ACC Power Rankings: Final edition

Final ACC Football Power RankingsThe ACC’s season concluded with a 4-2 mark in bowl games, with the two losses by teams in the Research Triangle that created their own misery with mistake-filled performances. 

Clemson’s win over LSU and Georgia Tech’s shocker over Southern Cal were the brightest spots of the postseason, and allowed the league to finish the season with its collective heads held high. It also made one wonder how the conference would have fared had its third- and fourth-best teams, North Carolina and Miami, respectively, would have been a part of the mix. 

This was a lousy regular season for the ACC, but it closed pretty strong on the field and with none of its coaches bolting for other jobs, it closed well off the field, too. 

Here are this week’s ACC Power Rankings:

1. Clemson (11-2, 7-1)

Move over Florida State, the Tigers’ 25-24 victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl was impressive enough to elevate them to the top spot in the final power ranking. Tajh Boyd was sensational and set himself up for a potential Heisman Trophy run next season if he still intends on returning, and Brent Venables’ defense had its best and most physical game of the year. In the end, Clemson was the best and most entertaining team in the ACC this season.

2. Florida State (12-2, 7-1)

While the Seminoles beat Northern Illinois by three touchdowns in the Orange Bowl, it just never seemed like Jimbo Fisher was close to getting everything out of his team, and there were too many games like that this season, including the ACC title game. The Seminoles were the ACC’s top squad for most of the season, but they aren’t finishing there. They just didn’t tap their potential enough.

3. North Carolina (8-4, 5-3)

Bryn Renner, Gio Bernard and company scored a bunch of points and were a nightmare for opposing defenses, making the Tar Heels the third-best team in the conference. UNC could score on special teams, too. But its defense was poor-to-mediocre, and that’s what keeps the distance between Nos. 2 and 3 here the widest gap in the final rankings. There’s a really nice foundation for the future in Chapel Hill.

4. Miami (7-5, 5-3)

It would have been interesting to see how the Hurricanes would have performed in the ACC title game and a bowl if the school didn’t self-impose another postseason ban for the second-consecutive season. The potential growth could have paid off big-time going into next fall. As it stands, Miami tops the list of a large group of underwhelming teams.

5. Georgia Tech (7-7, 5-3)

So where on earth was the Yellow Jackets’ defense all season that shut down Southern Cal in the Sun Bowl? Had Georgia Tech played that way it would have had a fantastic season, but it was horrible at times and only late put forth its better efforts. Even though the Trojans were clearly down, beating them still carries weight in the ACC and vaulted the Ramblin’ Wreck into this spot.

6. Virginia Tech (7-6, 5-3)

As ugly as Virginia Tech’s Russell Athletic Bowl victory over Rutgers was, at least the Hokies managed to win. Logan Thomas continued his struggles and the offense as a whole was awful and uninspiring. But Bud Foster’s defense played with that classic Hokie lunch pail mentality and squashed the Scarlet Knights. Virginia Tech is the only ACC team that closed on a three-game winning streak. 

7. N.C. State (7-6, 4-4)

The self-destructive Wolfpack should have beaten Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl in Nashville but a bevy of miscues did in the Pack in a 38-24 defeat. N.C. State bookended its season with ugly, mistake-ridden losses to SEC teams either with little history (Vandy) or that have been in a terrible rut (Tennessee). In between, N.C. State failed to live up to its lofty expectations, which rightfully cost Tom O’Brien his job.

8. Duke (6-7, 3-5)

No team beat itself in a bowl more than Duke. The Blue Devils fumbled twice going into the end zone had a field goal wiped away because of an odd ruling, and then gave up a pick six on essentially the last play of the game to lose to Cincinnati 48-34 in the Belk Bowl. That’s basically a 24-point swing, so Duke can only blame itself for not winning. The Blue Devils also closed the season on a five-game losing streak allowing an average of 49 points per contest. Still, a bowl for the first time in 18 years makes this a quality season for David Cutcliffe’s program.

9. Virginia (4-8, 2-6)

Mike London has to be kicking himself for not turning over the QB job to Phillip Sims now that Michael Rocco has transferred. It was a no-brainer, and every snap Rocco got from the middle of the season on was wasted. In addition, Virginia just lacked in so many areas. Its defense grew and played around expectation level or even above at times, but overall Virginia was a predictably bad team.

10. Wake Forest (5-7, 3-5)

The Demon Deacons lost three straight and six of eight to close the season mainly because there was no balance in how they performed. Injuries and a poor season from QB Tanner Price didn’t help, but neither did a defense that lacked front-line talent and depth. Wake Forest allowed 42 or more points four times and eight times scored 21 or fewer points. The Demon Deacons should have been better.

11. Boston College (2-10, 1-7)

Boston College actually improved in the second half of the season, but the program has fallen so much from where it was several years ago, it’s generally not competitive anymore. Quarterback Chase Rettig did some nice things, but the Eagles had enough issues it justified making a coaching change. Gone is Frank Spaziani and maybe in will be more life and creativity.

12. Maryland (4-8, 2-6)

The ugliest QB situation of any BCS program did in the Terrapins, who six weeks into the season were one of the more positive surprises in the ACC. But when the QBs started dropping like flies everything else seemed to follow, and in the end Maryland wasn’t much better than a year earlier.