In these conference rankings, I list the ACC teams, one through 14, as if Pitt and Syracuse were already in the league. Yes, adding the additional teams may seem pointless now, but wait until they officially join. Then it’ll seem like old news and we can get past that initial awkwardness. No, I won’t reconsider. On to this week’s rankings!
1. Clemson Tigers (8-1) (5-1) (LW: 1): Though Clemson still seems like the class of the ACC, they’ve proven there are still plenty of flaws — specifically a one-dimensional offense that runs itself through quarterback Tajh Boyd, exclusively. Shut down on Saturday, he looked much more like the sophomore he is, throwing just one touchdown to two picks. If Clemson hopes to continue their run toward a BCS bowl, they’ll need to correct these playcalling issues, and improve their run defense, at the very least.
2. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-2) (4-2) (LW: 7): The Ramblin’ Wreck jump back into the league’s top two spots after handing Clemson their first loss of the season with a purely dominating performance on both offense and defense. Quarterback Tevin Washington turned in his best performance of the season — and possibly his career — tearing up the Clemson defense on the ground. Tech is still very much in the Coastal Division race, but will need to be at their best from here on out.
3. Virginia Tech Hokies (8-1) (4-1) (LW: 3): Is Duke better than advertised? Probably. But are they good enough to hold the Hokies to just 14 points in a 14-10 Virginia Tech victory? Doubtful, especially given how badly Florida State throttled the Blue Devils a few weeks back. Yes, VPI won this game, but lost in every other aspect beside the scoreboard. Getting shut out in the second half and recording nearly 100 penalty yards isn’t ideal for a team trying to win a conference title. Do give the Hokies’ running game credit, however, for totaling 243 rushing yards in this low-scoring affair.
4. Florida State Seminoles (5-3) (3-2)) (LW: 4): The final touchdown against NC State, with about four minutes to go was completely unnecessary, yes. But still, for a team still looking to grab some of their presseason respect back, the more resounding a win, the better. After dropping to 2-3, the Seminoles have now reeled off three straight victories against the dregs of the conference by a total score of 116-32. Given its very manageable final four games, that early losing streak may end up a distant memory soon.
5. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-3) (2-3) (LW: 8): Which Tar Heel performance was a mirage? This past week’s dominating 49-24 victory over Wake Forest, or its 21-point shellacking at the hands of Clemson the Saturday prior? As streaky as they come, the Wake victory was the most impressive yet for North Carolina as they attempt to claw back into the Coastal Division race. Though it’s unlikely they’ll be in the conference title game, they’ve got two very winnable games, and a big contest versus Virginia Tech left on the schedule — which could all help facilitate a comeback in the standings.
6. Virginia Cavaliers (5-3) (2-2) (LW: 10): The surprising Cavaliers are now one win away from bowl eligibility, with huge victories over both Miami and Georgia Tech already on the resume. Their surprising rise has been all about defense, with a generally inept offense that always does just enough to win. The next two weeks against the league’s bottom-feeders will be a true barometer of the type of squad they want to be (subpar, or above average).
7. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (4-4) (2-3) (LW: 3): Admittedly, some egregious overreacting on my part last week, when assessing what we had with this Miami team. Though they surely play up to their more elite opponents, the Hurricanes’ loss to Virginia Thursday also revealed the flipside of that coin. Miami showed up sleepwalking on a short week, and they paid the price, dearly. Given the weapons on this offense (specifically Jacory Harris and Lamar Miller), it’s astonishing they’ve been unable to score above 30 for the better part of this season.
8. Syracuse Orange (5-3) (1-0) (LW: 5): More embarrassment, this time on the part of my alma mater. After leveling West Virginia at home just a week ago, Syracuse barely showed up against Louisville on Saturday, to the tune of a 27-10 loss. The score doesn’t even tell the full story, either. SU’s only touchdown was in garbage time, the defense lacked focus (so many personal fouls!) and they had virtually no running game. You can consider this a course-correction, but the Orange’s game-in, game-out performances are too perplexing to figure out.
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-3) (4-2) (LW: 6): With just one quality win on their resume (Florida State) and a suspect D, Wake Forest had plenty to prove against North Carolina on Saturday. Unfortunately for them, they only solidified perception they were skating by on the benefits of their schedule, losing to UNC by 25. As I have before, I’ll give Tanner Price his due for a great performance this season thus far, but they can’t hope to outscore everyone when they have no running game.
10. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-4) (0-0) (LW: 11): Pittsburgh was impressive last week, given how early they lost star running back Ray Graham for the season. Impressive offensive adjustments aside though, this squad has a long road ahead of them if they hope to even make a bowl game. Every team remaining on the slate is .500 or better, and will (unlike Connecticut), be prepared for an offensive attack with no viable running option.
11. Duke Blue Devils (3-5) (1-3) (LW: 12): In spite of the 3-5 record, Duke football has been awfully impressive this season (Richmond loss aside). They were within one point of beating Wake. They shut out Virginia Tech in the second half, and only lost by four. Duke is averaging 279 passing yards per game, too and hung tight with Stanford for a half earlier this fall. Ridicule if you must, but this team is on the upswing.
12. NC State Wolfpack (4-4) (1-3) (LW: 9): Let’s get back to what we were saying about the Wolfpack. They’re terrible. A 34-0 loss to Florida State (who’s only 5-3) is inexcusable, but that’s what happens when you dare a very fast defense to stop your one-dimensional offense. The NC State passing game was limited to just 130 yards, and the offense only recorded 166 overall in an effort the fan base should hope they can push out of their memories soon.
13. Boston College Eagles (2-6) (1-4) (LW: 14): Remember that listless Boston College offense a week ago? The one that can’t even put up 20 points per game? Well, that team smoked the Maryland Terrapins for 60 straight minutes on Saturday, with 372 rushing yards and an over-12-minute advantage in time-of-possession. If not for 14 Terp points in garbage time, this wouldn’t have even been close.
14. Maryland Terrapins (2-6) (1-4) (LW: 13): The Randy Edsall era is not going well, as most Terps fans would probably tell you. With a quarterback controversy on their hands, and a defense that gets shredded weekly becoming a major liability, Maryland has a lot of kinks to work out as they embark upon the last quarter of their schedule, all must-wins if they hope to make a bowl. If not for the high-profile nature of his hire, Edsall would otherwise be looking for a new job come late November.