Clemson is back in control of its own repeat destiny. But Miami finally passed a real test to prove The U is back. And what does the rest of the season mean for Florida State? Each week in this space we’ll take a look around the Atlantic Coast Conference and examine the most important happenings.
TIGERS IN THE MIX: Lost in the slate of huge games and upsets across the nation Saturday was Clemson’s victory against North Carolina State, which may have had as many national implications as any contest played over the weekend.
The Tigers taking down the Wolfpack puts Dabo Swinney’s team in position to almost certainly return to the College Football Playoff if they win out. It also puts Clemson in position to win the ACC Atlantic Division.
Barring any more major upsets, Clemson’s win likely prevented a potential nightmare scenario for the ACC that had an NC State squad with two non-conference losses winning the league title and keeping the conference out of the playoff.
Now it looks likely we’ll get a Miami-Clemson matchup in the ACC Championship, and the winner of that one, provided it still has one or fewer losses, should move right into the playoff.
HARD ROCKIN’ HURRICANES: Speaking of Miami, it had been easy to dismiss the Canes much of this season despite their unbeaten record. Miami had repeatedly squeaked by mediocre opponents and lacked any kind of signature victory.
No more. The Hurricanes thumped a good Virginia Tech team. Miami’s defense frustrated Hokie quarterback Josh Jackson. Running back Travis Homer is proving to be a more than adequate replacement for the injured Mark Walton.
The Canes are good, we know that now, and they have an opportunity to prove this is a great team with a win against Notre Dame this weekend. But maybe the biggest development is the way Hard Rock Stadium has become a significant home field advantage for the Canes.
Even in the glory days of The U, that was not something Miami really ever enjoyed in the cavernous, far from campus Orange Bowl. The new stadium in Miami is a cozy 65,000-seat building that got loud and rowdy as the Canes trounced the Hokies.
That was probably only a preview for Saturday when Miami and the Fighting Irish reignite what was once a bitter rivalry.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR NOLES: A few months ago we all fully expected Florida State to be a part of these playoff discussions at this point of the season, but somehow the Seminoles sit at just 3-5 after slipping past Syracuse, and would likely need to upset Clemson just to qualify for a bowl game.
Yes, we all know quarterback Deondre Francois got hurt in the opener and it changed the Noles season. But shouldn’t a program that won a national championship just a few years ago be in a position to withstand a single injury better than this?
You have to wonder why the quarterback depth was such that FSU has had to rely on a 3-star freshman.
Francois’ return next year should presumably get the Noles back into contention again next year, but the state of football in the state of Florida is in flux. Miami is back to a top-tier program with Mark Richt in charge and Florida could be on the rise depending on its next coaching hire. USF and UCF have become factors in recruiting in-state.
Florida State should be fine in the long term, but ever getting back to the days of a Seminole dynasty might be too tall an order for Jimbo Fisher.
Shane Mettlen is a veteran journalist who lives in Virginia and also writes for The ACC Sports Journal. Follow him on Twitter @ShaneMettlen