Final 2012 ACC Football Power Rankings

Clemson's Big Upset Over LSU Was One of Several Wins to Help the ACC Save Face This Postseason

Clemson’s Big Upset Over LSU Was One of Several Wins to Help the ACC Save Face This Postseason

Well that was a pleasant surprise now, wasn’t it? After getting knocked around on and off the field all season, the ACC found itself when it counted — the postseason — and (including Pitt & SU) managed a 5-3 slate, it’s first winning bowl record since 2005. If you want to include Louisville (and I sure do, given their big Sugar Bowl win), that brings the league to 6-3, with wins over the SEC (LSU & Florida), Big 12 (West Virginia) and Pac-12 (pre-season no. 1 USC). But sure, keep laughing at this league. They proved themselves and more during this year’s bowl season, and hopefully it’s a building block for even more excellent football.

1. Florida State Seminoles (12-2) (7-1) (LW: 1): Knock FSU for their schedule, their two losses (why are we criticizing a 12-win team again?) or their lack of a chance at a national title this season. But at the end of the day, they’re exactly where they were slated to be. The ‘Noles will be back in that conversation again this decade. It just takes some time, and this — winning both the ACC and the Orange Bowl — was the first step. Jimbo Fisher’s team will need to get past several big losses going forward, most notably Bjoern Werner and EJ Manuel, but the foundation’s there for a bright future.

2. Clemson Tigers (11-2) (7-1) (LW: 2): Despite not making it to a BCS bowl game, I’d say the Tigers’ consolation prize was still well-worth the trouble, no? On a national stage, Clemson beat mighty SEC’s LSU Tigers, and in the process, ended up being part of the most-watched non-BCS college football game in ESPN’s history. Most stunning in Clemson’s 25-24 victory, however, was the oft-maligned defense. Down 11 points heading into the fourth, the Bayou Bengals could’ve just run the clock out throughout the final stanza. Instead, it was Clemson that stayed strong, shutting out LSU and setting up a defining win for the Dabo Swinney era.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels (8-4) (5-3) (LW: 4): It’s tough to look at UNC’s 2012 season without imagining what could’ve been for a squad that seemed to finally turn the corner here in Larry Fedora’s first year. Knocking on the door of a division title for quite some time, the Heels finally put it all together, only to be ineligible for the postseason. So while it’s a disappointment for North Carolina fans to watch an eight-win season get laid to waste, it’s also built this program some street cred. Despite Giovani Bernard‘s departure to the NFL Draft, QB Bryn Renner will stick around for his senior year, meaning this team returns plenty of firepower; most of which this season only served as a preview for.

4. Syracuse Orange (8-5) (LW: 5): As if it was meant to be, Syracuse closed out their time in the Big East — the conference they built — by putting together its most impressive season in a decade. Up against one of the nation’s toughest non-conference schedules, and a top-heavy league to boot, the Orange still managed to win six of their final seven games. The exclamation point, however (on top of a split conference title), was their resounding victory over rival West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl. As someone who braved the cold to watch in-person, it was amazing to see this squad’s transformation from the season’s opening-week struggles to the machine-like execution against the Mountaineers.

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week Seven

On the Arm of Backup QB Anthony Boone, Duke Recorded Yet Another Big Win Saturday

More upheaval in the ACC over the weekend, and as a result, the league now has zero legitimate national championship contenders or Heisman candidates. But such is life. In better news, the league’s parity (seen as a hindrance in many circles) will also produce one of the country’s most exciting conference championship races as the season winds down. How are the teams currently jockeying for position, though? Read on…

1. Florida State Seminoles (5-1) (2-1) (LW: 1): Another disappointing loss for the Seminoles, but they retain their top spot due to the fact that they actually play defense, as well as their win over the next-best squad just two weeks ago. What made this team so exciting early on was not only their aggressive play on defense, but their willingness to take risks on offense, too. As that risk factor has diminished over these past two weeks, that’s where the cracks in the armor have developed. Jimbo Fisher needs to put faith in his playmakers to win games, instead of just coasting toward the finish line.

2. Clemson Tigers (5-1) (2-1) (LW: 2): Tajh Boyd and DeAndre Hopkins have become a clinic on how to run a lethally effective passing offense — so much so that it no longer matters who’s throwing or catching the ball (see Saturday’s Hopkins-to-Boyd two-point conversion). Admittedly (as mentioned above), the Tigers’ defense still needs a boatload of work. But with the offense firing on all cylinders like it has been this season, there are few teams capable of out-gunning them.

3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (4-2) (3-0) (LW: 3): Miami kicks off a four-team block of questions with very few answers. Which Miami team is the “real” one? The squad that’s lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame by a combined score of 93-16, or the one that’s 3-0 in ACC play? Luckily some of this gets sorted out this coming weekend, as the ‘Canes take on North Carolina.

4. Duke Blue Devils (5-1) (2-0) (LW: 5): Are the Blue Devils among the favorites in the Coastal Division? Until they lose a conference game, we’ll have to include them in the conversation. But all the signs of a contender are there. Duke’s been without several players due to injury, and even started backup QB Anthony Boone on Saturday. Yet they just keep winning. Should they come up with another W this weekend, they’ll not only clinch a bowl bid, but also take control of the division and potentially find themselves ranked, too.

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