What is this, basketball?
With a last-minute victory on Saturday, Duke (6-2, 3-1) grabbed a hold of the ACC’s Coastal Division lead and became bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Yes, Duke. No, this is football.
The upstart Blue Devils topped their Tobacco Road rivals, North Carolina (5-3, 2-2), in thrilling fashion, 33-30, on a touchdown pass with 13 seconds remaining in regulation. Sean Renfree found Jamison Crowder for the winning score after Duke let a 14-point lead slip away. The perennial conference doormats now find themselves in the driver’s seat to play for the conference crown.
Renfree threw for 276 yards, Josh Snead ran for another 99 and Duke totaled 510 yards of total offense. The impressive Blue Devils face a difficult schedule coming home (more on that later), but for now, they can revel in their success.
No. 14 Florida State (7-1, 4-1) maintained its Atlantic Division lead with a 33-20 victory over Miami (4-4, 3-2). The Hurricanes jumped out to a 10-3 lead after one quarter, but the Seminoles roared past them.
The difference in the game was on the ground. FSU ran for 218 yards, and all three of its touchdowns came in that fashion. James Wilder scored to tie the game early in the second quarter, and Devonta Freeman sealed the victory with two fourth-quarter rushing scores. Miami, on the other hand, ran for only 29 yards on 21 carries, a 1.4 yards-per-carry average. E.J. Manuel was effective, going 21 of 31 for 229 yards and rushing 11 times for 34 yards.
No. 19 Clemson (6-1, 3-1) kept pace in the Atlantic with a 38-17 win over Virginia Tech (4-4, 2-2). The Hokies grabbed a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game, but they would score just twice more over the final 49-plus minutes.
Tajh Boyd threw for one touchdown and ran for two more, Andre Ellington carried 19 times for 96 yards and a TD and the Tigers added a score on defense. Clemson was outgained, 406-295, but won in convincing fashion.
North Carolina State (5-2, 2-1) topped Maryland (4-3, 2-1) on a last-second field goal to win its second straight game. Niklas Sade’s 43-yarder with 32 seconds remaining lifted the Wolfpack over the Terps. Mike Glennon threw for 307 yards and two scores for NC State. Maryland’s Perry Hills was injured during the game; he suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
Georgia Tech (3-4, 2-3) ended a three-game losing streak with a 37-17 rout of Boston College (1-6, 0-4). Tevin Washington ran for two scores and the Yellow Jackets’ triple option produced 391 rushing yards. GT led 28-3 at the half.
The Eagles, who have lost five straight, continued to struggle. Their only victory was a 34-3 home win against Maine, an FCS school with a 2-5 record. BC is one of two ACC teams without a conference victory; every other school has at least two.
Virginia (2-6, 0-4) is the other winless school. The Cavaliers fell at home to Wake Forest (4-3, 2-3), 16-10. The teams combined for 514 yards of total offense (four more than Duke had by itself) and two touchdowns. Chad Hedlund’s three field goals helped the Demon Deacons go above .500 this season.
More on Duke’s difficult road ahead:
The Blue Devils’ four remaining games are: at No. 12 Florida State, home for No. 18 Clemson, at Georgia Tech, home against Miami.
Duke’s last victory against any one of those four teams: Nov. 13, 2004, when the Blue Devils won at home over Clemson, 16-13. That was Duke’s second and final win of the season; Clemson finished that year 6-5.
The ACC schedule gets off to an early start in Week 9. No. 18 Clemson plays on the road against Wake Forest on Thursday night.
Four games will be played Saturday. As mentioned above, Duke’s reward for gaining bowl eligibility is a road test at No. 12 FSU.
North Carolina hosts North Carolina State, Boston College plays at home against Maryland, and Georgia Tech takes on BYU in Atlanta.
Our ACC Play of the Week comes from the final seconds of Duke’s win over UNC. On 4th-and-2, Sean Renfree throws to Jamison Crowder for the game-winning score.
What do you think of Duke this year? Do they have any hope of taking down the ACC? And can anyone else beat Florida State this year? Let us know what you think!