Behind Tanner Price, Wake Forest takes a big leap this week.
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 (6-0) (3-0) (LW: 1): The ACC’s top contender kept rolling with another convincing win last week, this time over the conference’s worst team, Boston College. Still, the focus was on Tajh Boyd, whose injury could have altered both the conference and national title races. Lucky for Tigers fans, he’s slated to be back in action by their next game.
2. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-0) (3-0) (LW: 2): Georgia Tech’s offense looked like a shadow of itself against Maryland Saturday, but the defense played much better than it had previously. So, where does the ‘Wreck stand? Until their showdown with Clemson, probably no better than second in the conference. In the meantime though, this team needs to find a way to impress pundits more — they didn’t seem too convinced on the ESPN networks after only beating the Terps by five.
3. Virginia Tech Hokies (5-1) (1-1) (LW: 4): Still don’t know what to make of Virginia Tech after a frenzied win over Miami (FL) this weekend. As always, they seem ripe for the picking any given week, yet the large majority of the time, they do what needs to be done to close out games. I’d also contend there is a pretty wide gap between the top two in this league and VPI right now.
4. North Carolina Tar Heels (5-1) (1-1) (LW: 5): Last week’s ugly 14-7 victory over Louisville aside, the Heels have been impressive on both sides of the ball this season — even hanging with Georgia Tech until the very end of their seven-point week four loss. While I’m not convinced the Hokies are head and shoulders above this squad, quality of schedule puts the Tar Heels at a firm number four.
5. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-1) (3-0) (LW: 8): The jury may truly be out until we see just how well Florida State does this season, but so far, Wake has three conference wins and is the only team with a shot to catch Clemson in the Atlantic Division. If not for week one’s heartbreaker against Syracuse, Wake would be battling the Tigers out for the conference’s best storyline right now.
6. Florida State Seminoles (2-3) (0-2)) (LW: 3): Obviously the ‘Noles are not national title contenders, but now they’re starting to fall out of real contention for an ACC title, too. While Wake Forest is no slouch, it’s hard to believe Florida State was unable to get past them Saturday, and now they face an identity crisis on both sides of the ball. With four straight very winnable games up next, we could look back on this and laugh, but they must right the ship immediately.
7. Syracuse Orange (4-2) (1-0) (LW: 7): Hard to believe this team has four wins this season, right? In total, those victories have come by just 20 points — for anyone who’s witnessed them, they could easily have lost all four. So what comes next? The Orange get to regroup for a bye week they sorely need, and hopefully regain DE Chandler Jones. From there, a big matchup with West Virginia looms large and could tell us a bit more about where SU really stands.
8. Pittsburgh Panthers (3-3) (0-0) (LW: 6): As always, Pitt allowed a big win to get to their heads and then truly drop the ball against an inferior opponent. While Rutgers looked incredibly sloppy against Syracuse in week five, they were locked in and ready for the Panthers Saturday, running them out of the building. While many blamed Dave Wannsteadt for this program’s struggles the last decade, it seems a culture of believing your own hype has taken over even beyond his reach.
9. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (2-3) (0-2) (LW: 10): The league’s biggest enigma, Miami has been competitive in each of this year’s games, and it’s not inconceivable that they could’ve been undefeated at this juncture. Still, good teams win close games, so in spite of the positives we can take from losses to ranked teams like Virginia Tech and Kansas State, the fact is they could not prevail. Any team with Jacory Harris and Lamar Miller should also be able to win at least eight games, but that’s another argument.
10. Virginia Cavaliers (3-2) (0-1) (LW: 9): Virginia mostly keeps pace after their bye week, dropping just one spot. Things could potentially get ugly next week, however, as the Cavaliers play host to Georgia Tech’s high-flying offense. Though Maryland was able to keep the Yellow Jackets in check last week, Virginia seems too undersized to do the same.
11. Maryland Terrapins (2-3) (0-1) (LW: 11): Maryland’s proven they can compete with ranked teams — hanging in with both Georgia Tech and West Virginia until the end of their respective contests. Still, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to keep Clemson in check next week if Tajh Boyd is at 100% (likely). It’s too easy to throw on the Terps, as even a suspension-riddled Miami team proved earlier this year, and Boyd will exploit that.
12. Duke Blue Devils (3-2) (1-0) (LW: 12): Syracuse’s hard-fought battle against Tulane last week makes the Blue Devils’ 48-27 victory a month or so back look even better. Still, some big tests remain if Duke hopes to gain bowl eligibility. Virginia Tech, UNC, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech are all on the remaining schedule. Add another loss to those, and it looks like a five-win ceiling in 2011.
13. NC State Wolfpack (3-3) (0-2) (LW: 13): While they get credit for finally beating an FBS squad (Central Michigan) Saturday, NC State has struggled to stop anyone from scoring this season. Their next game, against Virginia, will probably be the more proper gauge of what this team’s capable of against comparable competition.
14. Boston College Eagles (1-5) (0-3) (LW: 14): Last week could’ve been so much worse than the 22-point loss to Clemson indicated. Yet, you can’t help but sense the hopelessness setting in with this team and fanbase this year. Unfortunately, as they prepare to welcome back two of their oldest rivals (Pitt and SU), the Eagles will probably be coming off some of their worst football in four decades. Don’t count out the possibility of 1-11 here with several huge games left on the schedule.