There were only four games across the ACC in Week Eight, but as followers of the conference, there were a handful of prominent storylines that emerged as the match-ups came to a close. As the second half of the season is now in full swing, here are the three biggest takeaways from the week that was in the ACC.
1) Virginia Tech is the Best All-Around Team in the Coastal Division
This was not the same Virginia Tech team that played Syracuse, just ask Miami.
The Hokies blew the doors off of the Miami Hurricanes last Thursday night at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, putting a stranglehold on the ACC Coastal Division with their 37-16 victory over the Hurricanes. Virginia Tech entered the game after the loss to Syracuse with question marks surrounding their running game after an abysmal performance against the Orange. All the Hokies did on Thursday night against a depleted Miami front seven, was run for 251 yards as a team, led by sophomore Travon McMillian’s 131 yards on 18 carries from the running back position. Couple the improved running game with another efficient passing performance by junior quarterback Jerod Evans (21-of-33 for 259 yards and two touchdowns) and the Hokies put together their most effective all-around game offensively of the season.
Defensively, the Hokies bounced back as well. After allowing well over 500 yards of offense to Syracuse a week ago, the Hokies made life miserable for Brad Kaaya and the Hurricanes offense. Despite being without two of their top contributors on the defensive line in Nigel Williams and Ken Ekanem, Bud Foster’s defense still managed to sack Brad Kaaya eight times, while also disrupting the Miami rushing attack (or lack thereof) in the process, holding the duo of Mark Walton and Joe Yearby to under 100 yards rushing.
If the Hokies are able to take their show on the road against Pittsburgh this Thursday and win at Heinz Field for the first time since 1999, it will be difficult to envision anybody other than Virginia Tech as the Coastal representative in the ACC Championship come December.
2) Lamar Jackson Locked Up the Heisman….in October!
After NC State went on the road to Death Valley a week ago and put Clemson on the ropes late before ultimately falling in overtime, the story heading into Saturday’s match-up between Louisville and the Wolfpack seemed to surround how ready to play the Cardinals would be after their tough game against Duke last time out. Was the offense hitting a snag? Was Lamar Jackson getting figured out? Was Dave Doeren’s Wolfpack lurking as a true spoiler in the Atlantic?
Yeah, consider all of those theories debunked.
Lamar Jackson scampered for a 36-yard touchdown run one minute and thirty-three seconds into what turned out to be a 41-0 first half rout for the Cardinals, effectively ending the supposed resurgence of NC State in only 30 minutes of game action. Jackson finished the game 20-of-34 passing for 355 yards and three touchdowns. He also carried the ball 17 times for 76 yards and a touchdown.
It may sound insane to already crown him the Heisman winner in October, but who is going to knock him off of the pedestal? On the season, Jackson has thrown for 2,161 yards and 18 touchdowns, and has rushed for 908 yards and 16 touchdowns. A 25/25 season is not out of play here with the pace in which he’s scoring both on the ground and through the air, but even without that prestigious mark, there is nobody standing in his way from steamrolling to the Heisman Trophy, which is remarkably a lock as October comes to a close.
3) Boston College Will Go Winless in Conference Play for the Second Consecutive Season
Yep, the Eagles will not win a conference game this season.
This will be the second straight season that they will not win a game in the ACC, a testament to how poorly they have played on the offensive side of the football, really for each of the last four seasons. Their 28-20 loss at home at the hands of Syracuse was a microcosm of their whole season, as the Eagles were unable to capitalize on numerous opportunities to take control of the football game.
Quarterback Patrick Towles was abysmal throwing the football, finishing 4-of-14 for 45 yards and an interception. He left the game in the second half with a hamstring injury that he sustained on a 75-yard touchdown run, which given the Eagles’ lack of quality QB depth on the roster, effectively ended all true hopes of winning the football game.
The Eagles defense wasn’t much better, as they were torched by the ACC Offensive Back of the Week in Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey, who finished 32-of-38 for 434 yards and three touchdown passes. Dungey also carried the ball 17 times for 54 yards for the Orange, which as a team, amassed 532 yards of total offense on the day.
On their remaining schedule, Boston College must travel on the road to NC State, before getting back-to-back weeks of Louisville (home) and Florida State (road). Sandwiched between Florida State and their final game of the year on the road at Wake Forest is the UCONN Huskies, which presents in my opinion, the only winnable game remaining on their schedule. Some will say that Boston College should beat Wake Forest, but has anybody seen Wake play this season?
Their run defense has been suffocating, which effectively takes away the only way that Boston College can move the football with how inept they are through the air, and the Demon Deacons offense has been surprisingly explosive at times, with an efficient running attack and improving passing game. I think Wake could potentially win the game by 10+, even if that scoring margin sounds unpopular.
Regardless, the conference losing streak of Boston College has a real solid chance to extend to two full seasons, which is among the many reasons that a changing of the guard is inevitable in Chesnut Hill at season’s end.
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