami offense has been scuffling recently and now injuries have piled up on the defensive side of the ball. Linemen Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson both left the game against UNC and the Canes are banged up across the board. The short week won’t help matters.
Clemson Evades the Wolfpack
No. 3 Clemson was largely outplayed by N.C. State Saturday, but the Tigers (7-0, 4-0) pulled things together when they had to, aided by a wayward field goal.
Kyle Bambard’s 33-yard attempt sailed wide at the end of regulation, then Clemson got a key fourth down conversion in overtime followed by an interception in the end zone by Marcus Edmond to seal the deal in a 24-17 nailbiter.
Picture of the day. pic.twitter.com/Z8lFMyOxZV
— Sons of Clemson (@SonsOfClemson) October 17, 2016
The Tigers overcame four turnovers, something that’s become an unsettling trend for the Clemson faithful and coaches alike. Turnovers are the great equalizer in any sport and it has kept things uncomfortably close for Clemson several times this season.
Matthew Dayes ran for over 100 yards for the fifth times in six games this season and the Wolfpack (4-2, 1-1) defense continued to show improvement in slowing down the Clemson attack. State isn’t going to be an easy out for anyone this season and they’re putting together the kind of season that Dave Doeren so desperately needed.
Duke Falls Short of Louisville
The weekend began with a narrow 24-14 Louisville win over Duke. The Blue Devils (3-4, 0-3) came to play and the defense limited Lamar Jackson’s passing to 181 yards with a score, but a completion percentage of 50%. Weather was certainly a factor with rain making passing tough, but Duke’s Daniel Jones was actually the higher rated passer on the evening with 129 yards, two touchdowns, and a slightly higher completion percentage.
A Late roughing the kicker penalty on Duke during a Louisville (5-1, 3-1) punt essentially ended the game, but Jackson officially ended it with a short touchdown run with 1:32 remaining.
Lamar Jackson has more rushing touchdowns than Virginia Tech, NC State, Clemson, BC, Wake, Duke, Syracuse, UNC and UVa.
— Howie Lindsey (@howielindsey) October 17, 2016
On the evening, Jackson ran 21 times for 144 yards and a touchdown proving once again that he can dominate a game virtually any way he chooses. Duke meanwhile continued to show flashes of potential marred by a few costly errors.
So, What Does it Mean?
It would appear that mean is the key word there. The standings have settled a bit and regressed toward the mean with North Carolina and Pittsburgh atop the standings in the Coastal Division and Louisville and Clemson leading the Atlantic.
That’s what many people expected in the preseason, but surprising Virginia Tech and inconsistent Florida State are still nipping right behind, with the Hokies tied for second with Pitt and owning a tiebreaker over UNC.
Questions of focus and ball-control surround Clemson and Louisville and injuries have piled up ahead for both Miami and Virginia Tech ahead of Thursday’s rivalry meeting.
Every team has struggles at some point during the season, even undefeated ones. The biggest question always is simply, how will they respond?