Saturday marked a rare occasion in college football — a night where the spotlight shone brightest in Tallahassee and on the Atlantic Coast Conference.
At 11:52 p.m. ET on Saturday, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher knelt on the field. Fisher savored a victory that was surely the sweetest in the three years since he replaced a legendary Florida State coach. He hugged his wife and two sons and walked off with his team the victor against No. 10 Clemson in the most important ACC showdown in years.
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It would not be a stretch to say the ACC has struggled recently in the national football landscape and this game was hailed as a chance to show the nation it was still capable.
In Florida State’s first sellout crowd in a year, 83,231 fans witnessed an offensive showdown, the ninth between two ACC teams ranked among the top 10.
Following its 12-point win, the Seminoles are in prime position in the Atlantic Division and have vaulted into the national championship discussion. Miami (Fla.) was the most recent ACC team to win a national title, beating Nebraska 37-14 in 2001.
“We were very fortunate to come out on top,” Fisher said after the game. “It’s a good win. We should win big games here at Florida State.”
The 49-37 victory restored credibility to a program that many claimed was not a legitimate title contender.
Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel was superb Saturday. Manuel passed for a career-high 380 yards and rushed for 102 yards — also a career best.
The dominant Florida State defense that had allowed three points in three games looked porous early on as Clemson held a 21-14 lead at halftime. However, the Seminole defense hunkered down in the third quarter, as it held the Tigers to just seven points in its last six possessions.
Florida State has one ranked team remaining on its schedule, facing No. 11 Florida in Tallahassee on Nov. 24, the final regular-season game for both teams. The season is still young, but it’s not a stretch to think the Noles might just be back in contention for a national title.
Boston College (1-2, 0-1 ACC)
• Boston College had its bye week land at an advantageous time. It has an extra week to plan a way to stop Clemson’s dynamic offense.
• Eagles coach Frank Spaziani said the Eagles running game, averaging only 95.7 yards per game, needs to boost its play.
“We are going to challenge our running backs more and hope that they can show us something,” Spaziani said last week. “They are good kids and have talent, they just haven’t performed up to their capabilities.”
Next Game: vs. Clemson Sept. 29
No. 10 Clemson (3-1, 0-1 ACC)
• The Tigers have an uphill climb in the Atlantic Division following their loss at FSU. Clemson allowed 35 points in the second-half and it remains apparent that its defense is its Achilles’ heel — Clemson opponents averaged 6.44 yards per play and scored 12 offensive touchdowns in four games.
• Its defense has a chance to show its mettle in Chestnut Hill against BC quarterback Chase Rettig, whose 317 passing yards per game leads the conference.
Next Game: at Boston College Sept. 29
Duke (3-1, 0-0 ACC)
• The Blue Devils enjoyed one of its best defensive performances under David Cutcliffe as it held the Memphis offense to 152 yards. The Blue Devil offense won the time of possession battle in each of the final three quarters.
• Duke opens conference play on the road against a Demon Deacon offense that amassed 297 yards rushing on 38 attempts Saturday, good for a robust 7.8 yards per carry.
Next Game: at Wake Forest Sept. 29
No. 4 Florida State (4-0, 2-0 ACC)
• EJ Manuel’s 380 passing yards marked the third time he topped 300 in his career. His 102 rushing yards made him the first FSU quarterback to throw for 300 and rush for 100 since former Heisman winner Charlie Ward in 1992.
• The Seminoles look to maintain its high level of play in Tampa when they square off against the Bulls, who dropped two consecutive games after a 2-0 start.
Next Game: at South Florida Sept. 29
Georgia Tech (2-2, 1-2 ACC)
• Georgia Tech has had tough luck in September. In its wins it outscored its opponents 115-23, but its losses were conferences games that ended in overtime.
• Sophomore running back Tony Zenon notched his first collegiate rushing touchdown, a 35-yard run, in the third quarter against Miami (Fla.).
• Georgia Tech hosts the Blue Raiders Saturday in a non-conference tilt that may be one of its most winnable games. After that, it will face a steep challenge when it travels to Death Valley to play Clemson.
Next Game: vs. Middle Tennessee Sept. 29
Maryland (2-2, 0-0 ACC)
• A young Maryland team led by freshman QB Perry Hills held its own against skilled No. 8 West Virginia in a losing effort. The Terps have a chance to rebuild their confidence during a bye week before they begin conference play.
• Hills, who passed for a career-high 305 yards, went 20 for 29 with three touchdowns and an interception.
“I thought he went out and for the most part did a good part of executing the game plan,” coach Randy Edsall said of Hills. “We have to protect him better; we didn’t protect him well enough [Saturday].”
Next Game: vs. Wake Forest Oct. 6
Miami (Fla.) (3-1, 2-0 ACC)
• In a wild game, the Hurricanes led 19-0 after the first quarter, but trailed 22-19 at halftime. The Yellow Jacket lead grew to 17 points in the third quarter, but Miami scored 20 unanswered points to win in overtime and remain unblemished in conference play.
• Quarterback Stephen Morris threw for 436 passing yards, a career high. It was the first time a UM QB passed for more than 400 yards since Ken Dorsey 2002.
• NC State visits Miami Saturday for its first conference home game this season. The Hurricanes hope to start 3-0 in ACC play for the first time since 2004.
Next Game: vs. NC State Sept. 29
NC State (3-1, 0-0 ACC)
• Mike Glennon ran for two touchdowns and passed for one as the Wolfpack routed The Citadel. Freshman Shadrach Thornton ran for 145 yards in his first career game.
• Junior cornerback David Amerson notched an interception for the third consecutive game. His 16th career pick tied the school record.
• The last time the Wolfpack played at Miami (Nov. 3, 2007), it won in overtime 19-16.
Next Game: at Miami Sept. 29
North Carolina (2-2, 0-1 ACC)
• RB Giovani Bernard scored a running and a receiving touchdown as the Tar Heels evened their record following consecutive road defeats.
• Quarterback Bryn Renner is second in the ACC with 297.8 yards passing per game. He leads the conference in touchdown passes (11) and looks to add to his total against a winless Vandals team.
Next Game: vs. Idaho Sept. 29
Virginia (2-2, 0-1 ACC)
• The Cavaliers did not score in Fort Worth until 4:22 remained in the fourth quarter. The defense played well against Casey Pachall, but the offense was lifeless for most of the game.
• Virginia would be wise not to overlook a talented Louisiana Tech offense. The Bulldogs have scored at least 52 points in each of their three wins and their defense forced six turnovers in a win at Illinois Saturday.
Next Game: vs. Louisiana Tech Sept. 29
Virginia Tech (2-1, 1-0 ACC)
• The Hokies shut out Bowling Green one week after they suffered an upset loss to Pittsburgh, a future conference foe.
• A key for Virginia Tech’s defense will be slowing a Bearcats rushing attack that averaged 259 yards in two wins. Cincinnati had its bye last weekend, leaving it ample time to develop a scheme to stop Logan Thomas and Co.
Next Game: vs. Cincinnati Sept. 29 (at Fedex Field in Landover, Md.)
Wake Forest (2-1, 1-1 ACC)
• The Demon Deacons outlasted Army in a game that featured more than 1,000 yards of total offense. “I knew that our offense had to score every time,” said Josh Harris, who ran for 129 yards on 12 carries. It nearly did as Wake Forest scored seven touchdowns on its 10 possessions.
• Wake Forest looks to hold off senior quarterback Sean Renfree, who leads an improved Duke attack. Renfree, who is in his third year as a starter, is the fourth-highest rated QB in the conference and passed for 1,078 yards in four games.
Next Game: vs. Duke Sept. 29
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