All 14 ACC squads participated in the weekend’s events to varying degrees, and unfortunately, the league’s down to just two undefeated teams and a very crowded middle. Check out the list below, and weigh in down in the comments if you disagree.
1. Florida State Seminoles (3-0) (LW: 1): All of that “Florida State is back” talk? Dead on. The Seminoles absolutely ran through Wake Forest on Saturday, finally exorcising one of the oddest dog-bites-man stories in recent college football memory. Through three contests, FSU has proven itself to be ruthless with pressure on defense, a sound running team (11th in FBS with 279 yards per game) and a team that waits to make smart passes. If this machine is what Jimbo Fisher’s been building these last few years, it’s probably worth the wait.
2. Clemson Tigers (3-0) (LW: 2): Their College Gameday warmup went just as well as planned, but that said, the Tigers will enter their big game against Florida State with a ton of questions. Who is their top receiver? What about the offensive line? And most importantly, can defensive coordinator Brent Venables draw up a scheme to cure Clemson of its putrid run D? We’ll find out soon enough.
3. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1) (LW: 4): Georgia Tech’s offense found its rhythm against Virginia, amassing rushing yards at will and owning the line of scrimmage to open up those running lanes — especially to the outside. It’s games like this that tell you the triple-option works and Tevin Washington‘s the man for the job. Then you have a game like the opener that meets that statement with an emphatic laugh.
4. Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1) (LW: 3): Not a single team deserves to occupy the fourth slot in these rankings, but the Hokies will be slotted here by necessity. On Saturday, VPI finally dealt with the questions we’ve been asking for weeks: what if the offensive line is too inexperienced? And what if Logan Thomas has to carry the offense? Both of these scenarios played out in full this weekend, and Virginia Tech failed miserably. Thomas’s accuracy is certainly not up to snuff, and most surprisingly of all, the run D may not be as good as initially given credit for.
5. NC State Wolfpack (2-1) (LW: 8): Mike Glennon appeared to use this past weekend’s contest against South Alabama as a warm-up game; a wise choice for a passer who’s struggled with the weight of increased personal and team expectations. If the Wolfpack are supposed to improve and get out of the slump they’re in, they’ll need contributions from all over, with a running game that can hopefully help set Glennon and the passing game up for more success.
6. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-1) (LW: 5): After all the positive momentum of the North Carolina victory, the Demon Deacons looked ill-prepared for what met them in the Florida State game, which (as pointed out by Sporting News’ Matt Hayes) could very well be viewed as a turning point for FSU’s program. For Wake, maybe it’s the moment they realized their season is still very much a crapshoot. Or the moment they cried themselves to bed. There’s no changing a loss like that — just lessons to learn from and build off of.
7. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-2) (LW: 7): This is a Carolina team that’s gone out there and truly competed, even without its best player, RB Giovani Bernard, these past two weeks. While it certainly gets your mind wondering if the Heels would be 3-0 had he played previously, the team’s postseason ban nearly makes it null and void. It’s a squad with obvious talent, but may just have to wait (once again) ’till next year to fully tap into it all.
8. Virginia Cavaliers (2-1) (LW: 6): Virginia has looked messy for the past eight quarters of football they’ve played, heading all the way back to the beginning of the Penn State game. On both sides of the ball, the Hoos have shown themselves to be mildly careless and error-prone, with a passing defense that rarely shows up and a running game that’s struggling to really find a rhythm. Something must improve drastically for them if they hope to test TCU this weekend.
9. Syracuse Orange (1-2) (LW: 9): One the bright side, Syracuse recorded its first win in 11 months and simply continued to let quarterback Ryan Nassib dominate the field as he deems fit, en route to some record-setting performances. The bad, however, is that they let Stony Brook hang around for most of the game, and also failed to stop the rush (the Seawolves amassed over 200 on the ground). If they fix nothing else (even the penalties), it should be that glaring, lingering issue.
10. Pittsburgh Panthers (1-2) (LW: 14): Pitt’s returned from the dead, so it seems, after flogging Virginia Tech in front of a national audience Saturday. The team we watched then was quick and responsive on defense, aggressive and balanced on offense. They relied on their core strengths — defense and running game — and forced Tech QB Logan Thomas into tons of costly errors. The Panthers also exposed Thomas a bit, and it’ll be interesting to see how teams play against him from now on.
11. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (2-1) (LW: 10): Things aren’t all bad in MIami, as stud freshman running back Duke Johnson had another lights-out game, this time scoring four touchdowns. Still, beyond Johnson, the offense has shown itself greatly inept. The defense, obviously, has been utterly manhandled to this point, and it won’t get any easier as the group continues to deal with more injuries.
12. Maryland Terrapins (2-1) (LW: 11): It was a rough loss for Maryand, but also the type of contest these young Terps must go through in order to improve. They’ve honestly got some great, albeit inexperienced talent in QB Perry Hills and WR Stefon Diggs. Even if they can’t piece things together in 2012, over time, the program is putting together an impressive crop of playmakers.
13. Boston College Eagles (1-2) (LW: 12): BC stays out of the basement due to its overall effort and active participation in games from whistle-to-whistle. Despite their loss — just another frustrating contest for the Eagles — it did appear that the defense is also improving. While Chase Rettig‘s resurgence is great, they’ll ultimately need to stop teams in order to start winning these games again.
14. Duke Blue Devils (2-1) (LW: 13): Duke spent the weekend beating up on a lesser team to apparently drum up more “is this the year Duke finally makes a bowl game again?” stories. With Memphis coming up on the docket, those should probably increase, but how deserved are they of bowl talk? In the rearview mirror, the Stanford game already looks better, but nonetheless, it’ll take ACC play to be their true barometer of success.