ACC's Atlantic Division isn't turning any heads

By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 8, 2010; 12:38 AM

Theoretically, someone will have to win the ACC Atlantic Division. It might not seem that way given North Carolina State's erratic nature, Florida State's inability to close out against tough opponents, Maryland's allergic reaction to defeating quality foes and Clemson's reluctance to take the opportunities afforded them. But, really, we're not kidding. One of those teams will play in the conference title game in four weeks.

Clemson and Florida State will help decipher the division's hierarchy Saturday when the Seminoles host the Tigers in Tallahassee. Florida State is coming off a home loss to North Carolina and will be searching for a remedy to its recent second-half woes. Clemson, on the other hand, somehow managed to pull out a home victory over then-No. 25 North Carolina State despite doing everything in its power to be a proper host and cater to the Wolfpack's needs.

Against N.C. State, Clemson lost two of its five fumbles, missed field goal attempts of 32 and 37 yards, threw an interception near the red zone and had a touchdown negated by a holding penalty. And still, the Tigers won, 14-13.

After allowing an ACC-low seven sacks through its first eight games, Clemson gave up three sacks to North Carolina State. That's not an encouraging trend for Tigers quarterback Kyle Parker, given that Florida State leads the nation - by a considerable margin - in sacks (38) and is averaging more than four per game.

Parker hasn't turned in the type of season he likely envisioned he would this past summer when he turned down at least $800,000 to play baseball for the Colorado Rockies. Parker was briefly benched against N.C. State after throwing his seventh interception of the season. In his past two games, Parker has thrown one touchdown pass and three interceptions.

But Parker did lead Clemson's second-half comeback against the Wolfpack, and that has to concern Florida State, which hasn't been able to hold on to leads after halftime in recent weeks. The Seminoles took a 14-point lead into the second half against N.C. State on Oct. 28, but ended up suffering a 28-24 loss.

This past weekend, Florida State led North Carolina by a touchdown entering the third quarter and retook a one-point lead with just less than six minutes to play. The Seminoles lost, 37-35, on a 22-yard field goal by Tar Heels place kicker Casey Barth with 55 seconds remaining .

The loss marked first-year Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher's first defeat at home, and if his Seminoles are to avoid giving him a second, they'll need to shore up a pass defense that ranks No. 11 in the ACC and allowed North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates to throw for 439 yards.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company