Virginia's Now One Win Away From Its First ACC Title Game Berth
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. Virginia Tech Hokies (10-1) (6-1) (LW: 2): In spite of some fourth quarter concerns, the Hokies pulled off another conference victory last Thursday and are now just a win away from the ACC title game. While revenge against Clemson would be sweet for the Hokies, unlike most years, they can’t afford to look past Virginia. Their in-state rivals are ranked for the first time since 2007 and look awfully dangerous, especially as underdogs.
2. Virginia Cavaliers (8-3) (5-2) (LW: 5): The Cavaliers have been the state’s “little sister” in football for years — even more so since the Hokies joined the ACC. That could all change Saturday, though. If Virginia can beat Tech, they’ll earn the school’s first trip to the league championship game and possibly its first BCS bid as well. Playing dangerously well against favored teams (owning three such wins already), the Hokies will have to be at their best to pull out the win in Charlottesville. In a game of two defenses, the difference-maker might be the Cavs’ much-maligned offense.
3. Clemson Tigers (9-2) (6-2) (LW: 1): What has happened to Clemson? Well, a lot. As mentioned before, the blueprint’s been written and now, finally, everyone’s following it to success. NC State racked up nearly 400 yards of total offense against the Tigers, and scored 27 points in the first half — trouncing Clemson at their own game (running the offense through one man until you can stop him). Now with every facet of their game being called into question with three straight subpar performances, they’ll need to right the ship in a hurry if they expect to win another game this season.
4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-3) (5-2) (LW: 4): Following a very strong first half, the Yellow Jackets’ defense nearly collapsed against Duke‘s passing attack in the second on Saturday before getting bailed out by Tevin Washington. As has been the case all year, the team rises and falls on the legs of their quarterback, Washington, but it would’ve been no fault of his if they’d lost this past weekend. With 321 yards of total offense from the junior, he did all he could. But as stated, the defense has to improve next season if they expect to take the next step and contend.
5. Florida State Seminoles (7-4) (5-3) (LW: 3): What was supposed to be a banner year for Florida State has turned into a bit of a nightmare — failing right back down to the middle of the ACC pack they’ve inhabited for the better part of the last decade. While Virginia’s defense is certainly better than average, it’s hard to excuse FSU getting held to just 13 at home in Tallahassee (their first ACC home loss all season). Now needing a win against Florida just to get to a half-decent bowl, this squad has a lot of thinking to do in the offseason.
6. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (6-5) (3-4) (LW: 6): Saturday’s game was as ugly as they come, needing a last-second field goal to beat USF 6-3, in spite of knocking Bulls’ QB B.J. Daniels out of the contest. And though the defense put in an impressive performance against a team that had put up 37 points the previous week, you have to wonder what’s going on with the Hurricanes’ own offense. Scoring 25 points in two games usually won’t get it done, and with the weapons they possess on that side of the ball, it’s maddening for fans.
7. NC State Wolfpack (6-5) (3-4) (LW: 11): Does NC State regularly underachieve this season, or periodically overachieve? Saturday’s game against Clemson was masterful in every aspect, controlling the line of scrimmage, taking Tigers’ QB Tajh Boyd well out of his comfort zone and forcing turnovers that swung the tide of the matchup early. Most impressive of all was QB Mike Glennon. With 253 yards and three touchdowns, the senior was nearly flawless and he now has his team one victory from the postseason.
8. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-5) (2-5) (LW: 7): Aside from a strong fourth quarter against the Hokies, UNC’s offense looked putrid once again this weekend as the team continued to struggle in conference play. The Heels’ defense has played fairly well since getting rocked by Clemson a month ago, but with an offense that has only been scoring 15 points at a clip these past few games, it’s increasingly difficult to come out with wins.
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-5) (5-3) (LW: 9): Like some sort of magic cure for losing streaks, Maryland gave Wake Forest a big win Saturday. Desperately needing something positive after four straight lackluster performances, the Demon Deacons looked like the team that started the year 4-1 as quarterback Tanner Price shredded the Terps’ D for 320 yards and three touchdowns. Removing the must-win mentality from the last game should now do wonders for their chances against Vanderbilt next week.
10. Pittsburgh Panthers (5-5) (0-0) (LW: 9): The Panthers remain in the Big East hunt, mostly due to the conference’s own ineptitude. If Pittsburgh manages to win their final two games and receive a little help however, rest assured they will be the worst team to ever play in a BCS game (where they’ll lose to the ACC’s champion).
11. Syracuse Orange (5-5) (1-0) (LW: 10): As basketball season begins and the Orange football team becomes an afterthought, fans are starting to understand the reality that SU’s “resurgence” may have been short-lived. With too many fundamental errors and not nearly enough discipline to go around, coach Doug Marrone’s system suddenly appears broken and who knows how much more time he’ll be granted to fix it again.
12. Duke Blue Devils (3-8) (1-6) (LW: 12): Of course Duke is still losing football games this season, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been competitive. While they have lost six straight, the Blue Devils have been involved in close calls with Wake, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, and came within 10 of Virginia. For this Saturday’s near-miss, credit QB Sean Renfree rather than fault Duke’s defense, which allowed 520 yards of offense.
13. Boston College Eagles (3-8) (2-5) (LW: 13): After one horrendous start to this season, the Eagles have kept things pretty close in three of their last four games (2-2) and even managed to hold a ranked Notre Dame team to 16 points Saturday. With the 112th-ranked offense in FBS, of course it’s difficult to really win games. But holding three of four opponents under 20 will at least aid the cause.
14. Maryland Terrapins (2-9) (1-6) (LW: 14): Nearly every Terps fan is begging for 2011 to be over at this point. Their offense hasn’t topped 21 points in a game since October 15. The defense has allowed at least 28 points in every game after October 8. They’ve been throttled by everyone, and if not for Miami’s first-game suspensions, they’d probably only possess one victory (and zero FBS wins). NC State should be salivating.