1. Florida State: 5-0 (3-0)
Last Week: W 43-3 vs. Wake Forest
This Week: at Syracuse
Previous Ranking: 1
Florida State got off to another slow start, but the tremendous talent discrepancy allowed them to pull away and win handily. The Demon Deacon offense has no punch and the Seminole defense did what they needed to do until Jameis and company woke up and got the ball rolling. Wake Forest QB John Wolford had a QBR of 8.5 and threw his 11th interception of the still young season.
Florida State lost Rashad Greene (concussion) and Austin Barron (arm) to injury. They play Syracuse next week. After that they host Notre Dame and then play at Louisville in what are likely the only lose-able games left on the schedule for FSU. They'll need to be healthy for those contests.
2. Notre Dame: 5-0 (1-0)*
Last Week: Stanford
This Week: North Carolina
Previous Ranking: 3
Notre Dame and Clemson both get a promotion this week, moving up into the same tier as FSU. Additionally, Notre Dame's momentous win over Stanford forces me to move them above Clemson for the week. It was the Irish defense that won the day, holding Stanford to 47 yards rushing while picking off Kevin Hogan twice. Add in a clutch offensive performance from the offense - down 10-14, Golson completed the go-ahead TD on fourth-and-11 from the 23 - and Notre Dame finds themselves in the top five of the polls.
3. Clemson: 3-2 (2-1)
Last Week: W 41-0 vs. NC State
Next Week: Louisville
Previous Ranking: 2
Clemson earned their most impressive win of the season by completely dominating the team that led Florida State for most of the game just a week before. Deshaun Watson looked outstanding as he connected with Mike Williams for two spectacular deep balls and flashed his athleticism rushing for 62 yards and two rushing TDs to go with his 267 passing yards and two passing TDs. He also jumped over a person...
Clemson's defense was outstanding and completely dominated the line of scrimmage. Beasley was a big part of that and tied the school sack record (Gaines Adams, Michael Dean Perry) with this gem:
Best of all, Clemson found a run game. The Tigers tallied over 200 rushing yards and though Watson lead the team in rushing yards, Wayne Gallman separated himself from the other backs in the coaches eyes and is listed as the starter versus Louisville.
The only negatives came from the injury report. It looks like Jay Guillermo will be out for a month with a broken foot, but hopefully he is back at full strength before South Carolina. Charone Peake is struggling with the knee he injured shortly before the season. The re-occurring nature of the injury makes me fear he was rushed back. Ben Boulware got a concussion and Cole Stoudt sprained his ACL - the guy can't catch a break. Hopefully this is as bad as it gets and they will be healthy as soon as possible.
4. Virginia: 4-2 (2-0)
Last Week: W 24-19 vs. Pittsburgh
This Week: Bye
Previous Ranking: 4
Virginia's defense is the surprise unit of the ACC and they have the Cavaliers very much in contention for the Coastal Division crown. Who would have thought Georgia Tech and Virginia would be the most impressive teams in the division halfway through the season?
Virginia built a 24-3 halftime lead and then used their defense to hang on for dear life. They held Pittsburgh to a field goal after a first-and-goal at the five and held Pitt to 4/13 on third downs. Pittsburgh RB James Conner had just 83 rushing yards while the much less heralded UVA RB Kevin Parks ran for 169 and a score.
5. Louisville: 5-1 (3-1)
Last Week: W 28-6 at Syracuse
This Week: at Clemson
Previous Ranking: 5
Louisville took care of business at Syracuse as their defense again led the way. Surprisingly, Coach Bobby Petrino finds himself at the helm of a defense first Cardinals squad. Louisville is 6th in the nation in points against with 12.7 points allowed per game. They're allowing less than 60 rushing yards per game.
Clemson had struggled to run the ball until this past weekend, but Louisville's defense will prove to be a much harder test. It will be very interesting to see if Clemson can duplicate this weekend's great effort on the ground against a stronger defense. Another twist will be Louisville's personnel decisions. Freshman QB Reggie Bonnafon started over Will Gardner this Saturday at Syracuse even though Gardner was "available" after injuring his knee against FIU. DeVante Parker is also on the mend and nearing return. Coach Bobby Petrino has indicated he is likely to play. If so, we'll likely see two true freshman QBs with dynamic playmakers going at it in Death Valley.
Also, a challenge for those of you who will be in Death Valley this weekend. When asked about the crowd noise in Clemson on Saturday, Petrino said "To be real honest with you, it's going to be very similar to last week [at Syracuse]. That was a loud place. I don't know if it can get any louder, even if the crowd wasn't that big." Hopefully you will contribute to proving him wrong.
6. Georgia Tech: 5-0 (2-0)
Last Week: W 28-17 vs. Miami
This Week: Duke
Previous Ranking: 8
Georgia Tech continues to prove me wrong and I'm growing a just a little bit concerned about this year's rivalry contest with Clemson in Bobby Dodd.
This week, they held the ball for 40:45 minutes and never let Miami find a rhythm as they only had 44 snaps of offense. Tech's defense isn't great, but if their offense can continue to be this effective and control the clock, they can help their defense immensely. They were an amazing 11/16 on third and fourth down as their long methodical drives broke the Hurricanes. Fortunately, I don't think they can run between the tackles against us, which vastly changes their offense.
7. Virginia Tech: 4-2 (1-1)
Last Week: W 34-17 at North Carolina
This Week: Bye
Previous Ranking: 9
If you want give a true freshman quarterback his first career start, it's best to do it against UNC. If you want to see some passing TD records broken, UNC is great for that too. If you have a rough two weeks and need to get back on track, the Carolina Blue is there for you. Hokie QB Michael Brewer has had his struggles this season, and wasn't spectacular on Saturday, but the Hokie offense got back on track and possessed the ball for over 40 minutes. VT was 11/24 on third and fourth downs while the Tar Heels were just 2/17. The Tar Heel offense didn't help their cause either, as they had three turnovers and only gave their running backs nine carries.
8. Miami: 3-3 (1-2)
Last Week: L 17-28 at Georgia Tech
This Week: Cincinnati
Previous Ranking: 6
Miami's ACC Coastal chances took a big blow as they suffered their second ACC loss. GT controlled the ball all night and Miami's offense failed to capitalize on the few opportunities they got. If your defense can't get a third down stop, GT will eat you alive. Miami learned that the hard way, losing to the Jackets for the first time since 2008. They continue to recruit top talent, but fail to convert recruiting stars into ACC wins.
9. Duke 4-1 (0-1)
Last Week: Bye
This Week: Georgia Tech
Previous Ranking: 7
They come to Atlanta this week for a bout with Georgia Tech, who clobbered them in Durham last season. If they let the Yellow Jackets win, GT would move them to 3-0 against ACC Coastal foes and effectively box Duke and Miami out of the race very quickly. This is a must win for Duke.
Cuddly Lap Dogs
10. North Carolina: 2-3 (0-2)
Last Week: L 17-34 vs. Virginia Tech
This Week: at Notre Dame
Previous Ranking: 11
UNC is soft. Nearly as soft as my parents sweet little Bichon Frise Deano. That dog is great, but I digress. UNC got manhandled at home. Their offense is sloppy and their defense is atrocious. Based on early polling, it appears South Carolina and North Carolina were the most overrated teams coming into the season. Carolina football is back, folks! (and that's true regardless of which Carolina you live in.)
11. NC State 4-2 (0-2)
Last Week: L 0-41 at Clemson
This Week: Boston College
Previous Ranking: 10
NC State was dominated in all aspects of the game. Clemson got a little more creative in the run game and NC State couldn't stop it. Watson couldn't be stopped and was literally jumping over Wolfpack defenders. The 'Pack's scare against FSU looks an awful lot like a fluke now.
12. Syracuse: 2-3 (0-1)
Last Week: Louisville
This Week: Florida State
Previous Ranking: 13
Syracuse QB Terrell Hunt was just 17/32 with two picks. The Orange offense also got nailed with two safeties.On the bright side, Bobby Petrino was impressed with the Carrier Dome, saying he can't believe Death Valley will be any louder.
13. Pittsburgh: 3-3 (1-1)
Last Week: : at Virginia
This Week: Bye
Previous Ranking: 12
Pittsburgh is now in free fall with their third straight loss. Virginia was able to stop Pitt's formerly admirable rushing attack and had success running the ball through the Panther defense. They take a bye before hosting VT on a Thursday and then getting the Yellow Jackets at home. Those could be two more losses.
14. Boston College: 3-2 (0-1)
Last Week: Bye
This Week: at NC State
Previous Ranking: 14
BC's win over Southern Cal looks both fluke-ish and less impressive after BC lost to Colorado State last week and both USC and Stanford lost this week. They've had time to regroup this past weekend, which will be key because they have a very winnable ACC road game in Raleigh this Saturday and can't miss that opportunity if they have bowl aspirations.
15. Wake Forest: 2-4 (0-2)
Last Week: L 3-43 at Florida State
This Week: Bye
Last ranking: 15
The Deacon offense was net negative again this week as they failed to score a touchdown, but allowed a fumble return for TD that essentially sealed the win for Florida State. Last week our poll question was "Which is WORSE, the UNC defense or the Wake Forest offense?" The Demon Deacon offense garnered 72% of the vote and may be the worst unit on either side of the ball in the ACC (in the last decade?).
The defense is actually a pleasant surprise and may be the best among the ACC schools in North Carolina. It's a shame Coach Grobe left Coach Clawson so little offensive talent, because it's doing a solid defense a disservice.
As with last week, I've added a poll below. With Notre Dame's win over Stanford, they have an realistic shot to play in the Orange Bowl (I would love to matchup with them in Miami), and thus would not be part of the ACC bowl lineup. So please vote in the poll below.
* denotes Notre Dame's records vs. ACC opponents. Record vs. Notre Dame is not included in ACC record for full members.