ACC Power Rankings: A lot of question marks after FSU

What to do with the middle of the league? It's the issue plaguing the latest rankings.

1. Florida State (7-0, 4-0 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 1 (W 49-17 over N.C. State)

No spot higher than No. 1, huh? Too bad. The Seminoles got out to a 35-0 lead over N.C. the first quarter. And that was almost all she wrote. They led 42-0 at halftime. And after watching Miami struggle with North Carolina last week and Wake Forest this week, they have to be licking their collective chops going into this weekend’s primetime rivalry matchup. 

2. Clemson (7-1, 5-1 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 2 (W 40-27 at Maryland)

Clemson reminds me some of last year’s Florida State team: a senior quarterback that has all the skills and tools, but something’s just not clicking offensively. Oh, and a defense that is fantastic up front. But the most important way the two teams seem similar is that both play with their proverbial food and let lesser opponents hang around too long. It was still a 19-13 game at the end of the third quarter. Against a Maryland team that has been ravaged by injuries. No reason to move any team ahead of Clemson, but there’s starting to be reason for concern. 

3. Miami (7-0, 3-0 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 4 (W 24-21 over Wake Forest)

Well...on the bright side, the Hurricanes have won two close ACC games the last two weeks and had to come back from a deficit to do it. However, um, the teams they had to do that against are a 2-5 UNC team and a Wake Forest team that has a home loss to Louisiana-Monroe on its schedule. Miami QB Stephen Morris still looks inaccurate, and while the Hurricanes’ running game is fantastic, if they don’t trust Morris in a close game, what will that matter? 

4. Georgia Tech (5-3, 3-2 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 5 (W 35-25 at Virginia)

I don’t know if it says more about Georgia Tech or Virginia that the Yellow Jackets turned it over  five times on the road and still won by double digits. I think it says plenty about both teams, frankly. And while I don’t know that it says anything good about either, a win is a win and Georgia Tech has now won two straight. 

5. Duke (6-2, 2-2 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 8 (W 13-10 at Virginia Tech)

It would not be overstating it to say that this win -- Duke’s first over a ranked team on the road since 1971 and first over ANY ranked team since 1994 -- is the biggest in nearly 20 years. And particularly since it makes Duke bowl eligible for the second straight year, something no Duke coach in history has ever done prior to David Cutcliffe. Duke winning a game like this shows that Cutcliffe is one of the best coaches in college football, period. If you needed any additional proof. 

6. Virginia Tech (6-2, 3-1 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 3 (L 13-10 to Duke)

Virginia Tech’s offense has been abysmal so many times this season that it’s hard to believe this hasn’t happened sooner. That’s just a testament to how brilliant its defense has been. Not many teams can limit an opponent to one touchdown and have their offense lose them the football game, but that’s what happened. The Hokies still have a great shot of winning the Coastal, but they have plenty of things to get fixed up on offense. If that’s even possible at this point.

7. Wake Forest (4-4, 2-3 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 9 (L 24-21 at Miami)

Speaking of good coaching ... Jim Grobe, if you need him. In the last three games, Grobe’s team has two convincing home wins over ACC teams and a near-upset win over a top-ten team on the road. And his team has looked great in all three games. And that was after a 2-3 start to the season when outsiders were wondering if he was still a good coach after all. He made adjustments, scrapped the option offense and his defense continues to play out of its mind. Oh, and opponents continue to act as if the his offensive line’s wide splits are something that has never been seen before in football. 

8. North Carolina (2-5, 1-3 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 13 (W 34-10 over Boston College)

The fact that North Carolina beat a good Boston College team by more points than it beat Middle Tennessee State earlier this season is a pretty good indicator of how cathartic this game was for the Tar Heels. They needed to play well from start to finish for once, and they did. Now, can they carry it over? They’re going to have to -- bowl eligibility is still possible, but they can only lose one more game. The back half of the schedule includes three of the bottom five teams in these power rankings, but one is at rival N.C. State next week. There’s no telling in a game like that.

9. Boston College (3-4, 1-3 ACC)

Last week’s ranking/result: 6 (L 34-10 at North Carolina)

In the last four games, Boston College has one real win (over Army), two moral victories (over FSU and Clemson) and one convincing loss (at UNC). And while the Eagles are much more competitive and a much better team than they were a year ago, they still have three wins over FCS Villanova, a Wake Forest team that was still running the option, and Army. The Virginia Tech game at home this weekend will be a huge opportunity for the BC Dudes. 

10. Pittsburgh (4-3, 2-3 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 7 (L 24-21 at Navy)

Oh, Pitt. Since beating Duke, you've won two games against mediocre to bad teams at home (Virginia and Old Dominion) that were uglier than they should have been and lost two games at Virginia Tech and then Navy. I can’t figure this team out. Sometimes, that offense looks fantastic. Other times, it has nearly double the time of possession Navy has in the first half and puts up only 13 points on a bad defense. And the defense, some weeks it looks good and Your guess is as good as mine as to how good this team really is, but safe to say that on the road, I’m more often than not going to pick against them.

11. Maryland (5-3, 1-3 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 10 (L 40-27 to Clemson)

I have no idea how Maryland managed to keep this game close going into the fourth quarter. To be honest, I have been more impressed with Randy Edsall over the last few seasons and what he’s been able to do to rally his team after a rash of injuries than I have been at any other point in his career. The Terps might get to bowl eligibility with home games against Syracuse and BC remaining, which would be huge for their young guys being forced into action. Either way, though, they’re just not the same team that started out 4-0. 

12. Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 11 (Off)

The back end of Syracuse’s schedule is extremely manageable, and the Orange could get another three wins from Wake, Maryland and Pitt (not at Florida State, though). But there’s no margin for error. And they just don’t look like a bowl team at the moment. N.C. State was Syracuse’s only BCS win this season, and in games against Clemson and Georgia Tech, they lost by a combined score of 105-14. Not. Good. Syracuse has some good pieces but is probably a year or two away from being as competitive as it was last year under Doug Marrone. 

13. N.C. State (3-4, 0-4 ACC) 
Last week’s ranking/result: 12 (L 49-17 at Florida State)

Coming out of the game at Florida State injury-free and with some positives to take away? The Wolfpack will take that, certainly. Obviously, the 35-0 deficit in the first quarter wasn’t very positive. But Shadrach Thornton ended the day with 173 yards rushing, and the Wolfpack desperately needed someone to emerge in a crowded, but ineffective, backfield. Hosting rival UNC next weekend, obviously things get considerably easier for the Wolfpack. QB Brandon Mitchell had a rough return to action against that FSU defense (understandably), but he’ll need to make much more of a positive difference against the back half of that schedule. 

14. Virginia (2-6, 0-4 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 14 (L 35-25 to Georgia Tech)

No, seriously, Virginia. Arguably, your last three opponents have tried to give you the game. Maryland had three turnovers and trailed you in time of possession by MORE than 15 minutes. Duke trailed 22-0 in the first half. And Georgia Tech turned it over FIVE times. Did you accept any of these gifts? No. And this is why you can’t have nice things. We’re going to chalk UVa’s early-season win over BYU up to weather and pretend the Cavaliers’ only victory was over a bad FCS team in VMI. And now, Virginia has lost five in a row with the tough part of its schedule - Clemson, at UNC, at Miami, and Virginia Tech -- remaining. Yikes. 

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