Clemson struggled just enough this past week for Florida State to take over the top spot. The Seminoles look scary, scary good. And this weekend’s game against Clemson becomes even more intriguing with how well the FSU offense is playing and how much better the Clemson defense is (particularly up front). That’s going to be the most underrated aspect of that matchup. Though yes, Jameis Winston vs. Tajh Boyd should be awesome.
2. No. 3 Clemson (6-0, 4-0 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 1 (W 24-14 over Boston College)
As well as Florida State has been playing, it’s time. Clemson isn’t playing badly, and there’s nothing wrong with struggling a little bit with Boston College (FSU did, too). But struggling to score points on the Eagles is a little bit of a red flag. Either way, these two are virtually neck-and-neck going into this week’s epic top-five matchup and can decide it on the field. (Also, the loser likely won’t drop below 2.)
3. No. 10 Miami (5-0, 1-0 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 3 (Off)
Miami’s trip to UNC this Thursday night still feels like a potential loss for some reason. The Hurricanes are very talented, but still young and prone to the kind of mistakes in games that could eventually cost them one. But if they get past UNC on Thursday, this will be their Coastal Division to lose, even with a game at Florida State on Nov. 2.
4. No. 19 Virginia Tech (6-1, 3-0 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 4 (W 19-9 over Pitt)
Virginia Tech is going to do what it has done so consistently all these years — sneak up after getting off to a bad start and win the Coastal Division. Don’t believe me, just watch. The Coastal Division will likely come down to Virginia Tech at Miami on Nov. 9. The Hokies’ defense continues to be excellent while the offense is steadily improving.
5. Maryland (5-1, 1-1 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 5 (W 27-26 over Virginia)
Um, so Maryland, you kind of maintain this position by default, but … yeah. That 27-26 win over Virginia was ugly. And now, Maryland is starting to find out that its old friend Mr. Injury doesn’t go away so easily. It appears to be back again this year. Not good.
T-6. Pittsburgh (3-2, 2-2 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 7 (L 19-9 at Virginia Tech)
No shame in losing to Virginia Tech, but Pitt’s only wins are against the dregs of the league and a bad New Mexico team. Pitt is a clear few steps below Florida State and Virginia Tech, but the Panthers are competitive.
T-6. Georgia Tech (3-3, 1-2 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 6 (L 38-20 at BYU)
Pitt hasn’t beaten anybody but Elon, Duke and North Carolina. Those are the three teams that Georgia Tech has beaten. The Yellow Jackets’ schedule has been a nightmare since (Virginia Tech, at Miami and at BYU), but they’ve lost three in a row and the last two losses have come by double digits.
8. Syracuse (3-3, 1-1 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 10 (W 24-10 at N.C. State)
If your most impressive win is against a flailing N.C. State team, is it really that great? Well, it’s a road win, and Syracuse was able to overcome a lot of its own mistakes to hang in there and find a way to get the win. That’s not an easy place to play.
9. Duke (4-2, 0-2 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: T-14 (W 35-7 over Navy)
Duke’s 35-7 win over a good Navy team was impressive, and not just because it was convincing, but also because it gave us a peek at what the Blue Devils could look like with starter Anthony Boone back at quarterback (he was 31-of-38 for 295 yards and three touchdowns). Duke is two wins away from a bowl game and will have plenty of opportunities from here on out, especially with a healthy Boone back.
10. Boston College (3-3, 1-2 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 8 (L 24-14 at Clemson)
Boston College takes over the league’s lead in moral victories officially with two (Florida State, Clemson), and arguably the best moral victories at that. Unfortunately, they’re not real victories. Still, it’s very clear that BC is light years away from the disaster it was a year ago, and the Eagles aren’t afraid of the big boys. They’re going to beat some teams this year and might just sneak into third place in the Atlantic.
11. Wake Forest (3-3, 1-2 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: T-14 (Off)
And here I thought Wake Forest would be in last place all year. That’s what happens when you don’t play for a week, Wake Forest.
12. Virginia (2-4, 0-2 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 9 (L 27-26 at Maryland)
Well, it was a close loss. So that counts for something. And it was on the road. But that win over BYU is looking flukier and flukier as the year goes on (BYU getting better, Virginia getting worse), and the Cavaliers’ only other win over this season was over FCS VMI.
13. N.C. State (3-3, 0-3 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: T-14 (L 24-10 to Syracuse)
I almost put UNC here instead — after all, the Tar Heels’ losses have all come to good teams, unlike N.C. State’s — but ultimately, UNC’s 24-point home loss to ECU is still a thing that happened. And N.C. State’s offense should get better when Brandon Mitchell gets back. But the team needs to be evaluated based on what they are now, and that’s a team that has lost consecutive games to mediocre teams.
14. North Carolina (1-4, 0-2 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: T-14 (Off)
One win and worst record in the ACC, although the Tar Heels are the league’s co-leaders in moral victories.