Last week’s ranking/result: 1 (W 26-14 at NC State)
Going into Carter-Finley Stadium for a night game at NC State is tough. So tough, in fact, that teams in Clemson’s situation have lost in the past. Like Florida State last year, for instance. But Clemson took care of business and won, even though it wasn’t pretty. This year’s Seminoles, though, are nipping at the Tigers’ heels. One more struggle to win a game for Clemson and one more dominant FSU win and these positions will be switched.
2. No. 8 Florida State (3-0, 1-0 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 2 (W 54-6 over Bethune-Cookman)
Consider this ranking a “1A”. Only thing holding the Seminoles back here is they arguably haven’t played anyone on the level of two of the teams Clemson has beaten already – certainly not Georgia, and maybe Pitt and NC State are fairly comparable. But the Georgia win still gives Clemson a slight edge. It’s a body of work, after all. It won’t take much for them to take over No. 1 next week.
3. No. 15 Miami (3-0)
Last week’s ranking/result: 3 (W 77-7 over Savannah State)
When you beat the pants off an opponent that lost to Troy and Georgia Southern by a combined score of 143-12 and get a running clock in the fourth quarter, there’s not much impressive about that. Except of course for the fact that Miami did what it needed to do and won very handily. Miami’s Florida win is what’s holding off Maryland from taking this spot this week. BODY OF WORK, people!
4. Maryland (4-0)
Last week’s ranking/result: 5 (W 37-0 over West Virginia in Baltimore)
If transitive property is your thing, then Maryland’s win at UConn looks more valuable now, considering how the Huskies hung with Michigan last night. Fact remains that Maryland has vanquished all comers this year with a newly-explosive offense and a dominant defense. The Terps are going to be dangerous in their final year in the ACC, should everyone stay healthy. (Or at the very least, should everyone not get injured like last year.)
5. Georgia Tech (3-0, 1-0 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 4 (W 28-20 over North Carolina)
Georgia Tech’s first two games were against Elon and a Duke team in its first full game without its starting quarterback, but to their credit, the Jackets controlled both. North Carolina is the best team they’ve played so far, and the second-half Jackets looked like they should stay in the No. 4 spot. But the first half happened, and at one point they trailed the Tar Heels 20-7 at home. The defense was rather schizophrenic, and if they can stifle the Hokies’ struggling offense on the road next Thursday, maybe they’ll go back to No. 4.
6. Virginia Tech (3-1)
Last week’s ranking/result: 6 (W 29-21 over Marshall in 3OT)
Marshall is a frisky opponent, so don’t take too much stock in Virginia Tech’s narrow escape. And the Virginia Tech defense stiffened in the second half against a very good Marshall offense. But Virginia Tech’s offense is still….not very good. Ultimately, strength of schedule (and record) keeps the Hokies here. But any team from 7-9 in the rankings is poised to jump over the Hokies right now if they can’t beat Georgia Tech on Thursday night.
7. North Carolina (1-2, 0-1 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 7 (L 28-20 at Georgia Tech)
The Tar Heels are hard to figure out. They have all the talent you could want. They were fantastic in the first half against Georgia Tech on Saturday. And then the second half happened, and UNC’s woes in Atlanta continue. But the Tar Heels’ two losses this year have arguably come to two teams in the top 40 or so in the country, and both on the road. Silly mistakes have been their worst enemy. Still, play badly against East Carolina or lose, and the Tar Heels are due for a precipitous fall in these rankings.
8. NC State (2-1, 0-1 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 8 (L 26-14 to Clemson)
NC State played very well on both sides of the ball in a near-upset over Clemson on Thursday night. But…well, the other games still happened. It’s not entirely fair, since NC State has a new head coach, but we’ve seen this from NC State before – play well against a good team, usually beat said good team, and then lose to a much worse team. If the defense that showed up on Thursday night keeps showing up, the Wolfpack’s ranking will improve. But they need to take care of business against Central Michigan and play better than they did pre-Clemson.
T-9. Pittsburgh (2-1, 1-1 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 11 (W 58-55 at Duke)
Pitt gets a bump not because of beating Duke, but because a Pitt offense that a lot of people had questions about looked downright dominant for three quarters and has averaged 53.5 points over the last two weeks. The Panthers’ defense still looks surprisingly bad, but the offense is much better than anyone expected. And a win is a win, as they say.
T-9. Virginia (2-1)
Last week’s ranking/result: T-9 (W 49-0 over VMI)
Virginia took care of a bad VMI team, as they should have. The Cavaliers were flattened at home by a really good Oregon team, which was also expected. The BYU win? Still a bit of a mystery as to what that means. We’re not really going to know anything substantial about the Cavaliers until they go to Maryland on October 12.
11. Syracuse (2-2)
Last week’s ranking/result: 12 (W 52-17 over Tulane)
Syracuse might have played two bad teams, but the Orange offense has been reinvigorated with Terrel Hunt under center. He was 16-of-21 for 181 yards and four touchdowns, adding six rushes for 39 yards and a score on Saturday. And so maybe, just maybe, the first two games this season would have gone a little differently had Hunt been the starter all along. But Clemson comes to down in two weeks, so….yeah.
12. Duke (2-2, 0-2 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: T-9 (L 58-55 to Pittsburgh)
If Duke wants to make a bowl game, it needs to win its next two games. Quarterback Anthony Boone probably isn’t returning anytime soon, and so backup Brandon Connette is going to have to be more consistent. That’s been Duke’s issue this season, really – mistakes and lack of execution. Duke doesn’t have that kind of margin for error. The Blue Devils made a comeback against Pitt, but they also were pushed around up front for much of the first three quarters.
13. Boston College (2-1, 1-0 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 13 (Off)
In the games before and after Boston College (against Washington State and Utah State), USC scored 24 points. The Trojans put up 35 against Boston College. Again, transitive property is not everything, but if your only impressive win this season is against the worst team in the league (with a bullet) at home, I still need to see more. Villanova was thought to be a scrappy FCS team and still could be, but the Wildcats lost their next game after a ten-point loss at BC. To Fordham. Hang tough with Florida State on Saturday, though, and there’s a chance for BC to move up.
14. Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1 ACC)
Last week’s ranking/result: 14 (W 25-11 at Army)
Wake Forest finally got a win against an FBS team, albeit a bad one! The streak is over! What’s that? The Deacs have Clemson next week? Welp. The good news is that Wake finally got its ground game going at Army with 228 yards. But now the passing game seems to be a bit of an issue as quarterback Tanner Price was just 6-of-17 against a bad Army defense. Either way, the Deacs will take it. But they’re likely not moving up anytime soon.