We’re starting to get a better idea of this year’s ACC contenders, though the story’s far from written out yet. While FSU and Clemson are exactly where they’re supposed to be, teams like Virginia Tech and Maryland are surprising possible contenders who will show their true colors as the weeks wear on. As always, the poll includes all 14 current ACC members, plus future member Louisville. Feel like I’m totally right or completely off-base? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
ACC Football Power Rankings 2013 (Week 6)
1. Clemson Tigers (4-0) (1-0) (Last: 1): Clemson simply lit up Wake Forest last week, and perhaps put to bed (for now) some concerns about their overall performance on offense. Since Tajh Boyd‘s injury in week two, things hadn’t seemed up to snuff. However, after laying a casual 56 points on Wake and getting back to his standard line of nearly 400 total yards and four scores, Boyd and the Tigers appear to be back on track.
2. Florida State Seminoles (4-0) (2-0) (Last: 2): That was a scary opening half, wasn’t it? On the road versus Boston College, FSU looked dreadful early, allowing the Eagles to get on the board with relative ease. Once down 18 though, that’s when Jameis Winston got into the flow of the game and simply controlled things from there on out. Still a bit concerning, but more for the defense than the offense. The 34 points were the most BC had put up all year, meaning the ‘Noles have some issues to address before facing Maryland this Saturday.
3. Louisville Cardinals (4-0) (Last: 3): Louisville had an off-week last week, so some might have already forgotten what they’ve been doing to teams thus far this season. To jog your memory: the Cardinals have scored an average of 48 points per game, while holding every opponent to single-digit scoring but Kentucky (13). There a few tests left on the schedule — that October 18 date with UCF looks a bit daunting after seeing how impressive the Knights have looked — but the Cards are primed for more of the same going forward.
4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (4-0) (0-0) (Last: 4): Miami ran right through USF on Saturday, but it was not without consequence. Stephen Morris‘s lingering ankle injury is a real cause for concern, though we’ve yet to see it make an impact on this team due to the schedule. Ryan Williams has filled in well enough to this point, however if forced to see more competitive game action, there could be a much different result. It’s early, but we’ve yet to really see what this defense is made of, or if Duke Johnson can match last year’s levels of production.
5. Virginia Tech Hokies (4-1) (1-0) (Last: 7): ACC rule no. 1: Never count out Virginia Tech. Though the wins haven’t been all that pretty, the Hokies are 4-0 since the opening weekend loss to Alabama, and at this point are one of just two Coastal teams in charge of their own destiny. It’s early, of course, though as long as that defense continues to play at such a high level (an average of just 11 points allowed per game in the four wins), they have a legitimate shot in every single contest the rest of the way.
6. Maryland Terrapins (4-0) (0-0) (Last: 6): Coming off a bye week, but in a way, Maryland did get another win over the weekend. After some shake-ups at the bottom of the polls, the Terps found themselves ranked (at no. 25) in the AP poll — a huge accomplishment for this young, embattled team. They’re the fourth of the ACC’s undefeated teams (a league record at this juncture) right now, and while we know the least about them, that also might make them among the most dangerous. Maryland faces FSU this weekend, by the way…
7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-1) (2-1) (Last: 5): After such a strong start to the season, it was disheartening to see a rough loss that surely reminded fans of so many others just like it. Virginia Tech’s defense is impressive, yes, but it doesn’t mean that the mistakes by the Yellow Jackets can just be written off. Vad Lee‘s a young quarterback, so he was “due’ for a game like this. Hopefully it’s out of his system though, as the team jumps into the meat of their conference schedule.
8. NC State Wolfpack (3-1) (0-1) (Last: 8): This is what folks have been waiting for from NC State. The defense has looked impressive all season, while the offense has fluctuated between passable and mistake-laden. The win over Central Michigan didn’t work out every kink just yet, but it is progress. At least Pete Thomas finally got on the board with a touchdown pass, though I wouldn’t say he’s out of the woods just yet. His accuracy’s still less-than-ideal, and it’s no guarantee he’s always bailed out by the team’s backfield-by-committee.
9. Pittsburgh Panthers (3-1) (2-1) (Last: 11): Pitt can play any type of game, it seems. From a shootout versus Duke, to a hard-fought defensive struggle against Virginia, this squad seems to find a way to win against the right opponents. It doesn’t mean they’re elite, of course. We don’t just forget the Florida State game. However, it’s good to know that if one unit on this squad fails to deliver (see: Tom Savage and the offense this week), another will help pick up the pieces.
10. Boston College Eagles (2-2) (1-1) (Last: 10): Boston College is right where they’re supposed to be at this juncture, beating the teams they’re better than, while losing to those they’re not. For the time being, it’s a serviceable model, and one that will help them on their way back to respectability in the long-term. There’s no such thing as moral victories, sure, but you have to admit, playing a close game against a top 10 team like Florida State has to feel good considering where this program has been the last few years.
11. Syracuse Orange (2-2) (0-0) (Last: 14): Through four games, we don’t know a whole lot about Syracuse football, but that all changes on Sunday. In the program’s first ACC game, they’ll be thrown right into the fire against Clemson, albeit at home. Can the Orange do anything to stop the Tigers’ passing attack? It was doubtful before, and that was before we learned cornerback Brandon Reddish is still questionable for the game. If this team is ready to be competitive with Terrel Hunt at the helm though, they’ll find a way to keep this one close, even if they (likely) lose in the end.
12. Virginia Cavaliers (2-2) (0-1) (Last: 13): The Hoos’ offensive output continues to be unimpressive, and in many cases downright dreadful. This team has plenty of talent on defense, but it just won’t matter much if the offense can’t score over 20 points in a given contest. We saw it in full effect against Pitt, and it’s very likely to be the case again throughout the rest of the slate. Is it maybe time to replace David Watford? If things continue, I don’t know why it wouldn’t at least be on the table.
13. Duke Blue Devils (3-2) (0-2) (Last: 12): More defensive struggles plague Duke, despite the victory on Saturday. Giving up 31 points in a game is less than ideal, but giving up 31 to Troy just seems unforgivable. It’s also forcing Brandon Connette to try to do way too much at quarterback. Locked into shootouts every single game, he has to force throws and take more risks than necessary. If the D could simply make a few stops, perhaps his 1,000-plus passing yards and 11 scores would be recognized for the impressive feats they are.
14. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-3) (0-1) (Last: 9): UNC is in full-on tire fire mode at this point. On offense, they can’t seem to move the ball on the ground whatsoever, turning the group into a pass-first, non-efficient mess. Over on the defensive side of the ball, they’re giving up 55 points to East Carolina. Coach Larry Fedora claims there’s a lot of problems, but we don’t need that fact pointed out. How are they going to be repaired now that the Heels are jumping into critical games against conference opponents?
15. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-3) (0-2) (Last: 15): That Clemson game was a mess. It was supposed to be, but I guess a part of me thought Wake would actually look like they were interested in pulling an upset, even if they ultimately failed to do so. Offensively, things are horrendous, and there’s no clear way to fix them anymore (new players?). Defensively, things were fine up until this week, though we might want to rethink that after the Tigers gave similarly-minded teams a blueprint for blowing the doors off that secondary.