ACC Power Rankings: A lot of question marks after FSU

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. State…in 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
Saturday….at 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 others…no.
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.