The media predicted a Clemson vs. Virginia Tech ACC championship game during the preseason.
Clemson didn't want it.
Wake Forest, Maryland, and Florida State all at one point controlled their destiny in November to win the ACC Atlantic Division. They didn't want it.
Virginia, Miami, UNC, and Georgia Tech all at one point controlled their destiny to win the ACC Coastal Division. They didn't want it.
So we're stuck with a Boston College vs. Virginia Tech ACC championship rematch.
After getting lambasted following Clemson's 34-10 loss to Alabama and N.C. State's 34-0 loss to South Carolina during Week One, many wrote off the ACC as the worst of the big six conferences.
No one is saying that now, with the entire Atlantic Division bowl eligible and four out six from the Coastal Division eligible. Only Duke and Virginia are certain they're staying home for the holidays.
Boston College backed its way into the ACC title game. When it headed into November with a 2-3 conference record, BC was essentially written out of the Atlantic equation. The Eagles impressed the ACC with consecutive wins over Wake Forest, Florida State, and Maryland to claim their second ACC Atlantic Division title.
The surprise team of the Atlantic is N.C. State. Sure, it's last in the Atlantic, but who is not impressed with its undefeated month of November? The Wolfpack headed into November 2-6, with one of those wins coming against William & Mary. State took charge behind its talented young quarterback Russell Wilson and looked Wake Forest, Miami, UNC, and Duke in the face and told them that N.C. State is going bowling. And the Pack did. Most impressively is their 41-10 rout of No. 25 UNC.
Florida State was not picked to contend in the ACC. It was supposed to finish Clemson, Wake Forest and then Florida State at a distant third. FSU was too young. Their offensive line was going to get eaten alive by defensive lines. But somehow, FSU ran. And they ran. They ran in the ACC Atlantic Division until the final week of the regular season when the Boston College win over Maryland kept them out of the ACC game.
FSU was essentially a fumble away from going to the game when they fumbled into the end zone with less than a minute left against Georgia Tech. That win would have essentially gave them a 6-2 conference record pending games against Clemson, BC, and Maryland played out the same.
The Coastal Division was as muddled as the Atlantic. Every week when one team controlled their destiny, they choked it away. Miami had a gasp of returning to the top of a conference but the Hurricanes blew it away when Georgia Tech triple-optioned the Cane's hopes with their 41-26 win.
UNC showed promise in 2008 but could never seem to win when they were supposed to. After beating Georgia Tech to open November, UNC had just Maryland to get through to make it to the ACC game; N.C. State and Duke seemed like write-offs. The ever unpredictable Maryland upset UNC 17-15. The UNC against N.C. State seemed like the UNC of the past as they were routed 41-10 by the Wolfpack.
Had the regular season gone another week, it is almost certain from the trend of 2008 of ACC teams, that Boston College and Virginia Tech would not be in the game. Every week, college football pundits had different reps from each division in the game. With many teams in the ACC featuring freshman or sophomore play makers, one could bet the 2009 season will just be as competitive with stronger teams.