Umm ... wow. It's been several days since Florida State's beatdown of Clemson in Death Valley and I'm still trying to grasp the full scope of it.
Now I'm actually paying close attention to the BCS rankings to see where an ACC team stands in the national title hunt. Weird, man. Just ... weird.
On to the rankings ...
NO. 1 FLORIDA STATE
Last week I agonized over my FSU-Clemson pick before finally deciding on Thursday to continue to ride the Jameis Winston train. I felt like FSU was the better team than Clemson in all aspects but quarterback, where I was unsure of how Winston would hold up under the pressure of the national spotlight, with 80,000+ hostile fans in orange in attendance. I finally decided that, since Winston had exceeded all expectations thus far, why not go ahead and assume he'd thrive under the pressure? Yeah, I'd say Winston (22-of-35, 444 yards, 3 TDs) did okay.
Also, FSU wasn't just better than Clemson in the other areas. The Seminoles were a LOT better.
Record: 6-0, 4-0 ACC
Previous Rank: 2
Last week: Won 51-14 at Clemson
This week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. vs. N.C. State
NO. 2 Clemson
So, if you're Dabo Swinney, what sort of message do you send to your team after its soul-crushing loss to Florida State? Do you blister them, point out all the mistakes and let them know in uncertain terms that there is much work to be done? Or do you try to build them up, remind them of their accomplishments and write off last Saturday is just a bad day at the office?
Swinney went or Option B. I mean WAAAAAY for Option B.
Swinney on Florida State: "I think they're a team that if we play them 10 times, they probably win five and we win five."— Aaron Brenner (@Aaron_Brenner) October 22, 2013
Umm ... really?
Look, I get it. Swinney's job is to keep his team's confidence up, even if that means taking a side trip into the Land of Delusion. But I wonder, do the players actually believe that sort of statement?
Record: 6-1, 4-1 ACC
Previous Rank: 1
Last week: Lost 51-14 to Florida State
This week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. at Maryland
NO. 3 MIAMI
GET READY FOR GAME OF THE CENTURY TWO - MIAMI vs. FSU!!!!!!
Well, sort of. First Miami has to get by Wake Forest and FSU has to beat N.C. State. I'm pretty sure both of those will happen. Although ... Wake's looking pretty, pretty frisky right now ....
But for the sake of discussion, let's assume the Canes do make it past the Deacs and head to Tallahassee on Nov. 2 as an unbeaten, top 10 team. Should we all get amped up about this matchup?
Not if Stephen Morris reprises the Jacory Harris Interception Machine role he played at UNC.
The Canes showed a level of toughness and resiliency in that game that I think is directly attributable to Al Golden. But you need more than just that to get past FSU.
(Did I just spend this entire segment looking past Wake? I did. Golden would have me running gassers all day if he knew about this.)
Record: 6-0, 2-0 ACC
Previous Rank: 3
Last week: Won 27-23 at UNC
This week: Saturday, noon vs. Wake Forest
NO. 4 VIRGINIA TECH
Have a bye week, rise three spots in the polls. You're sneaking up on everyone again, Virginia Tech. Well, not on us, because we're very familiar with this routine by now. But you're sneaking up on the rest of the country. Another couple of wins and boom, the Hokies are playing Miami with the Coastal Division title and national folks are back to giving the Hokies some love.
And yet ...
If I'm a Virginia Tech fan, I'm not feeling 100 percent confident about this week's game against 5-2 Duke.
Is there another football program that has this strange combination of power and uncertainty? I can't think of one.
Record: 6-1, 3-0 ACC
Previous Rank: 4
Last Week: Bye
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. vs. Duke
NO. 5 GEORGIA TECH
Oh NOW you decide to show up, Yellow Jackets. I sing your praises during the early going and you repay me with an ugly three-game losing streak. Then, once I've owned up to being wrong about you, you put together that tour de force against Syracuse. I get that the Orange might have been flummoxed in their first time going against CPJ's offense, but ... a shutout too?
Impressive, Georgia Tech. And frustrating too. Where was this against Virginia Tech and Miami? You know, the games that really mattered?
Record: 4-3, 3-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 8
Last week: Won 56-0 over Syracuse
This week: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. at Virginia
NO. 6 BOSTON COLLEGE
Congratulations, BC. You're the only team this season that's come within 25 points of the Seminoles!
Seriously, the Eagles' losses this season have come to FSU (by 14), at Clemson (by 10) and to an angry, embarrassed Southern Cal team after a cross-country flight from Boston to L.A.
I'm starting to think that maybe Addazio isn't just getting BC to overachieve. Maybe the Eagles are actually ... pretty good?
We'll learn a lot more this Saturday, when BC travels to Chapel Hill to play a UNC team that is full desperation mode right now.
Record: 3-3, 1-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 6
Last Week: Bye
This Week: 3:30 p.m. at UNC
NO. 7 PITT
New way to protect QB Tom Savage? Just don't pass. The Panthers attempted only 18 passes (and still gave up two sacks anyway) in its win over ODU, opting instead to pound the Monarchs with the ground game.
Take that approach this Saturday against Navy and the game may be finish in less than two hours. And Pitt could probably get away with that. But if the Panthers are going to avoid a late-season swoon they're going to need balance. Which means they'll have to keep working at the answer to the conundrum: how do you keep Savage upright?
By the way, after notching seven sacks against Pitt and looking awesome in the process, UVa has had five sacks combined in its next three games. So yeah, Panthers O-Line - it's not them, it's you. And Savage too.
Only five FBS teams have given up more sacks this season than Pitt, and three of them have played one or more games than the Panthers.
Record: 4-2 overall, 2-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 7
Last Week: Won 35-24 over Old Dominion
This Week: Saturday, 1 p.m. at Navy
NO. 8 MARYLAND
I know the rest of the ACC is enjoying a heaping plate full of schadenfreude the past few weeks, Maryland, as you've lost game and lost key players to injury. But count me out.
I don't care that you're leaving the league or that your fans keep taking shots at the ACC on Twitter. That's not enough for me to feel anything but sympathy for y'all while watching BOTH staring wide receivers go out with broken legs in the SAME game.
And it's not just that position. The two guys slated in the preseason to start at cornerback? They're both out. The Terps are also missing two starting linebackers. The list goes on ...
I saw something similar happen to N.C. State in the early TOB years. There never really was an explanation for it. It just sort of happened.
Anyway, you have my condolences, Maryland fan. But I still have to drop your team in the power rankings. There's no room for emotion with those.
Record: 5-2, 1-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 5
Last Week: Lost 34-10 at Wake Forest
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 vs. Clemson
NO. 9 DUKE
David Cutcliffe is a nice guy. He can also be a bit ... prickly. Particularly during games, when he perceives some sort of slight. Or heck, even when he's watching film and notices the FSU strength coach celebrating too much for his taste.
That's a long way of explaining why I thought UVa's fake extra point two-point conversion move when up 20-0 against Duke was a baaaaad idea. Until that moment the Blue Devils looked like they were asleep in Charlottesville. After that point? Duke ripped off 35 straight points to get a much needed road win. I guarantee you that two-point conversion played a prominent role in Cutcliffe's halftime talk.
Now the Blue Devils need just one more win to reach a bowl game in consecutive years for the first time ... (combs through records) ... wow. For the first time ever!
Duke has several good chances left to get that win. I'm not counting the upcoming trip to Blacksburg as one of them.
Record: 5-2, 1-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 10
Last Week: Won 35-22 at Virginia
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. at Virginia Tech
NO. 10 WAKE FOREST
You'd think I'd know better by now.
Early in the season I was more than a little critical of the current direction of Wake football. Losses to Boston College and Louisiana Monroe did little to change my attitude. Neither did a win over N.C. State, actually.
Now though? I'm starting to come around on these Deacs. That defense - led by everyone's favorite undersized nose tackle, Nikita Whitlock - looks solid. The offense? Well it still can't run the ball, but Tanner Price and Michael Campanaro are thriving anyway.
So now a bowl is a real possibility again. But Miami, FSU and a trip to Vandy are still on the schedule. The games at Syracuse and at home against Duke will be huge for Wake.
Record: 4-3, 2-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 12
Last Week: Won 34-10 over Maryland
This Week: Saturday, noon at Miami
NO. 11 NORTH CAROLINA
Well that was better ... but still maddening and ... still a loss.
UNC's much maligned defense picked off Stephen Morris four times. Tar Heel tight end Eric Ebron showed off his NFL first-round pick skills to the tune of 8 catches for 199 yards and a TD. Still wasn't enough.
UNC had the ball at the Miami 30 yard line, up 23-20 with just over 8 minutes remaining. Even after a horrific Bryn Renner interception killed that drive, the Tar Heels got the ball back, still up 3, and now with the clock ticking under seven minutes.
But you know how that turned out. Somehow UNC turned a third-and-one into a fourth-and-14. And Miami's game-winning 90-yard drive didn't even feel that dramatic. It felt sort of ... inevitable.
That's where we are right now with UNC. You expect bad things to happen to the Tar Heels, and usually they do.
Record: 1-5, 0-3 ACC
Previous Rank: 11
Last Week: Lost 27-23 to Miami
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. vs. Boston College
NO. 12 SYRACUSE
Wow. A week after apologizing to you guys for underestimating you it appears I've ... overestimated you.
Again, just ... wow.
It's a good thing the Orange has a bye this week, because Syracuse's loss to Georgia Tech was so thorough, you wonder if it will have lingering effects. (See: Maryland, post-FSU).
If the Orange can put the #beatemdown in Bobby Dodd behind it, there's only one game left on the schedule (FSU) that should scare Syracuse. The rest are winnable .. and losable.
Clearly, Syracuse already has the hang of this ACC Wheel of Uncertainty thing.
Record: 3-4, 1-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 9
Last Week: Lost 56-0 at Georgia Tech
This Week: Bye
NO. 13 N.C. STATE
What did Brandon Mitchell do to deserve this?
The poor guy goes out with a foot injury in the first game of the year, fresh off leading two straight touchdown drives. He rehabs and gets back to 100 percent just in time for a road trip to Tallahasee. To face an FSU team that wants revenge for its stunning loss last season to the Wolfpack.
If I'm Dave Doeren I am very careful with how I use Mitchell in this game. If things start to get out of hand quickly, and if Mitchell takes a couple of big hits, I might pull him and have Pete Thomas play the role of sacrificial lamb the rest of the way.
I doubt Doeren does that because that's how a sportswriter thinks, not a football coach. But State still has the potential to finish strong this season ... if it can keep Mitchell healthy.
Record: 3-3, 0-3 ACC
Previous Rank: 13
Last Week: Bye
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. at FSU
NO. 14 VIRGINIA
I just sat in front of my computer for 10 minutes, trying to come up with words to explain how bleak UVa's situation right now.
Yeah, it's that bad.
It's not just that UVa lost to Duke for the fifth time in six tries. (Have you heard that Duke under David Cutcliffe is now 5-1 against the Cavaliers and 5-32 against the rest of the ACC? You did? Six million times since Saturday? Me too!!!) It's that the Cavs got ahead by 22 points in the first half and then folded like a cheap tent, allowing Duke - which is better than you think, but still ... - to reel off 35 straight points.
In the past two meetings, Duke has outscored UVa 56-0 in the second half. Chew on that for a bit.
How a team plays after halftime is usually one of things you use to measure a coach's performance. So is how a team responds to adversity. And how a team performs in late-game situations.
Do poorly in those and your team plummets in these power rankings, while your coach rises in these.
Record: 2-5 (0-3 ACC)
Previous Rank: 14
Last Week: Lost 35-22 to Duke
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. vs. Georgia Tech