WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Clemson blasted up and down the BB&T Stadium artificial surface Thursday night without needing much contribution from star running back Andre Ellington.

Backup tight end Sam Cooper was one of five Tigers to catch touchdown passes.

By halftime.

“To perform the way we did in the first half, that was exciting to see,” Tigers offensive coordinator Chad Morris said.

Quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins set school records that might not be broken, until next week.

This isn't about politics. It's about what's best for the country.

Clemson's 42-13 victory at Wake Forest shed light on an issue bubbling under the surface of the Atlantic Coast Conference, but one that transcends football entertainment.

The top-heavy ACC must stamp out mediocrity and fast-track legislation that allows for two teams from one division — in this case No. 11 Florida State and No. 14 Clemson of the Atlantic Division — to play in the ACC championship game.

“Well, I don't think that's going to happen,” Morris said. “So it's going to be one or the other. Right now, we're just worried about ourselves, but it was a great job to come up here and get a win.”

The second-place Tigers (7-1) fell at Florida State, 49-37, but won't lose another ACC game.

The Coastal Division is a tray of pastry with one of the creampuffs ineligible.

Non-Boastful Division leader Duke plays at Florida State on Saturday and is, gulp, a 27-point underdog.

The ACC championship game set for Charlotte on Dec. 1 projects as one of the most lopsided in league history.

Thus, the call.

Cash, and Barney Fife

Whereas … Coastal Division competition is beneath the accepted standards of major conference championship game caliber and …

Whereas … Few human football fans want an Florida State-Duke, Florida State-Miami or Florida State-Savannah State rematch … and …

Whereas … Agencies including the NCAA, CSI: Chapel Hill and Barney Fife have made North Carolina ineligible for the title game …

It's time for the ACC to stop the madness. For the sake of fan interest and TV cash.

Three simple rules that allow for two ACC teams from the same division to meet in the ACC Championship Game:

The second-place team defeats thefirst-place team from the other division head-to-head (does not apply if they don't meet).

The second-place team is in the top 15 of the BCS standings.

And at least 10 BCS spots ahead of the first-place team from the other division.

Sammy factor

This Clemson team has received its share of criticism for a weak schedule and giving up gobs of yards. But consider that the Tigers played three of their first seven games (Auburn, Ball State and Boston College) without Watkins, one of the 10 best players in the country.

The elusive sophomore finished with 202 yards receiving Thursday night.

“(Jonathan) Meeks and I were talking this week,” Xavier Brewer said of his fellow Clemson safety. “We didn't tell (Watkins) this, but we knew he was going to break out. I mean, it's not like he's been playing bad but, you know, he's Sammy Watkins.”

The Tigers goofed off for its first two possessions, spotting Wake Forest valuable momentum opportunities.

They teased the Deacons with good field position early, offering a mid-field start before forcing a punt.

But the defense had its best game, holding Wake Forest to 290 yards.

“To keep getting them off the field demoralizes them,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “What you've seen the last few weeks are things you hope to put together and try to do again. But we have a big challenge next week with Duke.”

Clemson still has Atlantic Division hope that the Seminoles will overlook an ACC foe while thinking about a regular-season finale against Florida.

Florida State must visit Virginia Tech on a Thursday night, Nov 8.

A driving sleet? Sure, that's the forecast. But Clemson in Charlotte without Florida State wouldn't be much of an ACC championship game, just like the other way around.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at gsapakoff@postandcourier.com or on Twitter @sapakoff.