The two best players in the ACC flexed their muscles in Week 7 as Clemson's Deshaun Watson (452 yards and four touchdowns) and Florida State's Dalvin Cook (163 yards rushing and two scores and 60 receiving yards) and two teams that got off to fast starts (Georgia Tech and Syracuse) continued their slides. All had their impacts in who is up and down in the latest Stock Watch. -- Cory McCartney
UP: Deshaun Watson's Heisman candidacy
Statistically, it remains the nation's best, but what Deshaun Watson did against Boston College's defense took away some of the Eagles' snarl as the Clemson quarterback provided the kind of performance everyone's been waiting for. He threw for a season-high 420 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 32 yards and another score in leading the Tigers to a stunning 532 yards against a unit that was giving up just 140 per game. Outside of the Nov. 7 date with No. 9 Florida State, the ACC schedule doesn't provide for many chances for Watson to make a statement. Boston College was one and Watson made the most of it.
That 3-0 start is a distant memory, as Saturday's 44-38 defeat at the hands of Virginia gave the Orange three consecutive losses. With the way they played LSU tight in a 34-24 loss in Week 4, Syracuse gained some respect, but there's a very different feeling after being dropped by Virginia in three overtimes. With No. 25 Pitt, No. 9 Florida State, Louisville and No. 6 Clemson making up the Orange's next month, Syracuse may have to wait until an Oct. 21 trip to NC State to find a game in which it won't be a heavy underdog.
Amber Searls-USA TODAY SportsAmber Searls
UP: Miami's Brad Kaaya
This is a down season for Virginia Tech, which at 3-4 is in danger of having its 22-year bowl streak snapped, but nonetheless, helping Miami beat the Hokies 30-20 earned Brad Kaaya a place in Hurricanes history. He threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns Saturday to become the program's first QB since Kent Dorsey to beat Virginia Tech in back-to-back years (Dorsey did it three times, though winning from 2000-02). The sophomore was more than a steady against Bud Foster's defense, he was also opportunistic. On third and 20 at his own 11 in the closing seconds of the first half, Kaaya took advantage of cornerback Terrell Edmunds jumping offsides and on the free play hit Herb Waters for a 45-yard completion that, six plays later, ended in a Miami TD and 20-13 lead.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
DOWN: Georgia Tech's defense
In Paul Johnson's tenure, the Yellow Jackets have run for at least 350 yards 30 times and lost just three times. The latest came Saturday as Justin Thomas and Co. racked up 376 against Pitt, but fell 31-28. The culprit was a defense that, for the first time in Johnson's run (per cfbstats.com), didn't notch a single tackle for loss. That came against a Panthers offense that is ahead of just two ACC teams (Syracuse and Boston College) and next up, the Jackets get the league's third-ranked offense in Florida State.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY SportsBrett Davis
UP: North Carolina's defense
Gene Chizik's influence on North Carolina's defense has been undeniable. The Tar Heels are allowing 17.3 points per game (18th in FBS) after sitting 116th in that department last season in giving up 39 per, and outside of Georgia Tech, that D has helped North Carolina outgain every other opponent it's faced. Even in that matchup against the Yellow Jackets on Oct. 3, the Heels ruled the second half, forcing two turnovers and outscoring the Yellow Jackets 24-10. This is a very different North Carolina defense, and with No. 25 Pitt and No. 23 Duke looming, it figures to be tested.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY SportsRob Kinnan
DOWN: Louisville's Atlantic chances
Give Bobby Petrino credit, the Cardinals are better team than that 2-4 record, which includes losses to Auburn, Houston, Clemson and Florida State. But those last two defeats have all but taken Louisville out of the Atlantic Division race and given it a narrow margin of error if it is going to make a bowl game with Boston College, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Virginia, No. 25 Pitt and improved Kentucky remaining.