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 (7-0) (4-0) (LW: 1): After a lackluster first half that had Maryland running circles around them, Tajh Boyd and Clemson were out for blood in the second half. After watching them hang 39 second-half points on the Terps is there really any doubt who the best team in the ACC is? No the Terps aren’t worldbeaters themselves, but it takes a lot of talent to perform as well as the Tigers did under pressure Saturday.
2. Virginia Tech Hokies (6-1) (2-1) (LW: 2): For once, Virginia Tech showed up against a quality opponent and outplayed them in every way possible. Turning an early 10-0 deficit on its ear in seconds, the Hokies never looked back en route to crushing Wake Forest 38-17. More than anything, VPI needed to pull off a convincing win on the road to be viewed as a challenger in the Coastal division. I’d say mission accomplished.
3. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-1) (3-1) (LW: 2): The Yellow Jackets’ loss to Virginia was rough, don’t get me wrong — it exposed them as too one-dimensional on offense, with an inability to get it done in tight spots. Still, they don’t fall all that far this week due to the general ineptitude of their cohorts in numbers three through five range. Whatever momentum they’ve lost though, they’ll need it back pretty quickly. With Virginia Tech right on their heels in the division, and several ranked teams remaining on the schedule, things could get ugly.
4. North Carolina Tar Heels (5-2) (1-2) (LW: 5): In spite of the Miami loss, the Tar Heels remain one of the ACC’s best on the strength of their defense. As mentioned here before, the Hurricanes are a much more talented football team than their record indicates. While a loss is not preferred in any circumstance, there’s no shame in how it all went down Saturday. The meat of the season’s up next though, and the games do not get an easier.
5. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (3-3) (1-2) (LW: 9): All kidding aside, the Hurricanes aren’t that far off from being undefeated right now. With a fleet of starters suspended in game one, they only lost to Maryland by eight. A total of seven points separated them and top-15 programs Kansas State and Virginia Tech earlier in the season. Plus, last I checked, Jacory Harris and Lamar Miller were pretty damn good players. In what now seems like a wide-open Coastal division, they’ve still got a shot.
6. Florida State Seminoles (3-3) (1-2)) (LW: 6): Florida State got back on track last week with a convincing win over Duke, but it’s nothing to throw a parade over. These are the Seminoles. They’re supposed to beat Duke. Still, a win is a win, and could work very well as a confidence booster for the squad going forward. Also on the bright side, they’ve already played the most difficult part of their schedule, with no current ranked teams left on the docket.
7. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-2) (3-1) (LW: 5): The pass-happy Demon Deacons were stifled on offense for the first time this season, as Virginia Tech spent much of the game sprinting from goal line to goal line. Even though Wake is obviously not ready to contend for a league title with this team, QB Tanner Price is only a sophomore. This season, a bowl game is a success, but next year, the bar will certainly be raised.
8. Syracuse Orange (4-2) (1-0) (LW: 7): The good news? Syracuse managed to avoid a loss to underwhelming opponent, Bye Week. The bad? Friday night’s primetime contest on ESPN could very well decide the course of this season. West Virginia-Syracuse under the bright lights of the Carrier Dome, possibly for the last time in a long time. Obviously, SU either wins by three or loses by 40. I just don’t see another option.
9. Virginia Cavaliers (4-2) (1-1) (LW: 10): Virginia put on quite a show this weekend, as the second straight opponent to hold Georgia Tech to 21 points, and the first to notch a win against the previously undefeated Yellow Jackets. Now at 4-2, the Cavaliers, on the back of their defense, suddenly look like a team going bowling. Stay tuned, but this could be a team on the rise.
10. Maryland Terrapins (2-4) (1-2) (LW: 11): In spite of their eventual loss on Saturday, the Terrapins were electrifying on offense against Clemson. Credit goes to quarterback C.J. Brown, who contributed 339 total yards and four touchdowns, as the apparent spark Maryland’s needed all season. No longer stagnant and reliant on short passes, the Terps’ offense was a force to be reckoned with, powered by speed and an ill-prepared Clemson D in the first half. Trust me, you won’t be seeing former starter Danny O’Brien (barring injury) any time soon.
11. Pittsburgh Panthers (3-4) (0-0) (LW: 8): Oh, Pitt. Just when we thought you could underachieve no further, you go and get trounced by a Utah team vying for last place in the Pac-12 right now. So with five games left, and three wins needed to make a bowl, the tightrope walk begins for the Panthers. If they fail to make the postseason, it’ll be a sad end to a great college career by Ray Graham.
12. Duke Blue Devils (3-3) (1-1) (LW: 12): No, Duke is not going to a bowl game. While we’ve stated this already, it had to be reiterated after getting shelled by Florida State on Saturday. I’ll still say five wins total though — which would be the second such season (and the closest they’ve come to a bowl game) since 1994.
13. NC State Wolfpack (3-3) (0-2) (LW: 13): Two weeks ago, I thought the Wolfpack would have a real shot to knock off Virginia this coming weekend. But now, not so much. While this NC State squad fails to be untalented, they also fail to show up against actual competition. This week’s UVa game could go a long way toward proving that theory wrong, though.
14. Boston College Eagles (1-5) (0-3) (LW: 14): The bye week gave Eagles’ fans a brief reprieve from the pain of this season, but the horror is far from over. BC will be the underdogs in every game from here on out, so their only option is to use that as an advantage. With such an anemic offense though (they’ve still failed to score over 19 points against a fellow FBS opponent), it’s hard to imagine another win in their future if it doesn’t come against fellow bottom-dweller NC State in a few weeks.