Before we start this week's power rankings, I'd like to give a virtual fist bump to FSU, Clemson, N.C. State and Virginia. Thanks for making it easy for me to rank you. I value consistency, even if - in the case of the Wolfpack and the Cavaliers - it's a matter of being consistently bad.
As for the rest of you, thanks for making these power rankings a painful process every week. How very #goacc of you.
NO. 1 FLORIDA STATE
The Seminoles got a huge win last week ... when Stanford beat Oregon. Oh and FSU clinched a spot in the ACC ChampionshipGame too. Did you forget about that? Me too. Sort of assumed that once the Seminoles routed Clemson.
Anywho, the Noles have a large gap between them and No. 3 Ohio State in the BCS Standings. The mission now for FSU: Don't mess around. If the margin of victories continue to be wide, it's next stop Pasadena for FSU.
Record: 9-0, 7-0 ACC
Previous Rank: 1
Last week: Won 59-3 over Wake Forest
This week: Saturday, 3:30 vs. Syracuse
NO. 2 CLEMSON
Things are trending back in the right direction now for the Tigers. They got their mojo back with a rout of UVa and then got a bye week before their critical Thursday night matchup against Georgia Tech. Win that and then Clemson can focus on solving the riddle that is South Carolina. But that's for later. The Yellow Jackets are a dangerous, dangerous matchup for Clemson.
Can I see a scenario in which the Yellow Jackets hold the ball for a good chunk of the first half, frustrating the Tigers and leading to a forced throw or two by Tajh Boyd, which then leads to a second-half deficit, more pressing by Clemson and a stunning upset? Yes. Yes I can.
But I still believe the "Clemsoning" effect with this current group of Tigers is massively overblown. The Yellow Jackets will have to play at a much higher level than they've reached all season to come out of Death Valley with a win.
Record: 8-1, 6-1 ACC
Previous Rank: 2
Last week: Bye
This week: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. vs. Georgia Tech
NO. 3 VIRGINIA TECH
Hold on, hold on, hold on .... just hear me out.
Yes, I just moved the Hokies up above a team they just to two weeks ago ... even though that team (Duke) hasn't lost since. And yes, the Hokie three losses while Miami and Duke only have two.
The Hokies dominated Miami last weekend, outgaining the Hurricanes by nearly 200 yards. They showed a previously unachievable balance on offense and totally stifled Miami's running game. It was the kind of performance that no other teams in the ACC outside of FSU and Clemson have turned in this season. It made me raise the ceiling on this Virginia Tech team's capablities.
"But Jim, what about those losses to Duke and Boston College?" you ask.
Totally fair question. I'm not ignoring them, by any means. But I will note that Virginia Tech outgained BC by 157 yards and Duke by 189.
Look, I get that "Scoreboard" is an unbeateable retort to those numbers. But when you're doing power rankings you're trying to get a sense of how good a team "really" is, not just what their record indicates. And those two losses, while they can't be ignored, don't tell me that the Hokies were a bad team that has miraculously turned things around. Rather, I see them as a mistake-prone team that - if/when they clean things up - is the third-best squad in the ACC.
Also, the Hokies now boast road wins over Georgia Tech and Miami. Duke has that win at Blacksburg, to be sure, but also needed 57 minutes to put away a woeful N.C. State team last Saturday. Had the Blue Devils dominated that matchup, I might feel differently about all this.
Record: 7-3, 4-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 6
Last Week: Won 42-24 at Miami
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. vs. Maryland
NO. 4 GEORGIA TECH
The Yellow Jackets stay still because they lost their head-to-head with Virginia Tech and they dominated their head-to-head with Duke. Yes, Georgia Tech DID lose to Miami, but I think the trajectories of both teams since that game have been headed in opposite directions.
Plus, if you don't like where I put the Yellow Jackets, don't fret. We'll know much more in just over 48 hours, when they head to Clemson.
Record: 6-3, 5-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 4
Last week: Bye
This week: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. at Clemson
NO. 5 MIAMI
So this is where I've given the Hurricanes a relatively soft landing.
Should I have dropped Miami below Duke? You can certainly make that argument given their differing results against Virginia Tech. Of course you could also make a counter argument with how each team fared against Georgia Tech. Then there's the trend argument: Miami hasn't looked very good at all in its last four games, while Duke has won five in a row.
But it really comes down to this. I'm picking Miami to win at Duke on Saturday. If that's how I feel right now, it doesn't make much sense to have Duke higher than the Hurricanes, right?
Record: 7-2, 3-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 3
Last week: Lost 42-24 to Virginia Tech
This week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. at Duke
NO. 6 DUKE
Oh goody. And now I get to explain why I dropped Duke in my power rankings after its 38-20 win over N.C. State.
First, see my arguments in favor of moving Virginia Tech up. Then look at my arguments for not dropping Miami further. Those two moves are what necessitated the Blue Devils' drop of one spot.
Most importantly though, is what Duke did, or rather didn't do, against N.C. State. The Blue Devils had multiple opportunities to seize control of the game, but instead made multiple mistakes that let the Wolfpack hang around and nearly steal a win. Don't be fooled by the final score. Duke needed a touchdown drive led by its backup quarterback to retake the lead with just over three minutes to play. Pick-sixes on consecutive plays from scrimmage ballooned the final margin.
The Blue Devils deserve kudos for making those plays in crunch time. That's what winning teams do and Duke has undergone a remarkable transformation in how it performs in the fourth quarter, going from a team that typically fades during that time to a team that now raises its level then.
But still ... this a team that needed to come back late against State, that fell behind by 22 to UVa and that was outgained nearly 2-to-1 against Virginia Tech. So, I'm still a little skeptical.
Maybe it's me. I'll confess that Duke's track record probably taints how I see them. I suffered from the same affliction back in 2006, when I just could not take Wake Forest seriously as an ACC contender until they were printing tickets to the Orange Bowl.
So see, this as a positive Duke fans! Also, your welcome for the bulletin board material, Coach Cut.
Record: 7-2, 3-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 5
Last Week: Won 38-20 over N.C. State
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. vs. Miami
NO. 7 NORTH CAROLINA
I never bailed on you, UNC.
Well, okay I may have ranked you really, really low in these power rankings when you were 1-5. And I may have wondered if you'd ever figure out how to stop shooting yourself in the foot.
But at the same time, this resurgence by the Tar Heels is not coming as a shock to me. I've said it countless times - UNC's schedule was front-loaded. The Heels were never as bad they seemed early on (Okay, they were against ECU). So the converse is - are they as good as they've looked lately?
That's why I think this weekend's matchup with Pitt is fascinating. UNC is play a team that's on its level, on the road. Win this, and the resurgence is real. Lose it, and maybe the Heels were just taking advantage of a soft spot in the schedule.
Record: 4-5, 3-3 ACC
Previous Rank: 7
Last Week: Won 45-14 over Virginia
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. at Pitt
NO. 8 BOSTON COLLEGE
BC is one win away from becoming bowl eligible.
I repeat, BC is one win away from becoming bowl eligible. Take a bow, Steve Addazio. In another year, one in which Duke wasn't 7-2 and FSU wasn't rekindling memories of great Seminole teams of yore, Addazio would be the runaway winner of ACC Coach of the Year honors. Instead, I think he's probably a dark horse.
But we see you, Dude. We see you.
Oh and we also see you, Andre Williams. You and your 1,471 yards rushing. That's a total that, along with your average of 163.4 yards per game, leads the nation
Record: 5-4, 2-3 ACC
Previous Rank: 8
Last Week: Won 48-34 at New Mexico St.
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 vs. N.C. State
NO. 9 SYRACUSE
Did I just mention ACC Coach of the Year candidates and leave off Scott Shafer? I did. My bad.
Of course it wouldn't be the first time I (and a lot of my fellow media members) have overlooked the Orange. Yet here they are, with three ACC wins and one victory from bowl eligibility.
I'll admit, that visions of that 56-0 loss at Georgia Tech can't just be wiped away. And I suspect that this weekend's game at FSU will be ugly as well. But that just reinforces my belief that Shafer is maximizing the limited talent he has on hand. And that's pretty much the definition of good coaching, right?
Record: 5-4, 3-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 10
Last Week: Won 20-3 at Maryland
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. at FSU
NO. 10 PITT
The Panthers yielded just one sack against Notre Dame. The Panthers beat Notre Dame. These two outcomes are connected. I'm sure of it.
What I'm not sure if is whether Pitt has really "solved" its offensive line issues. I'm leaning toward no. Again, we'll get a better read on how much real progress the O-line has made when it faces UNC this weekend.
Regardless, offensive line play has been a thorn in Pitt's side all season and yet Paul Chryst has his team ... wait for it ... one win away from bowl eligibility.
Maybe I'm just feeling charitable but this seems like another good coaching job to me.
Man, everyone's a winner in my book, apparently. Trophies for everyone! Pass the orange clices and Capri Suns around!
Record: 5-4 overall, 2-3 ACC
Previous Rank: 11
Last Week: Won 28-21 over Notre Dame
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. vs. UNC
NO. 11 MARYLAND
Okay, this is where the coaching praise ends. I'm actually not that down on Randy Edsall. Once again, his team is getting crushed by injuries. So, I'm inclined to give him another pass this season.
John Feinstein? He's not feeling so charitable. Umm ... wow.
But Feinstein pretty much made up his mind about Edsall after Season 1. I'm still ... not sure. It's hard to get a good read on things with all the injuries. I will say this: Regardless of the injury bug, I do think that 4-0 start was a tad overblown (And I'm guilty of this). The Terps can hang their hats on a win over 4-6 West Virginia. Hooray.
Still, despite it all, the Terps find themselves ...
Wait for it ...
You know it's coming ...
One win away from bowl eligibility!
Record: 5-4, 1-4 ACC
Previous Rank: 10
Last Week: Lost 20-3 to Syracuse
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 at Virginia Tech
NO. 12 WAKE FOREST
Not much to say about Wake right now other than that it's a good week for a bye. I don't know that it solves any of the Deacs' major issues, but at least it postpones them for a week. And I still think the Deacs have enough confidence remaining to believe they can beat Duke on Nov. 23, even if the Blue Devils come into that game with an 8-2 record.
Record: 4-6, 2-5 ACC
Previous Rank: 12
Last Week: Lost 59-3 at FSU
This Week: Bye week
NO. 13 N.C. STATE
Prior to the season, podcast guest Chip Patterson declared this a "mulligan season" for N.C. State. I disagreed. I felt the Wolfpack had enough pieces to be competitive in the ACC.
Yeah ... I was wrong.
I still held out hope that the Wolfpack's issues centered around not having Brandon Mitchell healthy at QB. But now Mitchell's back and reminding us why Arkansas had shifted him to wide receiver.
There's no reason at all for State fans to panick about the Dave Doeren Era based on the disappointing early results. But that doesn't mean you have to like them either.
Record: 3-6, 0-6 ACC
Previous Rank: 13
Last Week: Lost 38-20 at Duke
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. at Boston College
NO. 14 VIRGINIA
There's a bye week and UVa is nationally ranked in hoops. Go ahead and distract yourself for a while, UVa fans. Maybe even the rest of the season. I will not judge you.
Record: 2-8 (0-6 ACC)
Previous Rank: 14
Last Week: Lost 45-14 at UNC
This Week: Bye week