FSU leads the pack and doesn’t look like they’ll lose a conference game anytime soon. Miami runs into that wrecking ball next week and should tumble out of the top 10. Virginia Tech took their second loss of the season this week as Duke shutdown their offense. Clemson’s high-octane offense continues to struggle and Virginia gets more laughable every week.
Nevertheless the ACC still has a great chance to land two teams in the BCS if Clemson can hold up their end of the bargain. For the second week in a row, Heather Dinich has put Miami above Clemson in ESPN's ACC Power Rankings. In my aggravation, here's the Shakin the Southland ACC Power Rankings for Week 9.
National Championship Caliber
1. Florida State 7-0 (5-0)
Up Next: Miami
They weren’t about to let NC State spoil another National Championship run. After beating Clemson, they’re back to devouring cupcakes. They were up 42-0 at halftime and cruised to a 49-17 win over the Wolfpack.
West Virginia backed out of their previously arranged non-conference matchup with FSU leaving the 'Noles' non-conference slate perilously thin. WVU turned out to be pretty bad themselves, but regardless, they left Florida State with a schedule that amounts to Clemson, Miami, Florida, ACCCG, and nine cream puffs. I don't see FSU losing a regular season game and I'd love nothing more than to see them run the table and get left out in favor of Oregon which looks very possible based on the swap in the BCS rankings.
Last week, Dabo Swinney postured that if the Seminoles and his Tigers played 10 games, they'd probably split them 5-5. He's the only one who believes that and it's only fair to give the 'Noles the top spot in the ACC.
Sugar Bowl Caliber
2. Clemson: 7-1 (5-1)
Up Next: @UVA
Where has the red zone offense gone? Tajh Boyd, one of the greatest quarterbacks in Clemson history has looked like Logan Thomas in three straight games. It sounds like he’s also been playing with some more than minor nagging injuries and he twisted his knee this week against Maryland. To his credit, he fought through the injury and rushed for the dagger touchdown.
On the bright side, it seems Clemson suddenly has a strong defense. After an atrocious blown play on an intermediate pass turned long touchdown, the defense was great. They held the wounded turtles to field goals after the offense gave away the ball deep in their own territory on back-to-back possessions before they surrendered some garbage time touchdowns. If Clemson doesn’t figure out their red zone offense, they’ll still beat Virginia by 45, but a win over GT is far from a lock and a win in Williams-Brice is wishful thinking.
3. Miami: 7-0 (3-0)
Up Next: @FSU
To some extent, Miami is a product of the schedule. Their win over Florida was big and their comeback win against Georgia Tech was a nice showing, but neither is as impressive in hindsight. Nevertheless, all the credit in the world goes to Al Golden who has revived this program. They are recruiting well, beating the teams that you’d expect "The U" to consistently beat, and are relevant again. Additionally, the NCAA also let them off the hook. It’s a promising time to be a ‘Cane. Well, except that the injuries are starting to hit and FSU is up next. That one could get ugly.
Muddled Mess of Mediocity
4. Virginia Tech: 6-2 (3-1)
Up Next @BC
What in the world? Pitt scored 58 at Duke in a three point win, but the Fighting Gobblers could only muster 10 against the "vaunted" Blue Devil defense in a three point home loss? Logan Thomas and that offense are painfully bad. Thomas threw four picks and the Blue Devils broke a 47-game losing streak to ranked opponents in their first win over VT since ’81.
The Hokies had nearly double Duke’s time of possession and 189 more yards of total offense, yet fell. In two weeks, they’ll play at Coral Gables and still have a real chance to win the Coastal. Although their offense is a joke, VT is still better than 10 other teams in the conference.
5. Georgia Tech: 5-3 (4-2)
Up Next: Pittsburgh
Despite five turnovers and 97 penalty yards, they still beat UVA. Virginia is just that bad. The Jackets had three players rush for 100+ and could be tricky if Clemson can’t get the offense back on track. They should win 7-8 games this year and are far from a gimme for the Tigers.
6. Duke: 6-2 (2-2)
Up Next: NC State
David Cutcliffe got himself his trademark win as the Duke Head Coach with this weekend’s big one over VT. They should just give him ACC Coach of the Year every year for what he does with that talent. Also, credit the AD for having the wherewithal to schedule a soft non-conference schedule (NC Central, Memphis, Troy, Navy) to pad the win total and get into a bowl game. They’ve already got six wins and should be able to snag another.
7. Wake Forest: 4-4 (2-3)
Up Next: @Syracuse
It looks like the Demon Deacons have turned the corner since getting destroyed to the tune of 56-7 in Death Valley. Jim Grobe and company have pivoted from the option offense, which they had no business running in the first place, to more of an aerial attack and now look 100% better. The folks over at BloggerSoDear had been calling for the end of the option offense weeks before. I’m not really sure why they started running an option, but Grobe may be the most overrated coach in the conference if not all of FBS. Regardless, they’re playing some solid football. After beating NC State and Maryland, they gave Miami quite the scare and only lost by three on Saturday.
8. North Carolina: 2-5 (1-3)
Up Next: @NC State
Even at 2-5, there are still five ACC teams worse than the Tar Heels. After playing South Carolina, GT, VT, and Miami in the first half of the season, the back half of their schedule gets very soft and they may win out. They easily could make a bowl game and are more talented than the remaining teams on the docket (NCSU, UVA, Pitt, Old Dominion, Duke). This week they trounced BC 34-10 as talent prevailed. I expect them to find a way to six wins and bid to the Irrelevant Bowl.
9. Pittsburgh: 4-3 (2-2)
Up Next: @GT
For a while, it was hard to get a read on the Panthers as they beat everyone you'd expect them to beat and lose to everyone with more talent. That's until this weekend when they lost to Navy. They gave up 17 in the fourth quarter to do it and now we know who they are. With UNC and Syracuse left on the schedule they should be able to avoid losing out, but they’re not bowl bound.
10. Boston College: 1-3 (3-4)
Up Next: VT
Moral victories against FSU and Clemson can only take you so far. I picked UNC to beat BC because they have more talent and they did so by much more than I expected. Until Addazio has some time to recruit, it's going to be tough sledding.
11. Maryland: 5-3 (1-3)
Up Next: Bye
I almost feel bad for Maryland. The only other team I’ve ever seen with such a horrible rash of injuries is… well… them last year. Without their best players at each skill position, they risk entering free fall, but they still have games against Syracuse, BC, and NC State and should be able to find at least one more win to reach bowl eligibility. Playing Clemson tough doesn’t get you kudos when Clemson plays like garbage. Not to mention they surrendered 40 points to be broken Clemson offense that gave the ball away three times.
On another note, pompous Syracuse basketball coach, Jim Boeheim, should be making fun of College Park. There is nothing to eat there, but a Chick-fil-A in the student union. Even the alumni were telling me to just go to D.C. before and after the game.
12. Syracuse: 3-4 (1-2)
Up Next: Wake Forest
After enjoying their bye week, the Orange will host Wake Forest this coming Saturday. The loser of that game will be knocked out of bowl contention for all intents and purposes. It’ll be a battle of the most overrated coach in the ACC (Jim Grobe) and the most ridiculous (Scott Schafer). We added this team to the conference for basketball and proximity to NYC, that much is clear.
13. NC State: 3-4 (0-4)
Up Next: UNC
Nobody expected Dave Doeren to lead his new squad to an excellent season, but with eight home games and 10 games in North Carolina getting to a bowl game should have been easier than this. Every game left is extremely winnable, yet they could lose out, which would include a loss to ECU and make the Pirates the best team in North Carolina. Give Doeren time. Monte Kiffin and Lou Holtz have already failed in Raleigh. Maybe there's something I'm missing, but I just don't see why this program can't find success.
The Not As Good as Ball State Tier
14. Virginia: 2-6 (0-4)
Up Next: Clemson
After a promising win over BYU it all went down the sewer. They very well could lose out and finish 2-10. This week they lost by 10 at home to the Yellow Jackets despite getting their worst game (five turnovers). Losing to a team that commits five turnovers deserves some kind of award. Somehow, Mike London has a decent recruiting class coming and is essentially unfireable due to the over 11 million in contracts Virginia would have to eat. Maybe he can turn it around next year or maybe Virginia is just "the softest bunch of cream puff, bow tie wearing, brie cheese eating, ascot-wearing, wussies I've ever seen in my life."