The only consistent thing about the power rankings is that they're always a pain in the rear to put together. But the problem spots keep changing. Sometimes, it's trying to figure out which teams should occupy the bottom spots. Sometimes the issue is in the 4-6 range.
This week? My headaches began at No. 7 and didn't really let up until I reached No. 12.
Just keep reading. You'll see what I mean ...
NO. 1 FLORIDA STATE
It's almost to the point now where I wonder if FSU's total dominance of league opponents is working against the Seminoles.
I wonder if FSU had won at Clemson by a score of, say, 41-30, if it would have helped its cause more. A closer game would keep the narrative of the ACC's improvement going. And nowadays when folks measure teams, they don't just look at the team. They see it all through the prism of the team's conference.
Now, after yet another FSU blowout win, the narrative seems to be veering toward: "The ACC is FSU and the 13 dwarves." If Oregon doesn't somehow find a way to lose during the regular season, that could be a problem for the Seminoles.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. First there's the little matter of this weekend's rivalry game with Miami.
Record: 7-0, 5-0 ACC
Previous Rank: 1
Last week: Won 49-17 over N.C. State
This week: Saturday, 8 p.m. vs. Miami
NO. 2 CLEMSON
Well the Tigers didn't "Clemson" but man, they came close. Going up against an injury-riddled Maryland team, Clemson suddenly forgot how to execute in the red zone. Five times in the first three quarters the Tigers got to at least the Maryland 13 on drives. Four of those times Clemson had to settle for field goals. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that the offense regained its mojo and managed to put away the Terps. It makes you wonder what might have happened had Maryland had been playing with its starting QB C.J. Brown instead of backup Caleb Rowe, who was more than a bit erratic.
Clemson's mission this week at Virginia: Prove that the Maryland game was simply FSU hangover and not evidence that maybe the Tigers aren't as good as we previously thought.
Record: 7-1, 5-1 ACC
Previous Rank: 2
Last week: Won 40-27 at Maryland
This week: Saturday, 3:30 at Virginia
NO. 3 MIAMI
When the Canes fell behind Georgia Tech and came back, it was a show of resilience. You could make the same argumentwhen Miami needed a last-minute TD to win at UNC. After all, two of the Hurricanes' top offensive weapons - Duke Johnson and Phillip Dorsett - were injured in that game. But when Miami again needed a last-minute TD to stave off Wake Forest's upset bid? Now I'm starting to think that Miami is a good to very good team that's mentally tough enough to grind out wins over lesser opponents.
This Saturday's opponent though, will be anything but "lesser." If my new theory about the Canes is correct, it could get ugly in Tallahasee.
Record: 7-0, 3-0 ACC
Previous Rank: 3
Last week: Won 24-21 over Wake Forest
This week: Saturday, 8 p.m. at FSU
NO. 4 GEORGIA TECH
Nearly 400 yards rushing, over 500 yards of total offense. This was what I had in mind for the Yellow Jackets. I didn't, however, foresee Tech doing it with a two-quarterback system. But that's where we are now, as Vad Lee and Justin Thomas are now splitting snaps.
And no, I don't feel great about Tech at No. 4, now that you ask. The Jackets didn't put UVa away until the final two minutes of the game. The Cavaliers helped out by woefully botching a goal line sequence just before the half.
But, well, somebody's got to be No. 4. And it sure as heck wasn't going to be the team that held that spot last week. (Cough, cough, Hokies, cough, cough.)
Record: 5-3, 4-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 5
Last week: Won 35-25 at Virginia
This week: Saturday, 7 p.m. vs. Pitt
NO. 5 DUKE
Go ahead, rub your eyes. Get you face up close to the screen. No, you're not seeing things. Duke is at No. 5 and deservedlyso.
Did the Blue Devils get dominated in just about every statistical category save the scoreboard (and field goal kicking, DEFINITELY field goal kicking? Yep. Does Duke owe anyone an apology for still winning at Virginia Tech? Nope. It was exactly the kind of game the Blue Devils used to lose. Used to.
Given that power rankings are a mix of past accomplishments, present state and future potential, Duke's loss to Pitt did give me some pause (particularly after the Panthers turned around and lost to Navy). But the Blue Devils didn't have Anthony Boone for that game. They've yet to lose a game in which Boone has started at quarterback.
Record: 6-2, 2-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 9
Last Week: Won 13-10 at Virginia Tech
This Week: Bye
NO. 6 VIRGINIA TECH
When you play things close to edge, as the Hokies have all season long, it doesn't take much to switch the narrative. Win that game against Duke 16-13 (and lord knows Virginia Tech had the opportunities to score 16 points or more) and we're still talking about this being a typical Beamer team: not terribly impressive but so tough to beat.
Instead, you know start to wonder about the team's vulnerability. Sure the defense is great, but can you really be an ACC contender with an offense that's this dysfunctional? And what happens beyond this season, when Logan Thomas finally moves on?
Okay, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Still though, it was hard to merely dismiss the Duke loss as a one-off bad day at the office. The problems the Hokies had against the Blue Devils were hardly new ones.
Record: 6-2, 3-1 ACC
Previous Rank: 4
Last Week: Lost 13-10 to Duke
This Week: Saturday, noon at Boston College
NO. 7 NORTH CAROLINA
Trust me, I'm as bewildered as you are.
I feel like I say that each week with at least one spot in the power rankings. This time it's the No. 7 spot.
Why the Tar Heels? I'll give you a few reasons.
A) UNC's schedule was weighted toward the front end. South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Miami. Honestly, I expected UNC to be 4-3 at best at this point in the season. The ECU game is the real head scratcher.
B) The logical follow-up to A? UNC's schedule gets much easier in the second half. First came BC. Now comes a struggling N.C. State team. Then comes Virginia, Pitt, ODU and finally Duke. Would you really be surprised if UNC ran the table from here on out? Okay, you'd be mildly surprised. Still, it's doable.
C) The Tar Heels have played their best football the past two weeks. They had Miami dead to rights before letting the Canes slip away at the end. There was no such drama in a dominating performance over BC.
So there you have it. I can (somewhat) explain away the poor starting record. I can make a case for a brighter future. And the current state of UNC is the best it's been all year.
See? It all makes sense!!!
I know, I know. Take a moment to let it all sink in.
Record: 2-5, 1-3 ACC
Previous Rank: 11
Last Week: Won 34-10 over Boston College
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. at N.C. State
NO. 8 BOSTON COLLEGE
What's happened to Chase Rettig?
When Steve Addazio came to BC, he promised to bring a more physical, run-oriented offensive attack. Mission accomplished there, and more quickly than I'd imagined. Obviously, with that focus on the ground game it's not a surprise that Rettig's numbers would dip some.
But 57 yards against UNC? And 69 or Rettig's 192 yards against Clemson came on one pass play. That long TD pass to Amidon was the one bright spot in an otherwise dismal second half at Death Valley, as our BC Insider noted.
BC's still playing beyond expectations, and making a bowl is still a very achievable goal. But it's got to get more from its senior quarterback than yardage totals you'd see on the side of a ketchup container.
Record: 3-4, 1-3 ACC
Previous Rank: 6
Last Week: Lost 34-10 at UNC
This Week: Saturday, noon vs. Virginia Tech
NO. 9 WAKE FOREST
The Deacs were soooo close to putting a big damper on the anticipated FSU-Miami matchup.
Once again, you can point a finger at the running game. With the burden all on Tanner Price and Michael Campanaro to make things happen, the Deacs' offense bogged down in the third quarter, missing a golden opportunity (no pun intended) to put Miami on the ropes.
Still, the outlook in the Dash is much improved since the Deacs were routed at Clemson. A bowl game is reachable, but to get there Wake really needs to take care of business this weekend at Syracuse.
Record: 4-4, 2-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 10
Last Week: Lost 24-21 at Miami
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 at Syracuse
NO. 10 MARYLAND
It's time to break out the Good Will Hunting clip again.
Seriously. It pains me somewhat to keep knocking the Terps down in these rankings because a lot of it is ... not their fault. Maryland hung in with Clemson despite missing its starting QB and both starting WRS, one of whom - Stefon Diggs - also happens to be the Terps' best player.
I won't go back into the full litany of Maryland's injury woes. Just know they are similar to the ones N.C. State had in TOB's early years, when I compared them to a biblical plague.
Record: 5-3, 1-3 ACC
Previous Rank: 8
Last Week: Lost 40-27 to Clemson
This Week: Bye
NO. 11 PITT
You never forget your first #goacc moment.
That moment came for the Panthers last Saturday, when Navy kicked a 30-yard field goal as time expired to knock off Pitt, 24-21.
The Midshipmen's final three drives? Touchdown, touchdown, field goal. I thought the service academies were the ones with depth issues and thus usually wore down late.
On the bright side, at least that debacle also served as a good prep for Georgia Tech's option attack this weekend. Right? ... Right?
Yeah, that's a reach. But hey, bowl eligibility is still a possibility, Panther fans. And the ACC promises now to send you to that Compass bowl in Birmingham again.
Record: 4-3 overall, 2-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 11
Last Week: Lost 24-21 to Navy
This Week: Saturday, 7 p.m. at Georgia Tech
NO. 12 SYRACUSE
The bye week could not have come at a better time for the Orange. Extra time to wipe off the stink from that 56-0 loss at Georgia Tech. Egads.
Was that just a perfect storm of first-time-playing-Paul-Johnson's-offense mixed with Georgia-Tech-is-a-team-with-its-season-on-the-line and every-time-has-a-bad-day-and-this-just-happened-to-be-Syracuse's-day? Or did this reveal to use that maybe the Orange really is a bottom-tier ACC program right now?
It's a nagging question that I'm sure will keep you up at night. Fortunately, we'll have answer on Saturday by the time Syracuse is done with its game against Wake. Win, and we'll put the Georgia Tech game in the past. Lose, and welcome to the ACC's lower floors.
Record: 3-4, 1-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 12
Last Week: Bye
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. vs Wake Forest
NO. 13 N.C. STATE
I went on the Riddick & Reynolds podcast on Monday night to talk about the Wolfpack's game at Florida State. It was filled with a lot of awkward silence.
Seriously, there wasn't much to say other than "Hey, at least Brandon Mitchell made it through the game healthy!" And "Man, Jameis Winston's pretty good, huh?" It's probably just best if State tries to forget that game ever happened.
Fortunately for State, it's got a rivalry game with UNC this week to get its mind off the Tallahassee Takedown. Also fortunate for State, back in 2011 it lost 34-0 at FSU and followed that up by ... wait for it ... beating UNC the next week.
It's science, people.
Record: 3-4, 0-4 ACC
Previous Rank: 13
Last Week: Lost 49-17 at FSU
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. vs. UNC
NO. 14 VIRGINIA
It's not just that UVa is losing. It's that it seems like each loss also comes with an extra gut punch coaching move.
Against Duke it was that weird fake extra point two-point conversion that put UVa up 22-0 ... and was followed by 35 straight points by the Blue Devils.
Against Georgia Tech, it was the decision to try to run the ball in from the one yard line with just six seconds left in the first half and UVa out of timeouts. Kevin Parks got stuffed and UVa came away with zilch. Kind of important considering this was just a three-point game midway through the fourth quarter.
Oh and UVa had used up one of its timeouts during the drive after picking up a first down after which, you know, they stop the clock to move the chains. So there's that too.
Basically it's just a bad scene in Charlottesville. You get the feeling the administration is looking for any small thing they can cling to as a reason to bring back London for another year. I don't think this weekend's game against Clemson will provide that thing.
Record: 2-6 (0-4 ACC)
Previous Rank: 14
Last Week: Lost 35-25 to Georgia Tech
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. vs. Clemson