This only works, however, if the games are close. When the scores come back 56-0 and 51-14 instead, it's hard to argue that there's league parity. Which brings us to Saturday, and The Great Clemsoning.
THE MAIN ATTRACTION
Florida State 51, Clemson 14: This was supposed to be the game that showed the world how good the league was. Two top-5 teams, two Heisman-hopeful QBs, two programs with strong wins on their resumes (though that season-opening win over 3-loss Georgia is looking a little less sparkly now for Clemson). This was supposed to be a highlight of everything good the league had to offer. And instead, it was a 37 point beatdown that wasn't really that close. Tajh Boyd walked off the field with a QB rating under 35. The Tigers had 4 turnovers. They had never given up this many points to an opponent at home. It goes on and on.
But now the pecking order is clear. There is Florida State, and then there is maybe Miami, and then there's a mad scrum of everyone else.
CASES IN POINT
Wake Forest 34, Maryland 10 - It wasn't that long ago that the Terps were unbeaten, riding high off whomping West Virginia, and making noise about being a spoiler in the league. Then Florida State took them apart like Thanksgiving Turkey, and they've been turtle soup ever since. Getting brutally manhandled by a team that lost to Louisiana-Monroe is a long way to a fall for a team that had dreams of exiting the ACC with a championship in its hip pocket.
Georgia Tech 56, Syracuse 0 - Syracuse is better than they look, everyone says. Georgia Tech is on a 3 game losing skid. And this happens. More proof that this isn't a league of parity, but rather one of dangerously flawed teams that can either catch fire or crater at any given moment. Or both.
Miami 27, UNC 23 - Neither team deserved to win this game. The repeated bungles on the UNC side of the ball gave away what should have been a season-saving upset; the horrifically sloppy play by Miami, including a see-it-to-believe-it INT off the back of an O-lineman's head, kept UNC in the game far longer than they should have been. Al Golden is a miracle worker - he won at Temple, for God's sake, and he's done this with Miami with the NCAA's Meat Tenderizer of Damocles hanging over the program's head - but that signature win over Florida is losing its luster, and FSU and Virginia Tech are waiting.
Pitt 35, ODU 24 - Closer than it looked, with ODU jumping out to an early lead and actually outgaining Pitt on the game. But at least the upset was avoided; ODU is more likely to claim UNC as their ACC victim this year. Incidentally, ESPN didn't even bother providing a game recap for this one. Sad, really.
Duke 35, UVA 22 - Apart from FSU, nobody in the league is more consistent that Duke right now. They fell behind early, clawed back, and beat a team they were supposed to beat. Great football? No, but by and large they're beating the teams they're supposed to beat, and not, say, losing to them 56-0.
And in this year's ACC, that's about all you can ask.