Two posts ago I was arguing that the Virginia Tech loss to East Carolina was not a reason to panic. I still believe that; the Hokies are who we thought they were, and there is still room for dominate teams to emerge out of the conference.
Now though, it may be time to panic.
Clemson's smackdown at the hands of Alabama is the first danger sign; this was to be The Year for Clemson, and if Clemson is the best the conference has to offer, well, the ACC is Alabama's bitch. Virginia was expected to lose to Southern Cal, but to fall by 46 points at home is pretty embarrassing, and Maryland playing Delaware to a 14-7 finish and requiring three quarterbacks to do so does not bode well. When it comes right down to it, only a few teams can hold their heads high this week:
Wake Forest: They manhandled a BCS conference team. Sure it was Baylor, but they won on the road, they won handily, and they never let up. If the other performances of the week are any indication, they may just roll to a conference chamionship.
Boston College: The didn't put up an impressive score against Kent State, but the defense kept the Golden Flashes outside the BC 45 for three quarters, didn't allow a score, and held the nation's leading returning rusher to 51 yards. That's the sort of play you need when breaking in a new offense.
Miami, Georgia Tech, and yes, Duke: They all beat D1-AA teams without having to break a sweat. Let me just emphasize that - Duke started the season better prepared than UNC and Maryland did.
The other six teams - FSU had the week off - are playing below expectations right now, and in ACC football the expectations have never been particularly high. Maryland, Virginia, and UNC can all redeem themselves in two weeks against decent nonconference opponents, but until then the greatest opportunity for a show of conference power is... Duke vs. Northwestern. Unless Miami comes up big against Florida, it's going to be a long, lonely September for the ACC.