Jim Young re-ranks the ACC's 14 football teams after the 12th week of the season.
NO. 1 FLORIDA STATE
Look, I know FSU's schedule doesn't look that great. Miami is reeling. Clemson's best win is over a Georgia team that now has four losses. But man, at a certain point you just can't ignore the TOTAL, COMPLETE, UTTER DOMINANCE. And yes, that needed to be in all caps. The Seminoles aren't just beating teams, they are extinguishing all hope 5-6 minutes in, and have moved into the humiliation phase by the end of the first quarter.
Record: 10-0, 8-0 ACC
Previous Rank: 1
Last week: Beat Syracuse 59-3
This week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. vs. Idaho
NO. 2 CLEMSON
Kudos to the Tigers for not going into a tailspin after losing to Florida State. Additional kudos for scheduling an FCS opponent - The Citadel - the week before taking on South Carolina. Oh, and kudos to Tajh Boyd for setting the ACC career record for touchdown passes.
Lots of kudos to go around. Now make sure you get Boyd through this week's game without an injury. Things got scary for a while against Georgia Tech. I know it's Boyd's final home game, but if he plays past halftime I'm not going to be happy.
Record: 9-1, 7-1 ACC
Previous Rank: 2
Last week: Won 55-31 over Georgia Tech
This week: Saturday, noon vs. The Citadel
NO. 3 DUKE
If I had told you before the season that 10 games into the season Duke QB Anthony Boone would have just five touchdown passes against nine interceptions, what would you have guessed the Blue Devils' record would be? 3-7? 4-6?
Instead, Duke sits at 8-2 in large part to three factors:
1) Brandon Connette: The ACC Tebow not only has 12 rushing touchdowns, he has also thrown for 13 scores. That, my friends, is a VERY valuable backup QB.
2) Duke has done a complete 180 in terms of the fourth quarter. Once the time when the Blue Devils let games slip away, it is now their favorite 15 minutes. Duke has outscored opponents 110-34 in the final period, including 17-0 against Miami.
3) A big reason why Duke has flourished late - and despite Boone's subpar passing numbers? A legit ground game. The Blue Devils pounded Miami to the tune of 358 yards on the ground. For the season, Duke is fourth in the ACC in rushing yards per game, at 185.1
Record: 8-2, 4-2 ACC
Previous Rank: 6
Last Week: Won 48-30 over Miami
This Week: Saturday, noon at Wake Forest
Okay let's pause a moment before we get to No. 4, shall we? First, let me share a couple of tweets I sent you yesterday.
(Starts ACC Power Rankings, gets to No. 4 ... spends next hour trying not to think about power rankings.)— Jim Young (@ACCSports) November 19, 2013
That was about 20 hours ago. And yeah ... I've been stuck ever since. This then prompted me to send out this half-serious, fully-desperate tweet last night.
I may give the No. 4 spot in my power rankings to the fan base that makes the best case on Twitter.— Jim Young (@ACCSports) November 20, 2013
It was telling that no fan base came forward to say "Hey, WE deserve that spot!" I had a lot of people individually try to claim it. (I thought about it.) I had people ask that their team NOT be considered for it. And then I had several say that basically I should put all the remaining teams in a tie for fourth except for N.C. State and Virginia.
Alas, I wish I could take the easy way out. But I will try to draw on some Solomonic wisdom and figure out the order without wussing out and using ties.
Let me take you through my reasoning, which is literally being sorted out as I type this. I figure there are five teams who could make at least a semi-legitimate claim to the No. 4 spot: Virginia Tech (No. 3 last week before losing AT HOME to Maryland); Georgia Tech (No. 4 before getting blitzed at Clemson); Miami (No. 5 before losing at Duke); UNC (No. 7 before winning its fourth straight game, at Pitt); Boston College (No. 8 before getting its sixth win of the season, at home over N.C. State).
Five teams with a case for No. 4? Yep, the very definition of #goacc.
Let's start with head-to-head: Virginia Tech is 3-1 against the other four; Georgia Tech, 1-2; Miami, 2-1; UNC, 1-3; Boston College, 1-1. So by that measure, we're looking at the Hokies.
But what have you done for me lately? The Hokies have lost three of four; Georgia Tech is 3-4 after a 3-0 start (or you could spin that as the Jackets being 3-1 in their last four); Miami is 0-3 after a 7-0 start; BC has won three in a row; and UNC has won four in a row after a 1-5 start.
Best wins? Virginia Tech owns wins at Georgia Tech and at Miami. Georgia Tech won at the new No. 3, Duke and at home over UNC - but those wins both came two months ago. Miami beat Florida (before the Gators were crushed by injuries) at UNC and at home over the Yellow Jackets. UNC beat BC convincingly and just won at Pitt - which is sort of an okay win. BC beat Virginia Tech at home.
Worst losses? The Hokies lost at home to a reeling Maryland team. Georgia Tech doesn't really have a bad loss and right now there's no shame in getting thumped by Clemson. Miami doesn't have a bad loss, but man...giving up an average of 43.7 points and losing by an average of 21 over the past three games is not a good look. BC lost by 24 to UNC. UNC got thumped at home by ECU, which isn't nearly as bad as it seemed at the time.
Future outlook? BC plays on the road in its next two, at Maryland and at Syracuse. Both are winnable, but it should be noted the Eagles' lone road win is over a bad New Mexico State team. Georgia Tech gets Alabama A&M and then a Georgia team that's got been sliding lately. But still, it's Georgia. Miami gets Virginia at home and then plays at Pitt to close out the season. And the Canes will have to soldier on without Duke Johnson (they're 0-2 since he went down against FSU). UNC gets ODU and then a home game against Duke, with a possible chance to crush the Blue Devils' Coastal title hopes. Virginia Tech has a bye week and then plays at Virginia. That works nicely.
So let's get slightly scientific. We're going to rank each team in those five categories, total up those points and then use those to sort out 4-8. (Man, I'm going to need to take a shower after this. It all feels ... icky.)
For example: Virginia Tech is the best in head-to-head, so it gets 5 points. It is second-worst in the next category - recent results - so it gets 2. And so on.
Here are the totals:
Boston College (3,4,2,3,1) - 13
Georgia Tech (3,3,3,4,2) - 15
Miami (4,1,4,5,3) - 17
UNC (1,5,1,2,4) - 13
Virginia Tech (5,2,5,1,5) - 18
So there you have it. By this system, Virginia Tech is No. 4. I'll break the BC-UNC tie for No. 7 by virtue of the Tar Heels' head-to-head win over the Eagles. And I just don't know what to think about UNC. Part of me wants to put them at No. 4 because the Heels are on a roll, but another part of me can't totally dismiss the 1-5 start and isn't overwhelmed with the wins during the recent stretch, either.
NO. 4 Virginia Tech
Just when the Hokies reeled me back in, they push me away again. How do I explain it? You know what, forget it. Let's just go with my tweet from last Saturday.
I'm done trying to figure out the Hokies. Done.— Jim Young (@ACCSports) November 16, 2013
Record: 7-4, 4-3 ACC
Previous Rank: 3
Last week: Lost 27-24 at home to Maryland.
This week: Bye
NO. 5 Miami
The Canes lose by 18 at Duke, give up over 350 yards in rushing and ... stay in the same spot! I kind of hate myself right now.
Clearly this team is not the same without Duke Johnson. I get that. But Duke Johnson isn't playing run defense for Miami. Actually, right now, nobody else is, either.
Record: 7-3, 3-3 ACC
Previous Rank: 5
Last week: Lost 38-20 at Duke
This week: Saturday, noon vs. Virginia
NO. 6 Georgia tech
So, about that new and improved D under Ted Roof ...
You know what? I'm not going to bust Tech's chops too hard here. There are two teams in this league - FSU and Clemson - that have pretty much made everyone look silly.
Still, 6-4 overall and 5-3 in the ACC feels ... disappointing. Of course, the vibes on The Flats could turn decidedly turn toward "feel-good" if the Yellow Jackets can beat Georgia this year. The Bulldogs certainly are a vulnerable target.
Record: 6-4, 5-3 ACC
Previous Rank: 4
Last Week: Lost 55-31 at Clemson
This Week: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. vs. Alabama A&M
NO. 7 NORTH CAROLINA
Would it make you feel any better, UNC fans, if I told you I don't feel good about this ranking? But ... I also have to face the facts that UNC has losses to the three teams directly above it in these rankings and (minor spoiler alert) its four ACC wins come over teams ranked 8, 10, 13 and 14 in these power rankings. So we'll likely play wait-and-see all the way through the final regular season game for the Tar Heels. Yeah, it's been a weird season.
In the meantime, I'm still adamant in my belief that - given the choice - UNC fans should attend this Saturday's noon football game against ODU instead of staying home to watch the noon basketball game against Richmond (which is in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, at Mohegan Sun Arena, in Connecticut). I'm just saying that you've got a squad that's rallied from a 1-5 start to the cusp of bowl eligibility. There will be plenty more basketball games to watch. Head out to Kenan on Saturday.
In the meantime, enjoy the magic that is Ryan Switzer. Love this guy.
Record: 5-5, 4-3 ACC
Previous Rank: 7
Last Week: Won 34-27 at Pitt
This Week: Saturday, noon vs. Old Dominion
NO. 8 BOSTON COLLEGE
Sometimes even a blind squirrel finds a nut. Or in this case, I come up with a moment of Twitter genius.
BC running back Andre Williams is killing it right now. He's made the list on the Athlon Sports Heisman straw poll in which I participate. He's closing in on 2,000 yards.
Andre, Heisman, 2,000 ... Outkast. Suddenly it hit me like a bolt of lightning.
Please tell me BC is starting up a Heisman campaign called "Andre 2000". Please.— Jim Young (@ACCSports) November 20, 2013
Let's make this happen, BC football office. I won't even copyright it and charge you for the idea. It needs to happen.
You can even call the BC offensive line "The Big Bois"!!!
Okay, that's probably forcing it.
Record: 6-4, 3-3 ACC
Previous Rank: 8
Last Week: Won 38-21 over N.C. State
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 at Maryland
NO. 9 maryland
Last week John Feinstein lobbed these verbal grenades at Randy Edsall. Edsall formulated the best reponse possible - going on the road to beating Virginia Tech to secure bowl eligibility for the first time 2010 - also known as Ralph Friedgen's last season.
Of course, given the frosty relationhip between the Terps and the ACC, this big win was met with a bunch of "Have fun in Shreveport, Maryland!" jokes. Again, the best response for Maryland? Win on Saturday against BC. Then win again against N.C. State. And jump up the ACC bowl ladder in the process.
Record: 6-4, 2-4 ACC
Previous Rank: 11
Last Week: Won 27-24 at Virginia Tech
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. vs. Boston College
NO. 10 PITT
You looked miserable for a long stretch on Saturday, Pitt. Then you looked brilliant for a while and got your fans' hopes up. Then they were all cruelly dashed by Ryan Switzer's punt return.
I'm still new to this whole Pitt thing, but Panthers fans assure me that this sort of emotional roller coaster is pretty much par for the course.
Record: 5-5 overall, 2-4 ACC
Previous Rank: 10
Last Week: Lost 34-37 to UNC
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. at Syracuse
NO. 11 Syracuse
If it makes you feel any better, Syracuse, FSU has done that to pretty much every team in the ACC (except Boston College, curiously.)
Still, I had to knock you down two spots. Because, I mean ... 59-3.
The key now? Get over that FSU hangover as quickly as possible. Bowl eligibility is still out there and you've got an old Big East rival - Pitt - coming to town.
Record: 5-5, 3-3 ACC
Previous Rank: 9
Last Week: Lost 59-3 at Florida State
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 vs. Pitt
NO. 12 WAKE FOREST
Wake, if you want to capture any positive feelings out of this season, here's your chance.
You've had a bye week to rest up and prepare for Duke. Yes, the Blue Devils are white hot right now, but you've owned the series with Duke ever since Jim Grobe showed up in Winston-Salem. So I'm betting you feel pretty good about your chances.
Win this and you're 2-0 against Big Four rivals, you've put a dent in Duke's Coastal Division title dreams, and you've kept your bowl eligibility dreams alive heading into the final week of the season.
Lose this and ... I got nothing for you. Sorry.
Record: 4-6, 2-5 ACC
Previous Rank: 12
Last Week: Bye
This Week: Saturday, noon vs. Duke
NO. 13 N.C. STATE
During its six-game losing streak, the Wolfpack has either led or been down eight points or less in the fourth quarter five times - with the obvious exception being Florida State.
If you're a Wolfpack fan, does that frustrate you because this team has frittered away what appeared to be a pretty favorable schedule at the start of the season? Or does it give you hope that the Wolfpacks' better than its 3-7 record indicates and that better days aren't far away under Dave Doeren? Do you pin the inability to break through any of those close late-game situations on Doeren? Or is he still operating in what CBSSports.com's Chip Patterson has dubbed "a mulligan season"?
These aren't rhetorical questions. I honestly have no idea. That's why I'm asking you.
Record: 3-7, 0-7 ACC
Previous Rank: 13
Last Week: Lost 38-21 at Boston College
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 vs. ECU
NO. 14 VIRGINIA
Perhaps the clearest indication of Mike London's fate was given earlier this week, when Andrew Brown, considered by recruitniks to be the top defensive tackle in the 2014 recruiting class, elected to sign and enroll early at Virginia. This came after Brown's father got assurances from UVa AD Craig Littlepage that London wasn't going anywhere after this season.
So, good for London. Good for UVa football? We'll see.
I will say this, Virginia has a very, very small senior class. So that gives you hope. But I will also say this: UVa had better come up with a solution at QB in 2014.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. For now there's this week's game at Miami. Strangely enough, Mike London is 3-0 against the Hurricanes.
Record: 2-8 (0-6 ACC)
Previous Rank: 14
Last Week: Bye
This Week: Saturday, noon at Miami