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ACC Football Power Rankings, Sept. 24

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 12:22pm

Man, league play cannot get here fast enough. Just think about how bad/boring last week would have been in the ACC without N.C. State/Clemson, Duke/Pitt and GT/UNC.

The non-conference matchups? Actually, on second thought don't think about them. You'll only wind up in fetal position in the back of your closet, rocking slowly and moaning. 

NO. 1 CLEMSON

So the Tigers go on the road, struggle a bit against a VERY underrated N.C. State defense, but win 26-14. Yes, a pair of calls by the officials definitely helped Clemson'sJesse PalmerJesse Palmer still believes in the concept of "Clemsoning." cause, but I'm still chalking this up as a solid victory in a hostile environment.

So naturally, as the game appears to be in hand in the fourth quarter, the talk in the ESPN announcing booth turns to ... "Clemsoning." Siggh. 

Some #narratives just won't die. 

In the world of reality, the one concern I have for the Tigers coming out of the game is the play of their offensive line. That'll need to improve against FSU. Clemson was able to overcome its slow start offensively against N.C. State, which just doesn't have enough weapons to put a lot of points up on the board. The Seminoles? They've got weapons. Lots of them. 

Record: 3-0, 1-0 ACC

Previous Rank: 1

Last week: Won 26-14 at N.C. State

This week: Saturday, 3:30 vs. Wake Forest

NO. 2 FLORIDA STATE

Speaking of the Seminoles' weapons, it's almost unfair that they can just plug in former safety Karlos Williams at tailback. In Williams' first two games at his new position, he's run the ball 17 times for 193 yards and 3 TDs. Good. Lord.

Now, I'll grant you that the competition in those two games - Nevada and Bethune-Cookman - was hardly daunting. This week the level of difficulty goes up for Williams - and for redshirt freshman QB Jameis Winston - when FSU travels to BC. 

Wait ... am I trying to inject some drama into the FSU-BC matchup? Let's not get crazy here folks. 

Record: 3-0 overall, 1-0 ACC

Previous Rank: 2

Last week: Won 54-6 over Bethune-Cookman

This week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m at Boston College

NO. 3 MIAMI

Really, I'm tempted to just skip Miami and pretend that game against Savannah State never happened.

Actually, I was tempted to drop Miami a spot as punishment for scheduling a program as woeful as Savannah State. But it seemed a bit abitrary and capricious to punish the players for a decision made by athletic administrators.

There should have been NOTHING to say about the game ... except that Miami QB Stephen Morris got hurt during it. It looks like Morris will be just fine for the USF game, but can you imagine if he'd had to miss significant time for an injury suffered against Savannah State? Yeesh.

Record: 3-0

Previous Rank: 3

Last week: Won 77-7 over Savannah State

This week: Saturday, Noon at USF.

NO. 4 GEORGIA TECH

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can tell me all about how the "Jimmys and Joes" matter more Ted RoofGT defensive coordinator Ted Roof (AP Photo/David Goldman) than the "Xs and Os." I got you. But I'm also here to tell you that coaching does matter. 

Exhibit A this season is Ted Roof, the Yellow Jackets' defensive coordinator. Yes, he inherited an experienced defense, but this was a unit that had been pretty much, well, terrible under former coordinator Al Groh.

Groh's gone, and while the defense was already on the upswing under interim defensive coordinator Charles Kelly at the end of last season, it's gone up another level or two under Roof. You don't hold a Larry Fedora offense scoreless for an entire half - as Georgia Tech did in its comeback win over UNC last Saturday - if you're just mediocre on defense.

When you take the same talent as someone else and produce markedly better results? That's good coaching. 

Record: 3-0, 1-0 ACC

Previous Rank: 4

Last week: Won 28-20 over UNC

This week: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. vs. Virginia Tech

NO. 5 MARYLAND

Speaking of good coaching, Randy Edsall is doing it, too. Yes, the same guy that many in the media - myself included - CRUSHED during his 2-10 debut at Maryland.

Do we all owe Edsall an apology? Not really. I mean, the Terps were lousy during his first season. But we do owe him a pat on the back for the quick turnaround he's engineered since then.

Staying with our "coaching matters' theme, it's worth noting that after the 2011 debacle, Edsall removed both of his coordinators and hired Mike Locksley to run his offense and Brian Stewart to run the defense. Locksley gets more of the attention, in part because of his recruiting prowess, but Stewart deserves serious kudos.

He's directing a defense that lost Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis off the defensive line last year and is already down both starting corners this season...not that you could tell during the Terps' shutout/beatdown of West Virginia.

Maryland is currently ninth nationally in scoring defense (10.3 ppg) and 12th nationally in yards per play. (4.02 ypp).  

Record: 4-0

Previous Rank: 5

Last Week: Won 37-0 over West Virginia

This Week: Bye

NO. 6 VIRGINIA TECH

Am I really moving the Hokies UP after their near loss/partical miracle/triple OT win over Marshall at home?

I guess ... but I'm going to hold my nose while I do it.

If this improbably fourth-down play doesn't happen, the Hokies go down at home to the Thundering Herd.

VT Marshall Gif 

Meanwhile, Logan Thomas again missed on a bunch of passes (he was just 18 of 34) and was his usual erratic self.

But ...

Over the years, the Hokies have turned winning ugly into an art form. And Virginia Tech gets kicker Cody Journell back after his one-game suspension. Journell's replacement missed all three of his field goal attempts against Marshall.

Still ...

Next up is Georgia Tech, on Thursday night. The formula for the upset is there: Bud Foster's D forces a couple of early turnovers, setting up the Hokies' shaky offense with short fields; Virginia Tech gets up early and uses its defense to salt away the win. 

So I can make the case for the Hokies to go to 4-1 ... but I don't really believe in it. 

Record: 3-1

Previous Rank: 7

Last Week: Won 29-21, 3OT over Marshall

This Week: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. at Georgia Tech

NO. 7 VIRGINIA

This point in the power rankings is when I really, really start to feel wishy-washy about things. It feels weird moving up the Cavaliers two spots just for beating a dreadful VMI squad. But two teams ahead of UVa - UNC and N.C. State lost.

Of course, both those teams lost to quality opponents.

Of course UVa's one loss came against Oregon. And UVa does own a solid win over BYU. 

Of course BYU lost last Saturday to Utah.

Of course ... okay, let's just stop this before our collective heads explode. For now, the Cavaliers are No. 7. They can consolidate this spot if they go up to Pitt and win. 

Quarterback David Watford still doesn't inspire much confidence in me. Fortunately for him, though, he gets to go up against a Pitt defense that gave up 55 points against Duke.

Record: 2-1

Previous Rank: 9

Last Week: Won 49-0 over VMI

This Week: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. at Pitt.

NO. 8 N.C. STATE

The Wolfpack showed last Thursday night why I never really bought into the "rebuilding" storyline that was trotted out after Tom O'Brien was fired. State returned a good deal of talent on defense, and that showed as the Wolfpack gave Clemson's high-powered offense fits.

However, Dave Doeren did not inherit much in the way of offensive firepower. Throw in a change in scheme and an injury to the starting quarterback, and you can see why knocking off Clemson would have been such a monumental achievement. 

And then you can see why State fans are still irate about the timeout that may have erased a pick-six by the Wolfpack D and the controversial out-of-bounds calls that wiped out what would have been a long touchdown run by Bryan Underwood.

Fortunately for State, it can now take its anger out on one of Doeren's old MAC foes, Central Michigan. Speaking of which, the Chippewa's head coach, Dan Enos is No. 4 on Athlon's latest hot seat rankings

Record: 2-1

Previous Rank: 8

Last Week: Lost 26-14 to Clemson

This Week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m vs. Central Michigan

NO. 9 NORTH CAROLINA

UNC confuses me. Midway through the second quarter against Georgia Tech, the Tar Heels were up 20-7 and I was seriously considering them as a threat to win the Coastal Division. Two-plus quarters later, UNC hadn't scored another point, the Heels are leaving Atlanta with a loss (Again) and I've dropped them to No. 9 in the power rankings.

Granted, that probably also tells you something about how arbitrary my power rankings are until we get into the real meat of the schedule. Still, there's something about UNC right now that's ... missing. 

The defense is better. Just compare last season's performance against Georgia Tech withQuinshad DavisQuinshad Davis has struggled to get going this season (AP/Mike Stewart)  this one. But the offense has taken a step back. No Gio Bernard hurts. So does losing several talented offensive linemen. But Larry Fedora didn't seem fazed by all of this in the preseason, when he predicted 12 TD catches for Eric Ebron and 100 catches for Quinshad Davis.

Ebron doesn't look like he's going to reach 12 TDs - he caught his first score of the season against Georgia Tech - but he's still clearly a matchup headache for opposing defenses.

Davis? NOW we're getting to the root of the problem. When your No. 1 wideout has just 8 catches through three games, you've got issues. Last Saturday it looked like Georgia Tech eventually adjusted to take away Ebron (he had 1 catch for 13 yards in the second half after going for 5/95 in the first) and ... UNC didn't have another playmaking option.

Record: 1-2, (0-1 ACC)

Previous Rank: 6

Last Week: Lost 28-20 at Georgia Tech

This Week: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. vs. ECU

NO. 10 PITT

I'm starting to get a greater appreciation for the 2013 FSU defense. The Panthers put up 12 points against the Seminoles, and have then averaged 53.5 in their next two contests.

That also means I'm gaining an appreciation for the offensive mind of Paul Chryst. He's not running the sexy, warp-drive spread offense that's all the rage, but he's put together an attack that's balanced (171.7 yards rushing per game, 289.7 yards passing per game) and explosive. 

Having a pair of wideouts like Devin Street and Tyler Boyd - Nos. 1 and 3 in the ACC in yards receiving per game - certainly helps. 

Record: 2-1 overall, 1-1 ACC

Previous Rank: 10

Last Week: Won 58-55 at Duke

This Week: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. vs. Virginia

NO. 11 SYRACUSE

Remember earlier in these power rankings how I pontificated about the importance of coaching? Allow me now to espouse the virtues of finding a clear No. 1 quarterback.

It appears the Orange have done just that with sophomore Terrel Hunt. Hunt played behind Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen in the first two games, both Syracuse losses. Hunt got his chance against Wagner and he's run - and passed - with it.

How good has Hunt been? He'd be on top of ESPN's QB ratings ... if he qualified. 

Hunt will eventually play enough to qualify in those ratings, but the competition is going to get considerably tougher, starting with a visit from Clemson next Saturday. 

Record: 2-2

Previous Rank: 13

Last Week: Won 52-17 over Tulane

This Week: Bye

NO. 12 BOSTON COLLEGE

Not much to report from Chestnut Hill, as the Eagles had a bye week to prepare for the arrival of Florida State this Saturday.

The extra time to prep will help, but BC needs way more than just a few extra practices to have a hope of knocking off FSU.

But enough trivial talk about the Seminoles. How are the Eagles doing in the race to win the coveted Orange Eagle Trophy? Quite well, actually.   

Record: 2-1, 1-0 ACC

Previous Rank: 12

Last Week: Bye

This Week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. vs. FSU.

NO. 13 DUKE

I'll admit it. I tend to overrate experience.

I thought that, even though Duke's defense was awful last year, it would be improved this season because the Blue Devils had a lot of returning linebackers and defensive linemen, as well as all-conference cornerback Ross Cockrell.

Nope.

I also thought Duke would probably lose to Pitt because the Blue Devils were missing their starting quarterback, Anthony Boone.

Nope.

Third-string QB Brandon Connette threw for four TDs and ran for two against Pitt ... and Duke still lost.

Granted, Connette threw four picks, including a critical pick-six that gave the Panthers their final points. Still, when you put up 55 points, you expect to win ... unless you have the Duke 2013 defense ... which looks an awful lot like the 2012 unit. 

Record: 2-2, 0-1 ACC

Previous Rank: 11

Last Week: Lost 58-55 to Pitt

This Week: Saturday, 3 p.m. vs. Troy

NO. 14 WAKE FOREST 

Signs of life in Winston-Salem? The Deacs played solid defense against Army, nose guard Nikita Whitlock was unreal (14 tackles) and ... are you sitting down? .... WAKE RAN THE BALL EFFECTIVELY! No, seriously! The Deacs piled up 228 yards. Josh Harris - remember him? - had 96 yards and two touchdowns.

So maybe Jim Grobe's team is starting to get things figured out. What a perfectly terrible time to have to travel to Clemson.  

Record: 2-2, 0-1 ACC

Previous Rank: 14

Last Week: Won 25-11 over Army

This Week: Saturday, 3:30 at Clemson.