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ACC Football Power Rankings, Sept. 17

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 6:39pm

The first half of this week's ACC power rankings didn't really take too much thought - except how far to drop Virgina Tech after yet another offensive no-show by the Hokies. 

The bottom half of the league? Much harder to sort out. 

NO. 1 CLEMSON

Could Thursday be a trap game for the Tigers? I ... just ... can't ... convince myself of that. The Wolfpack showed in its struggle to beat Richmond last week that it's not the same team without Brandon Mitchell at quarterback. Of course, I expect Dabo Swinney spent the past bye week making the complete opposite case about State. Will his players believe him? Probably not, but I still don't think it will matter. 

Record: 2-0

Previous Rank: 1

Last week: Bye

This week: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. at N.C. State.

NO. 2 FLORIDA STATE

Admit it. For a minute there, you started to wonder. Jameis Winston threw an early FSU RB Karlos WilliamsJust what FSU needed: another offensive weapon. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) interception, Nevada score a touchdown to take a 7-3 lead and you questioned if maybe, just maybe, you'd jumped on the bandwagon too soon. 

Nope. Winston wound up completing 15 of 18 passes - including his last 13 - for two touchdowns and ran for a third in about 40 minutes of action.

To me though, the most intriguing storyline from this game was the debut of former safety Karlos Williams at running back. Williams is a phenomenal athlete, but something never quite clicked for him at safety. Running back though? That just might work. He took his first touch, a toss sweep, 65 yards for a touchdown. 

Just what the Seminoles needed - another offensive weapon. 

Record: 2-0 overall, 1-0 ACC

Previous Rank: 2

Last week: 62-7 win over Nevada.

This week: 6 p.m. vs. Bethune-Cookman. 

NO. 3 MIAMI

Al Golden is in a coach's paradise right now. He's got the big win over Florida to give his team a boost of confidence. He's had a week off to keep them from getting too full of themselves, though. He's had time for his offensive coaches to tinker with a system that's converted just 20% (5 of 25) of its third-down attempts so far this season. 

Oh and he has a glorified scrimmage against Savannah State this weekend that he can use to test out a few things. 

Record: 2-0

Previous Rank: 3

Last week: Bye

This week: 7 p.m. vs Savannah State. 

NO. 4 GEORGIA TECH

I have a feeling a few more people joined me on the Vad Lee bandwagon last week.

The passing numbers don't appear overwhelming - 8 of 16 for 125 yards - but ... now repeat after me: "In Paul Johnson's offense they don't have to be."

And actually, when you take a closer look, you come away more impressed. Lee completed 8 of his last 11, after missing on his first five throws (perhaps early nerves from playing in his hometown), four of which went for touchdowns. 

Ted Roof's defense also impressed. Granted, Duke was playing with its backup quarterback, but holding a team to 254 yards and just 4.1 yards per play is nothing to sneeze at. 

Record: 2-0

Previous Rank: 4

Last week: 38-14 win at Duke. 

This week: Noon vs. UNC. 

NO. 5 MARYLAND

As I noted in my AP Top 25 analysis, the Terrapins are 3-0 but haven't managed to crack the "Others Receiving Votes" category. Does Swofford's influence know no bounds?

Seriously, I think folks are still waiting for Maryland to play a "real" opponent, and they'll get their wish this Saturday when the Terps take on West Virginia, a game that is sure to have the rest of the ACC split. Do you root for the team that dumped you, or the team whose fanbase wanted the ACC to crumble?

Tough call. Sort of like trying to decide whether to focus on the Maryland ground game - which gained 224 yards against UConn - or the Terps' passing game, which picked up 277. 

Record: 3-0

Previous Rank: 6

Last Week: Won 32-21 at UConn.

This Week: 3:30 p.m. vs West Virginia.

NO. 6 NORTH CAROLINA

Ahh, the beloved bye week before facing Georgia Tech, so vital when preparing for the triple-option. Actually some stat guys at Tech pretty much disproved that theory. Darn those numbers and their narrative-shattering ways.

Regardless, UNC's D needed some extra pratice time period. Motivation? That's already there, courtesy of the 68 points Georgia Tech hung on UNC last year. 

Perhaps the best way to improve UNC's D on Saturday will be improving the Tar Heels' run game, which averaged just 3.3 yards per rush against Middle Tennessee State.

Record: 1-1

Previous Rank: 7

Last Week: Bye

This Week: Noon, at Georgia Tech. 

NO. 7 VIRGINIA TECH

I don't know what the tell you Hokie fans. We've seen this movie sooo many times before. So far Virginia Tech is No. 1 in the ACC in total defense ... and No. 11 in total offense.

Against ECU, the running game simply ... disappeared. Fifty-three yards on 34 carries? Egads. Fifteen points against a defense that gave up 38 to FCS opponent Old Dominion in ECU's season opener? Oof.

But that defense? What else can you say? Maybe just this: The Hokies gave up just 30 second-half yards to the Pirates. 

Record: 2-1

Previous Rank: 5

Last Week: Won 15-10 at East Carolina.

This Week: Noon vs. Marshall.

NO. 8 N.C. STATE

The Wolfpack has to find some way to slow down Clemson's high-speed, high-octane offense. N.C. State also has to find a way to keep the Tigers' improved defensive line from pressuring quarterback Pete Thomas into mistakes, which Thomas has shown he's prone to make.

How is N.C. State going to do this? The best hope is to rely on the ground game - which is averaging 212.5 yards a game so far - to chew up the clock and hope Boyd makes a couple of mental mistakes.

...

Yeah, I don't think it's very likely either.  

Record: 2-0

Previous Rank: 9

Last Week: Bye

This Week: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. vs. Clemson

NO. 9 VIRGINIA

Was I too harsh on the Cavaliers after they got blitzed by Oregon? Probably so, considering the Ducks did the same thing to Tennesee last Saturday. And first-week opponent BYU rebounded from its loss in C-Ville by running all over Texas in Austin.

Still, I'm not feeling very confident about the quarterback situation right now. (Yes, I'm sure I've typed that sentence before about UVa football in the last 12 months or so.) I need to see some progress from David Watford this weekend.  

Record: 1-1

Previous Rank: 10

Last Week: Bye

This Week: 3:30 p.m., vs. VMI.

NO. 10 PITT

I have a feeling that Pitt's 28-point loss to FSU in the Panthers' home opener is going to look more and more understandable with each passing beatdown the Seminoles lay on other teams.

I also have a feeling Pitt's got a pair of big-time wideouts. You already knew about Devin Street (well at least some of you did), but you can now add freshman Tyler Boyd to the mix. Boyd had six catches for 134 yards and a TD against New Mexico.

You figure Duke's Ross Cockrell can hold his own against one of those two. But the other one ... 

Record: 1-1 overall, 0-1 ACC

Previous Rank: 12

Last Week: Won 49-27 over New Mexico

This Week: 12:30 p.m. at Duke.

NO. 11 DUKE

You have to feel for Duke. Okay, you don't have to feel for the Blue Devils, but still it stinks for them right now. 

This Saturday's game against Pitt is huge for Duke's bowl chances. You figure a home game against the Panthers gives the Blue Devils one of their best shots at the (likely) pair of ACC wins they'll need to reach the magic number six again. 

But, Duke will again be without Anthony Boone. And aside from one early drive against Georgia Tech, Brandon Connette looked shaky at QB for Duke.

Record: 2-1

Previous Rank: 8

Last Week: Lost 38-14 to Georgia Tech

This Week: 12:30 p.m., vs. Pitt.  

NO. 12 BOSTON COLLEGE

I tried to warn the Eagles. Riding high off a big win over Wake in #TheRivalry, BC was headed right into a trap game at Southern Cal.

I kid, of course. A talented, wounded USC team at home was hardly an ideal opponent for the Eagles. BC eked out just 184 yards, while yielding 521.

Fortunately, the Eagles get a bye week to lick their wounds. Unfortunately, after that bye week, they have to play FSU.  

Record: 2-1, 1-0 ACC

Previous Rank: 11

Last Week: Lost 35-7 at Southern Cal

This Week: Bye

NO. 13 SYRACUSE

The Orange did what it was supposed to do, in dominating FCS program/classical composer Wagner last Saturday. Of course, Wagner had lost to Merrimack the week before, so take this with a large grain of salt.

Still, a shutout's a shutout and QB Terrel Hunt (15 of 18, 3 TDs) was impressive in his first start. We'll get a better barometer of Syracuse' progress this Saturday when Tulane comes to town.  

Record: 1-2

Previous Rank: 13

Last Week: Won 54-0 over Wagner

Next Week: 12:30 p.m. vs. Tulane.

NO. 14 WAKE FOREST 

The Deacs appear to be pulling away in the race to the bottom of the ACC. It's not just that Wake lost to Louisiana-Monroe, it's that the Warhawks were clearly the better team.

ULM outgained Wake by 99 yards and held the Deacs to just 15 - 15!!!! - yards rushing. 

Perhaps even more startling than the low rushing total is the low number of rushing attempts - just 15. Clearly Jim Grobe has little to no confidence in the ground game right now. And it's hard to blame him.  

Record: 1-2, 0-1 ACC

Previous Rank: 14

Last Week: Lost 21-19 to Louisiana-Monroe.

This Week: Noon, at Army.