Week Nine: Five Things We Learned

Week nine turned out to be one of the wildest weekends to date in the ACC. A ridiculous blown-call filled, game-winning kick return, a backup quarterback making a name for himself in Tallahassee, and an unbelievable effort by the Clemson offense were some of the highlights of another weekend of incredible football. Here’s what we learned from the conference’s craziest week to date.


1. Sean Maguire Should Be Florida State’s Starting Quarterback

For those who have watched the Seminoles week in and week out over the first eight weeks of the season, it was clear that outside of Dalvin Cook, Florida State has really struggled to find consistency on the offensive side of the football, especially in the passing game.

Don’t get me wrong, since transferring from Notre Dame, Everett Golson has done a great job at protecting the football, as he has only turned it over once in eight games as the starting quarterback. However, an argument can be made that Golson has become too protective of the football, frequently throwing it underneath and refusing to take shots deep down the field at times for the Seminoles this season. This lack of a downfield passing game was one of the aspects of the offense that has been holding the team back. On Saturday against Syracuse, Sean Maguire, who started in place of Golson due to a concussion, showed just how dynamic the Seminoles can be when they take their chances deep down the field. He connected on touchdown passes of 75 and 45 yards respectively en route to a 348 yard passing effort and a 45-21 victory over the Orange. Jimbo Fisher will have some serious thinking to do at the quarterback position moving forward, but I’m sold. Start Maguire.


2. North Carolina Has Taken Control of the Coastal

After the Miami/Duke debacle (I’ll get into it in a second), and a well-timed victory over Coastal threat, Pittsburgh, the Tar Heels have taken control of the Coastal Division. Marquise Williams has been spectacular, with his latest performance coming in the mold of a 14 for 23 passing evening, for 270 yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, the ‘Heels are beginning to hand the ball to their stud running back Elijah Hood more consistently. Hood carried the ball 20 times for 98 yards on Thursday night, and while it wasn’t Hood’s most illustrious effort, the fact that the Tar Heels did not give up on him in the running game is an encouraging sign going forward.

Plus, how about this defense? After being the laughing stock of college football a year ago, new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik has inserted new blood into the porous unit from a year ago. After being well outside of the top 100 last season, the Tar Heels have improved to 43rd in total defense this year, allowing a modest 358 yards per game. It’s been quite the improvement on that side of the football, and as long as the defense can continue with the current pace, the offense is strong enough to propel North Carolina to the Coastal Division crown, and perhaps beyond.


3. Miami Won and Duke Was Robbed, Welcome to the ACC


There is no doubt that Miami has underachieved over the last couple of seasons under Al Golden, but when the embattled head coach was fired a little over a week ago, a narrative floated around college football about whether or not the Hurricanes open head coaching job, and the program itself, was still relevant. Consider that question answered, after an eight-lateral miracle play with at least four blown calls within it deciding the team’s win over then-ranked number 22 Duke. It is without question that the Blue Devils got robbed in this one, despite putting themselves in a hole against a team without a coach, which cannot be forgotten.

Regardless, the backlash against the Hurricanes has been downright comical, displaying that no matter what theor record is, people will still hate Miami. The officials who blew the last play, even after replay review, are now suspended for the next two games. This however, will not replace the damage done to the Blue Devils, who were sitting in perfect position to control their own destiny in the Coastal Division heading into Saturday’s contest with in-state rival North Carolina. To take a line from Drew Carey on Whose Line is it Anyway?, “Welcome to the ACC, where the rules are made up and predictions don’t matter.”


4. Georgia Tech Got Lucky Against Florida State, as Proven by Losing to Virginia

I spoke to the lack of a downfield passing attack for Florida State above, and I believe that this was the chief reason as to why the Seminoles lost to a less-talented Georgia Tech team last Saturday. After a fluky blocked field goal off of the nation’s best kicker, Roberto Aguayo, the Yellow Jackets swarmed to an unexpected victory at home against the Seminoles. It was a lucky play for the ‘Jackets, as everything had to come together correctly on that play for it to end up the way it did in the upset. That luck, unfortunately for them, did not carry over to their match-up with the Cavaliers, in which they were beat soundly by an inferior opponent, no matter what the final score says.

Despite only winning the game by six, the Cavaliers were in control throughout the majority of the second half, as they opened up a 27-14 lead early in the fourth quarter and never looked back. Georgia Tech was only able to rush for 144 yards on the Virginia defense, and the Cavaliers held Justin Thomas to just 13 of 31 passing, despite giving up 251 yards in the air, with most of that total coming in a garbage time comeback attempt. It was another lowly loss for the Yellow Jackets and Paul Johnson, whose 1-5 record in ACC play is just about the polar opposite of what was expected entering this season. Better luck next year, Georgia Tech.


5. Clemson’s Offense is Back to Where We Expected


In the opening weekend of the season, Clemson lost their star wide receiver Mike Williams to a season-ending neck injury. While the Tigers still harnessed plenty of firepower on the offensive side of the football, it was a huge loss for a team looking to win the ACC and contend for a playoff spot in the second annual College Football Playoff. The expectations laid before the Orange and White were unfair in some respects, as it was not a certainty that they would be among the nation’s elite on offense even with Williams, when considering the question marks surrounding the health of sophomore Deshaun Watson at quarterback. Luckily for the Tigers, Watson has remained healthy, and the offense that has improved week-to-week looked every bit like the nation’s best unit on Saturday against NC State.

Watson went 23 of 30 passing for 383 yards and five touchdown passes, while running back Wayne Gallman carried the ball 31 times for 172 yards and a score on the ground. Clemson’s 623 yards of total offense was the highest total of the season, as the Tigers rode the performance to a 56-41 victory over the Wolfpack to improve to 8-0 on the season. The offense will have to be just as good this Saturday entering the showdown against Atlantic Division rival Florida State.


Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @MikeMcDanielACC and check out InsideTheACC on Facebook and on Twitter @InsideTheACC.

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