1. Florida State
Last Week: Bye
This Week: Clemson
Previous Ranking: 1
The #1 team in the nation took a rest before facing their biggest test of the season's first half, Clemson. Let's avoid falling victim to reading too much into data from a small sample size. Despite not looking like a "full-functional Death Star" in the very early going, I will assume they're excellent until proven otherwise.
2. Notre Dame
Last Week: W 30-14 vs. Purdue
This Week: Bye
Previous Ranking: 2
Notre Dame took care of business in their Shamrock Series game with a win over the hapless Purdue Boilermakers. The Shamrock Series is their annual neutral site game where they break out a special alternative uniform. This one was in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and their uniforms actually didn't look ridiculous.
Everett Golson continued his sharp play throwing for 259 yards and two touchdowns while running for 56 and another TD. Even still, they entered halftime with a slim 17-14 lead over a Boilermaker team coming off a blowout loss to Central Michigan. Irish running backs totaled just 83 rushing yards and they haven't done much all season. The ND defense stiffened as they intercepted two passes in the fourth quarter and didn't allow a second half score, as they pulled away.
The Irish will take a bye and then play Syracuse before their first big test with Stanford coming to Indiana. We'll see how Clemson performs against FSU before we decide if they belong above Notre Dame.
Last Week: Bye
Next Week: Florida State
Previous Ranking: 3
I hope everyone enjoyed some rest and relaxation during the bye week, because it's time to enter the gauntlet. Hopefully we've gotten our footing with Artavis Scott emerging as the home run hitter for Clemson to lean on. Choice and Gallman got meaningful playing time against SCSU and should be ready to contribute. Martin Jenkins is healthy and everyone has returned from suspension. I'm not expecting a win, but 51-14 cannot and will not be repeated.
After FSU, it's UNC, NC State, and Louisville at home. While UNC and Louisville looked to be tricky when the schedule was first realized, they've been exposed and we should feel pretty confident that Clemson will take care of business. I'm ready to enter the gauntlet. Are you ready? Post your FSU game predictions with a final score in the comments below.
Now, what I'm sure a lot of folks are fretting over is South Carolina beating Georgia. Let's be careful about over-applying the transitive property. South Carolina > Georgia > Clemson is not how college football works, unless of course you think BC > USC > Stanford. Let's also not forget that Clemson beat Georgia in DV last season, Georgia beat South Carolina in Athens, and then we didn't deliver in Columbia. Now, we're forced to hope for the exact reverse. My major takeaways from UGA at South Carolina are simple: 1) The Gamecock offense is solid, especially in the run game where they get a better push than us. 2) The Gamecock defense is still bad, and allowed 35 points plus two missed field goals.
Last Week: W 41-3 vs. Kansas
This Week: Tulane
Last Ranking: 6
It seems we were searching so hard for someone besides Duke to take the mantle in the Coastal, but maybe they're as good as it gets there. Duke's offense continued to burn through their soft non-conference schedule. QB Anthony Boone passed for 180 yards and two TDs with no picks, but it was the running game that stole the show in this one. RB Shaun Wilson set the single-game rushing record at Duke by running for 245 yards on just 12 carries. That's 20.4 yards per carry.
We know about David Cutcliffe's Blue Devil passing attack, but if they can put together a running game and play stout defense, as they did in this one, they could replicate last season's success. Of course, this came against the worst team in the Big 12, so we won't really know until they travel to Coral Gables in two weeks.
5. Virginia Tech
Last Week: L 21-28 vs. East Carolina
This Week: Georgia Tech
Last Ranking: 4
This week was a pretty tremendous letdown after winning in the Horseshoe. The loss to ECU was the Pirates first win in Lane Stadium since '91. A lot of writers moved Virginia Tech above Clemson in their ACC Power Rankings. A lot of commenters disagreed when I didn't, but the Pirates slapped the ACC in the face and brought the Hokies back down to Earth in a "you're not back, yet" moment.
Last Week: W 42-25 at Florida International
This Week: Iowa
Previous Ranking: 7
It wasn't the most impressive win ever, allowing 25 points to Florida International, but James Conner has emerged as a workhorse. Pittsburgh is averaging 344 rushing yards per game, fifth in the nation, and they may have the most effective back in the conference. That's not to say he's "better" than Duke Johnson or Karlos Williams, but Miami has a flimsy offensive line and Florida State doesn't rely nearly as heavily on their run game as Pitt.
Against FIU, he had a whopping 31 carries for a hefty 177 rushing yards and three TDs. He also had two fumbles, but one was on the exchange and the other was a beautiful strip. He has 544 rushing yards this season. He had 214 yards at BC a week before the Eagles bottled up USC for 20 rushing yards so I believe it to be real and not a product of the schedule, though time will tell.
Chad Voytik displayed the running ability we heard about coming into the year ripping a 40 yard run as part of a 114 yard performance on the ground. He only passed for 89 yards despite having the ACC's most electric WR, Tyler Boyd. In the end, Pittsburgh will probably be too one-dimensional to win the Coastal without further growth from Voytik, but we've seen enough to believe they'll be in the thick of the race - which may be a six team battle - even if he doesn't.
They also get bonus points from Boston College's big win over USC right after running right through them two Friday's ago. That's not to say they're better than USC or Stanford, just that the road win at BC looks a lot more impressive now.
Last Week: W 23-21 vs. Louisville
This Week: at BYU
Previous Ranking: 11
Virginia has one of the toughest schedules in the Coastal division, drawing FSU and Louisville from the Atlantic and challenging themselves with UCLA and BYU out of conference. After their defense shutdown ESPN favorite Brett Hundley and nearly beat UCLA we started to think they may have improved from a year ago. A resounding win over Richmond and we were pretty sure they were at least better than last year and may have a good enough defense to keep them in games.
Now, they've held Bobby Petrino's offense to a paltry 21 points. Louisville took a 7-0 lead before surrendering 20 straight points. The Cardinals then bounced back to capture a 21-20 lead, before fumbling a punt return inside their own territory. Virginia recovered and four plays later knocked in a go-ahead 42-yard FG and let their defense seal the deal.
Virginia's offense is still hot garbage, but their defense is finally coming together and Mike London's great recruiting efforts are beginning to show up on the field. Dabo had kind things to say about Virginia's young players after trouncing White Meat last season. Maybe he was onto something and maybe Mike London will be sticking around for a while - which is good because I praised that hire and have looked awfully silly since.
Last Week: L 21-23 at Virginia
This Week: at Florida International
Previous Ranking: 4
And boom goes the dynamite. Louisville had an impressive Labor Day win over Miami, and, as is often the case, there was major overreaction to one game. Louisville has averaged below a rivals 3* over the last five years so it should be no surprise they they couldn't storm into the ACC and roll through the schedule, save FSU/Clemson. They'll be competitive, they'll win some games, but teams don't jump into the ACC from the Big East or American Athletic with ease. I believe they were expecting about eight wins when the joined and now that they're back to earth I believe that remains a realistic upside.
The Cardinals committed two costly turnovers against what appears to be a legitimately stout Virginia defense, which allowed the Hoos to take a 20-7 lead. UL came back to take a 21-20 lead, but muffed a punt leaving UVA in position for the winning field goal. Welcome to the ACC.
9. Boston College
Last Week: W 37-31 USC
Previous Ranking: 12
It's time Steve Addazio begins to hear his name with the elite coaches of elite programs. Last season, they lost 7-35 in LA. USC is supposed to be better this year - entering the game ranked 9th - and Boston College lost their QB, their go-to receiver, and Heisman Finalist RB Andre Williams (now on the Giants). Somehow, Addazio figured a way to get his team to run through a defense that shutdown Stanford just one week before. QB Tyler Murphy ran for 191 yards and a rushing TD while completing just five passes for 54 yards. Even one dimensional, the Trojan's couldn't figure out how to stop the mobile QB (been there, done that).
Boston College seized momentum on a beautifully designed reverse that started out looking like a QB run before it got flicked to BC's only speedster who ran around the USC defense for a TD. The Trojan linebackers bit hard and couldn't get back in position. The play sent BC into halftime with a lead and they stayed aggressive en route to giving the ACC their second huge non-conference upset win in as many weeks. Maybe they won't be a push-over win for Clemson after all. Clemson can stop mobile quarterbacks now, right? right!?
10. North Carolina
Last Week: Bye
This Week: at East Carolina
Last Ranking: 8
No close calls this week. Next they play at ECU, at Clemson, Virginia Tech, and then at Notre Dame - brutal stretch. Does anyone see them winning any of those games? They won't be overrated for long - they'll be exposed.
Last Week: W 41-20 vs. Arkansas State
This Week: at Nebraska
Last Ranking: 9
Freshman Brad Kaaya had a breakout game tossing four TDs and a pick with 342 yards. He connected with star receiver Phillip Dorsett for big receptions of 63, 51, 24, and then 63 yards again. The playmakers at Kaaya's disposal are elite, so if he can continue at anywhere near this level of play, Miami will become dangerous. Duke Johnson averaged 6.4 YPC on 14 carries and showed off his top end speed on a 33 yard scamper. Still, this was only Arkansas State and Miami shouldn't be ceding 20 points. Problems on the offensive line and defense are real and the Louisville loss to UVA makes Miami's loss look that much worse. They'll get a chance to move up next week when they play at Nebraska.
Last Week: W 40-3 at Central Michigan
This Week: Maryland
Previous Ranking: 13
It's possible I came down a little hard on Syracuse after their near loss to Villanova. Terrel Hunt threw a punch in the game and got ejected after going just 10/17, so it was deserved, but they bounced back by scoring 40 in a dominant road win over CMU. The Chippewas were coming off a blowout win over Purdue, and got an early 3-0 lead, but were overmatched by Syracuse and surrendered 40 straight points.
Hunt finished 20/30 with a TD and no picks and added 92 rushing yards and three more TDs. I'm still skeptical. Scott Schafer seems to do things the wrong way, but our initial expectations about the Orange were probably more accurate than our post Villanova commentary. They're a tier above the teams that follow.
13. NC State
Last Week: W 49-17 at South Florida
This Week: Presbyterian
The NC State offense finally clicked as they nearly hung half-a-hundred against the USF Bulls. Playing in Tampa, Jacoby Brissett, a West Palm Beach native, looked right at home. Brissett threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. The upgrade from last year's Pete Thomas/Brandon Mitchell duo was apparent. The Wolfpack also run for 315 yards with four players accounting for over 50 yards each. A win over a South Florida team that has fallen so far from 2007 team that peaked at #2 in the BCS or even the 2010 Bulls that beat Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl hardly qualifies as a breakthrough, but with a -1 spread in their favor, NC State exceeded expectations and should feel good for a week.
14. Georgia Tech
Last Week: W 42-38 Georgia Southern
This Week: at Virginia Tech
Previous Ranking: 10
19, 21, and 38. Those are the point totals the Yellow Jacket defense has allowed to Wofford, Tulane, and Georgia Southern. I was down on the Jackets at the start of the season, and this has been an unimpressive, though 3-0, start. In fairness, they're undefeated and could make me look very silly, but of their remaining games, I'm not sure there are any they "should" win. I believe Virginia Tech bounces back next week with a decisive win over GT.
15. Wake Forest
Last Week: L 24-36 Utah State
This Week: Army
Last ranking: 15
Wake Forest scored a season high 24 a week after I said they may not top last week's 23 all season, but their first seven points come on a pick six, so even against Utah State the offense managed just 17. They also allowed 36.
True freshman John Wolford was 20/50 with two interceptions. They finished with -25 rushing yards (which includes sacks). The negative sign was not a typo folks. In time they very well may be competitive, but that time is not this year.