There’s a huge gulf between the top of the ACC and the rest of the conference — something that has both good and bad consequences. On the one hand, the conference is deeply involved in the national title race right now. On the other, we’re seeing a lot of blowouts, too, which hurts the league’s top-to-bottom image. As always, the poll includes all 14 current ACC members, plus future member Louisville. Feel like I’m totally right or completely off-base? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
ACC Football Power Rankings 2013 (Week 7)
1. Clemson Tigers (5-0) (3-0) (Last: 1): Another week, another big Clemson win. And yet, there are still some doubts about whether or not the Tigers are national title contenders. The defense can go cold for stretches and the offense is largely one-dimensional, sure. But given the country’s best resume win thus far (vs. Georgia) and a major Heisman contender at quarterback in Tajh Boyd, this team will be impossible to ignore as long as they keep on winning.
2. Florida State Seminoles (5-0) (3-0) (Last: 2): As mentioned up top, the gap between the ACC’s top teams and the rest is very large, with Florida State’s 63-0 massacre over Maryland being exhibit A. No, the Terps were not exactly a strong top 25 team at the time, but still, they were still perceived as one of the conference’s better teams going into Saturday. FSU’s absolutely dominant performance, led by both Jameis Winston and the defense, changed all that. And changed the perception of the ‘Noles too, from an interesting team to one that could easily contend for a championship.
3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (5-0) (1-0) (Last: 4): The Hurricanes’ offense just continues to impress, no matter how banged up Stephen Morris may seem. Down 10 early, the group fought back against Georgia Tech, and pulled off the big divisional win. But at the same time, it might’ve been the defense that was most responsible for the turnaround. Holding Tech scoreless in the third allowed the ‘Canes offense to come back and take the lead, especially the dagger touchdown to go up 45-23 with just a little over a minute remaining.
4. Louisville Cardinals (5-0) (Last: 3): Louisville didn’t do anything wrong necessarily against Temple. But as an offense, it’s tough to say their 30-point output against the Owls was overly impressive. The Cardinals are still undefeated and as predicted, this schedule’s already starting to creep up on them. All three ACC teams ranked ahead have better wins to their respective names, and will only continue to add more as the year goes on.
5. Virginia Tech Hokies (5-1) (2-0) (Last: 5): Carried by a strong defense that more than makes up for its streaky offense, Virginia Tech has manged to put themselves in a very familiar position: contending for a Coastal Division championship. There’s still a long way to go, of course, with several major tests still left. But as long as Logan Thomas can continue to cut down on mistakes, this is a very dangerous Hokies squad. We’ll find out just how dangerous against teams like Pitt and Miami, however a bowl berth (at bare minimum) is all but assured at this point.
6. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-2) (2-2) (Last: 7): Tough luck for the Jackets from a scheduling standpoint, drawing the Coastal’s top two teams so early in the year. But Tech’s season is far from over. Still 3-2 with a more balanced team than we’ve seen from them in recent years, this squad has plenty left in the tank and plenty of schedule left to rebound. They may not be division title material this time around, but given the strength of the two teams likely to be in front of them (Miami, Virginia Tech), that’s nothing to scoff at.
7. Pittsburgh Panthers (3-1) (2-1) (Last: 9): Don’t ask how this happened. There’s just too much uncertainty around the middle-to-bottom of the ACC right now. Pitt’s been bad against FSU and decent versus everyone else, so that puts us in an interesting predicament — which level of performance do we judge them on? The Virginia Tech matchup coming up should certainly help their case one way or another, but despite the recent accomplishments by star receivers Tyler Boyd and Devin Street, I still can’t talk consistently myself into this offense.
8. Maryland Terrapins (4-1) (0-1) (Last: 6): That game was atrocious. There’s no way around it. And even before C.J. Brown was injured, the outcome was well on its way to an embarrassment resembling the 63-0 that wound up happening. Florida State’s strength is its offense, and yet the defense managed to shut the Terrapins out. We still don’t know if they’re a 4-8 team or an 8-4 team, though it’s obvious (at the very least) they were beneficiaries of a cakewalk schedule to start the year.
9. Boston College Eagles (3-2) (1-1) (Last: 10): BC is beating every team it’s supposed to, which is what you want out of the first year of a rebuilding process. The fact that they’re gaining momentum on offense, however, is what should have future opponents concerned. Andre Williams has broken out as one of the best running backs in the conference, and on his back alone, this team stands a chance to hang around games. The Eagles are far from bulletproof, but at this point, you have to really like their chances to return to the postseason with this rushing attack and this defense.
10. NC State Wolfpack (3-2) (0-2) (Last: 8): The return of Brandon Mitchell seems like it couldn’t come at a better time. While Pete Thomas went 2-2 (3-2 if you count his extended relief stint in game one), the offense was simply never clicking with him in charge. The Wake Forest game likely proved that most of all, as the Pack managed to lose continue its futility in Winston-Salem. Mitchell’s return should spell a much more dynamic attack than we’ve seen thus far.
11. Syracuse Orange (2-3) (0-1) (Last: 11): That Clemson game was ugly, and the secondary was predictably exposed against the Tigers’ ridiculous speed on the outside. This we know. What will linger, however, is what could’ve happened had the play-calling not broken down in the third quarter. The Orange had several changes to get within 10, but overly conservative, repetitive play-calling doomed them and eventually they just ran out of chances. SU should hope that changes, or else this team will continue to struggle through league play.
12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-3) (1-2) (Last: 15): Tanner Price and the spread option attack finally made some things happen, even if it was just 28 points. But the bigger point here is that they can score points with this offense, and can move the ball both on the ground and through the air. The Deacons had not been able to combine the two for much success through five games, so it’s certainly a positive sign going forward they were able to gel versus a solid NC State defense.
13. Duke Blue Devils (3-2) (0-2) (Last: 13): As long as they do what they need to do this weekend, Duke should actually find itself in pretty good shape to make a bowl game this year. Obviously nothing’s guaranteed, but matchups against UNC, UVa, Wake and NC State present plenty of opportunities for their fifth and sixth wins. Let’s not just look past Navy either, though. Brandon Connette and Jamison Crowder will have no trouble guiding this offense — they just need to figure out how to stop Navy’s run game. Right now, the Blue Devils are 77th in the country against the run, while the Midshipmen are eight-best moving the ball on the ground.
14. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-4) (0-2) (Last: 14): We can’t put UNC in the coffin just yet — the final six games are actually very winnable — but I doubt anyone thought their season would be (for all intents and purposes) over this early. The team took an opportunity to start Marquise Williams at QB last week in order get a look at what they had for the future too, which seems like Larry Fedora’s also ready to throw in the towel. In about 10 days they’ll take on Miami and likely record their fifth loss of the year, and then what? Can this team rally when you’re playing for 6-6 in a season many thought you’d go 9-3? Not much faith left for the Tar Heels.
14. Virginia Cavaliers (2-3) (0-2) (Last: 12): Prior to the season, I said Virginia could end up going 2-10, and I still think that is very much in play. The win over BYU was a surprise, though aided by weather, and the only other win right now is VMI. Under David Watford, the offense is sickly at best, and the defense looked miserable in last weekend’s Ball State loss. For those who haven’t glanced at the Hoos’ schedule, there’s only one losing team left on there with seven to play. They’re not as bad as most 2-10 teams of course, but this schedule is unforgiving enough to get them there.