Plenty left to digest in the ACC after a weekend of national poll carnage. FSU’s obviously the king of the hill after massacring Clemson, but every other spot appears up for grabs. With the season more than halfway over, the conference appears to be angling for two BCS bids (hopefully), adding some extra intrigue to the top four or so spots as well. 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 9)
1. Florida State Seminoles (6-0) (4-0) (Last: 2): So much terror. The Seminoles undressed Clemson in a way I’m unsure any of us ACC fans saw coming, and as a result, they sit atop this subjective pile of teams for the foreseeable future. Jameis Winston has asserted himself as the ACC’s best quarterback, leader and player, and is now the nationally-relevant personality the conference has needed for some time. So is FSU “back” for all intents and purposes? We’ve been here before, but it feels very different this time. I’d take this FSU squad over just about any other team in the country right now.
2. Clemson Tigers (6-1) (4-1) (Last: 1): Bear with me here. Yes, the Tigers were demolished. Yes, they proved their doubters correct, derailed their national title hopes and murdered Tajh Boyd‘s chances at winning a Heisman, too. But one surprising blowout can’t just eliminate all the good that’s come from this season, can it? Clemson’s defense is much-improved (especially in the pass-rush) and the offense is still top-notch. When comparing them to Miami, I’d take the Tigers despite last week, and that on its own elevates them over the ‘Canes for the time being.
3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (6-0) (2-0) (Last: 3): That Thursday night game was horrendous, and yet Miami still managed to pull it out. Stephen Morris was about as flawed as you’ll find him (threw four INTs) and Duke Johnson was injured early. And yet, this team was able to pull out a very late win on the shoulders of their defense and backup running back Dallas Crawford. Again, not pretty, but the fact that the ‘Canes showed some resiliency against a UNC team looking to save their season is a big step in the right direction.
4. Virginia Tech Hokies (6-1) (3-0) (Last: 5): The bye week gave the Hokies some much-needed rest and the additional reward of moving up further in the national polls. Inside the top 15, Tech is now a legitimate threat to be in the BCS picture, and with just one challenging game remaining (Miami), The key, of course, will be the offense’s consistency. If they can limit turnovers and score around 24 points per game, that should be enough to win with this D.
5. Louisville Cardinals (6-1) (Last: 4): After a few “average” performances, everyone seemed to be waiting for the game the Cards would drop and it finally happened on Friday. Up big over UCF, Louisville’s defense could no longer contain Blake Bortles and the result was a huge comeback victory for the upstart Knights. One loss usually won’t kill a season, but when you’re Louisville and you’ve just tossed away the tiebreaker for a BCS bid, it sure feels that way.
6. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-3) (3-2) (Last: 7): Georgia Tech’s 56-0 victory over Syracuse was as dominant a performance as you’ll witness from the middle of this league, with the Wreck controlling the tempo on both sides of the ball throughout the contest. The Orange were stifled by an impressively aggressive Tech defense that applied constant pressure and forced turnovers. Meanwhile, the triple-option looked as good as it has since week one, just systematically moving down the field to one score after another.
7. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-2) (2-2) (Last: 8): That victory over Old Dominion was much closer than it probably should’ve been. But a win’s a win, and the Panthers now sit at 4-2, with a bowl bid very much in sight. ODU does have a high-powered offense (even for a transitional FBS team), so the 24 points scored aren’t a total surprise. However, the Pitt passing game’s inability to move the ball certainly was. The running game picked up the slack this time around (well done, Isaac Bennett), though it’s something to watch out for as the team goes into the meat of its schedule.
8. Boston College Eagles (3-3) (1-2) (Last: 9): BC provided at least a bit of insight on how to beat Clemson a couple weeks ago, and there’s little doubt it gave FSU a few of the tips it needed to thoroughly dominate the Tigers. But what did the Eagles learn from their most recent loss? We’ll see soon enough as they go up against UNC in a game that could turn the tide for either team’s season. If Boston College defeats the Heels, they’ll be very well positioned for a return to the postseason following a two-year absence.
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-3) (2-2) (Last: 12): It’s a whole new season for the Demon Deacons, who have put the year’s early struggles behind them to jump out to a 4-3 record. With an offense that can suddenly score points (averaging 31 per over the last two games) and a defense that’s among the ACC’s stingiest lately (just 23 total points allowed in last two), this team could prove very dangerous down the stretch.
10. Maryland Terrapins (5-2) (1-2) (Last: 6): That’s the sound of a team dropping like a rock. If the Dexter McDougle and C.J. Brown injuries weren’t enough, the Terps have now lost both Stefon Diggs and Deon Long for the season. Even if Brown comes back at full strength next week now, who is he going to throw to? That dynamic passing game we saw over the first four games is now a distant memory. Despite sitting at five wins, there are no guarantees the Terps end up making the postseason.
11. Duke Blue Devils (5-2) (1-2) (Last: 13): Instead of folding down 22-0 against Virginia, Duke surprised everyone with a stirring comeback and what ended up being a dominant 35-22 victory on Saturday. Say what you want about the defense (rightfully so), but this Blue Devils offensive attack is dynamic and aggressive regardless of who’s throwing the ball. Continuing to put points on the board, Duke certainly looks like a good bet to make a return trip to a bowl game this year.
12. Syracuse Orange (3-4) (1-2) (Last: 10): That’s how you prepare poorly for an opponent, whether they run a unique offensive set or not. The Orange looked confused from the onset against Georgia Tech, with an odd 3-4 scheme that took players out of position and insisted upon putting inexperienced reserves like LB Josh Kirkland front-and-center. The offense was also out of its element, failing to establish a rhythm or ever get the ball inside the Tech 20-yard line.
13. NC State Wolfpack (3-3) (0-3) (Last: 13): Just in case you thought State had a shot against Florida State, this past Saturday likely cured you of that. Struggling on both offense and defense, it was none too comforting for the Pack to watch their next opponent, the ‘Noles, surgically pick apart what was thought to be the conference’s top team. Brandon Mitchell or not, State appears to be in trouble going forward, with several major tests remaining and three wins still needed for bowl eligibility.
14. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-5) (0-3) (Last: 14): UNC almost did it. They almost rescued their season with a huge upset on Thursday, but simply couldn’t get it done at the end. Now they’re 1-5, and despite a very easy final six games, this is a team on very thin ice. With a shaky defense and an offense full of players falling short of expectations, there are no guarantees and a very real chance that the Heels could fall short of the six-win mark. In which case, you may see Larry Fedora shown the door.
14. Virginia Cavaliers (2-5) (0-3) (Last: 14): Just like the Heels, UVa is in crisis mode and staring a losing record in the face. The offense can’t seem to score points. The defense can’t stop teams from scoring points either. Mike London’s “great recruiting classes” have yet to yield any real on-field results that would indicate they were worth the hype. Unlike Fedora, there’s little question what happens if this team falls flat. London could very well be shown the door before the year’s even out.