We’re at halftime of the college football season, and it’s amazing (and sad) how quickly it flies by! We wait eight months and then blink and it’s already at the midway point. In first half of the year, the ACC enjoyed some marquee wins with Clemson knocking of then #5 UGA and Miami defeating the Gators. To be fair, we must also mention the blemishes which include Wake Forest losing to UL-Monroe in Winston-Salem, UNC getting blown out at home against ECU, and UVA (They’re SOFT!) allowing 48 to Ball State in an embarrassing Scott Stadium defeat.
I have intentionally not been posting new ACC Power Rankings after each and every week. For that, Robert Reinhard of Blogger So Dear does a phenomenal job and I recommend his #GoACC Power Rankings. Now that we are half way through the the college football season and on the eve of the biggest game in the conference and possibly the full history of the conference (FSU @ Clemson), let’s see how I did on my Pre-Season ACC Power Rankings and look at where they stand now.
One caveat I must offer, these should not be viewed as either projected or current standings because those are to some extent dictated by schedule and divisional alignment. Instead, these represent my best estimation of which teams are legitimately tops (and bottoms) in the conference. So, without further ado, here are my Week 7 ACC Power Rankings.
1. Clemson: 6-0 (4-0)
Pre-Season Power Ranking: 1st
“Florida State is a great team, but we are too.” Vic Beasley
Vic Beasley sums up the conundrum at the top two spots pretty well. Anybody that tells you that either Clemson or FSU is “clearly” the top team in the conference (before this Saturday’s epic showdown) is full of themselves. These teams are incredibly evenly matched and the class of the conference.
Maybe the biggest factor in determining the ACC Champion and quite possibly much more is the location of next week’s FSU @ Clemson game. I don’t remember Clemson ever losing to FSU at home, but historical records show it occurred when I was in the 7th grade. In Dabo Swinney’s previous four full seasons as head coach Clemson has only lost 1, 2, 0, and 1 home game(s) each year.
Coming into the game as the nations leading rusher, Andre Williams was held to 70 yards against Clemson. He exploded for 149 against FSU as his Eagles scored 34 against the ‘Noles. Boston College is a tough team and kept it close with Clemson as well, only scoring 14, but holding Clemson’s offense to just 24 points as Boston College recovered two Clemson fumbles and benefited from two botched Tiger field goals. Through it all Clemson’s defense was able to ensure their 15th consecutive double-digit victory over unranked opponents.
Oddly enough, one of the strongest arguments in Clemson’s favor is their defense. Outstanding defensive end, Vic Beasley, leads the nation with nine sacks. Mike Reed, the Defensive Backs Coach, who came over from NCSU by all accounts has done a great job fixing what was a very poor secondary. The Seminoles have not faced a defense this good and will not face another defense this solid until they play host to their rival Gators.
Clemson has accomplished more than any other team in the ACC this year, with four conference wins and a rousing victory over a then healthy and excellent UGA team and for that reason they deserve to hold the top spot for at least one more week.
2. Florida State: 5-0 (3-0)
Pre-Season Power Ranking: 2nd
Florida State has been nothing short of spectacular and deserving of their #5 ranking in the AP Poll. Florida State has been destroying cupcakes like a pudgy kid at a birthday party to the tune of a perfect 6-0 record with the 3rd most post scored and the 3rd fewest points allowed.
The dominant performance has been highlighted by the amazing performance of redshirt freshman Jameis Winston who has exceeded even the highest of expectations with his 17-2 TD-INT ratio. A win over Clemson would thrust him high into Heisman contention and the Seminoles into a position to appear in the BCS National Championship game.
Despite losing immense talent on the defensive side of the ball in addition to defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, the defense has been dominant in five of six games. It’ll be the best group Clemson has faced thus far. The ‘Noles defense shutdown a Maryland offense that seems relatively proficient, but allowed Boston College to score 34 though the offense was there to bail them out in what became a 14 point victory.
Unfortunately for FSU, their first major challenge is also the biggest on the schedule. Jameis Winston has never played in an hostile environment like Death Valley. After a season opening loss at Clemson, Aaron Murray, the Bulldog QB who is set to shatter most of the SEC passing records this year, said “Our biggest challenge was dealing with the crowd noise and penalties.” Additionally, Winston has never faced a pass rush like that of the Tigers. His ability to handle these two factors will likely decide the game, one of the two teams in the ACC Championship this December, and possibly one of the two teams in the National Championship this January.
Yes, the ACC has multiple legitimate National Championship contenders.
3. Miami: 5-0 (1-0)
Pre-Season Power Ranking: 3rd
Miami opened their season by playing all four of their non-conference games. Those included victories over mediocre FAU, Savannah State, and and USF squads as well as a big win over their in-state rivals from Gainesville. Florida somewhat gifted that win to them with four redzone turnovers, but nonetheless it was a win that marked Miami’s return to relevance.
Following the stretch of non-conference games, Miami opened conference play by hosting Georgia Tech. After falling 10 points behind in the first quarter, Miami stormed back to win 45-30 and take control of the Coastal. Stephen Morris isn’t quite on the same tier as Tajh Boyd or Jameis Winston, but he is an excellent QB in his own right.
The Hurricanes are top 10 in both points scored and points against, and present a balanced offensive attack that features the talented Duke Johnson as the feature back. The ‘Canes will square off with the Hokies on November 9th in a game that may determine the ACC Coastal Champion.
4. Virginia Tech: 6-1 (3-0)
Pre-Season Power Ranking: 4th
The Fighting Gobblers were once known for their consistent performance. Now they’re known for their silly football helmets. Nonetheless, their defense is back on par with the dominant defenses DC Bud Foster led when VT was dominating the conference. Winning at Georgia Tech on a short week with little time to prepare for the Jacket’s quirky rushing attack was very impressive, even if Georgia Tech isn’t superb. Their offense is miles behind the teams ranked above them, but their defense is arguably the best in the ACC.
Although they must travel to Corral Gables, the Hokies do luck out by facing Boston College and Maryland from the Atlantic Division while Miami must play Florida State (and Wake Forest). Let me tap myself on the back for getting the top four team correct in the pre-season, because it’s about to become a mess.
A Muddled Mess of Mediocrity
5. Maryland: 5-1 (1-1)
Pre-Season Power Ranking: 8th
The top team in this tier struggled to squeak out a one-point home win over the worst team in the conference. That just goes to show what I mean by “muddled mess of mediocrity.” Additionally, it serves to point out how much CJ Brown, the Terrapin’s speedy QB, means to this offense. Brown incurred a concussion in Tallahassee during an embarrassing 0-63 loss to the Seminoles. Maryland has scored a total of 27 since CJ Brown left with injury after scoring 32+ in each of their first four games.
After a hot start that saw Maryland crack the AP Top 25, we now know UMD isn’t quite as good as many began to believe. Their most impressive wins no longer look very impressive now that we know that UConn and West Virginia are poor teams. Nevertheless, with CJ Brown’s return from injury, no ACC team not already listed can make much of a claim to be better than the Terps and at 5-1 with only a loss on the road against FSU, Maryland has earned the #5 spot in our Week 7 ACC Power Rankings.
6. Georgia Tech: 3-3 (2-2)
Pre-Season Power Ranking: 5th
With Ted Roof joining GT as the new defensive coordinator and eight returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, I think I was pretty logical in expecting improvement. We haven’t seen it as the Jackets have been a general disappointment. With two FCS schools on the schedule (thanks a lot Swofford), the Jackets will need seven wins to qualify for a bowl bid. The decisive game there will be a Atlanta showdown with Pitt.
If I were a Georgia Tech fan, I’d be warming the seat for Head Coach Paul Johnson, who after his first two years has led GT to a paltry 24-21 record over the past three and a half.
7. Boston College: 3-3 (1-2)
Pre-Season Power Ranking: 14th
Boston College sits at 3-3, but their record is not at all indicative of how they’ve played. Their three losses all came on the road and came against Southern Cal, Florida State, and Clemson. They didn’t put up much of a fight against USC, but they scored 34 on Boston College in a 14-point loss and held the Tigers to a season low 24 points in a 10-point defeat.
Coming into the season, I thought Steve Addazio was a great selection for their head coaching position, however I figured it would take a while for BC to be competitive. On the contrary, three seniors on offense have become stars. Andre Williams is the focus of the offense and is fifth in the nation in total rushing yards. He ran for 263 against Army and led the nation in rushing yards until a very pedestrian game against Clemson. Alex Amidon is their star receiver and already has 38 receptions including a 69-yard TD strike against the Tigers last week. Finally, Chase Rettig is their starting quarterback. Through six games Rettig has over 1,000 passing yards and a completion percentage over 64%.
Addazio may see this team regress next season as all three of his offensive stars move on. That’s when the rebuilding process will really begin.
8. Pittsburgh: 3-2 (2-2)
Pre-Season Power Ranking: 9th
Pittsburgh has lost to each quality opponent they’ve played and defeated each weak team they’ve played, so no surprises. It’s very likely they’ll continue this trend to beat Old Dominion, Navy, UNC, and Syracuse and find their way back to a bowl game, which in their first year in the ACC is a commendable accomplishment.
9. Duke: 4-2 (0-2)
Pre-Season Power Ranking: 13th
In David Cutcliffe, Duke has found themselves an excellent coach who is making vast improvements to their program. After a hard fought 55-58 loss to Pitt, they rebounded to stream roll Navy 35-7 last week. They are now a perfect 4-0 across their non-conference schedule, a goal that should be paramount and more strongly considered during scheduling by borderline bowl teams. With games remaining against Virginia, NC State, Wake Forest, and UNC they have a legitimate chance to return to a bowl game. Duke could be the best ACC team in North Carolina (ECU may claim the overall State title).
10. Syracuse: 3-3 (1-1)
Pre-Season Power Ranking: 12th
A win in Raleigh has them feeling good, but at 3-3 with losses to all three quality opponents they’ve played it’s hard to get too high on the Orange (is that Orange like the color or the fruit?). Upon joining the conference, they were extremely eager to begin the trash talk, but they’ve done little to back it up. Next week at Georgia Tech may be the best measuring stick of the season and will go a very long way in determining both team’s bowl chances. A loss would probably keep Syracuse out. They may be “New York’s college football team,” but they aren’t very good.
11. Wake Forest: 3-3 (1-2)
Pre-Season Power Ranking: 7th
Coming into this season, I really believed the Demon Deacons would find their way back to a bowl game after missing the mark in 2012 and three of the last four years. Michael Campanaro is one of the best receivers in the conference, Tanner Price is an experienced quarterback, and the defense is salty. Nevertheless, Jim Grobe attempted to implement a strange option offense when the offensive line failed to run block with any consistency. This failed miserably in losses to Boston College and Louisiana Monroe–two games most had penciled in for wins.
Jim Grobe has an losing record at Wake Forest (and overall, when you include his tenure at Ohio) and may be the single most overrated head coach in FBS football. Nonetheless, they’ll manage to win another game or two and continue to deify him in Winston-Salem while they focus on firing their basketball coach.
12. North Carolina: 1-4 (0-2)
Pre-Season Power Ranking: 6th
The Tar Heels have been the biggest disappoint in the conference. Coming off a bye, they’re likely to drop a Thursday night home game to Miami, but could still manage 6 wins as their last six games are all very winnable. Some have pointed to the Tar Heel’s struggles as a product of their NCAA punishment. They were caught making fake, and when I say fake I literally mean make believe, classes for their football players. If the NCAA punishment really is a major driver of their failures this season, then it only serves to show that the NCAA did at least one thing right.
13. North Carolina State: 3-3 (0-3)
Pre-Season Power Ranking: 10th
As much as the Wolfpack like to claim “This is our state” they could be the worst FBS team in the state as Coach Dave Doeren has a full rebuilding process ahead of him. They have what it takes to build a solid program, but they simply are a poor team right now. Because their schedule is so easy (ten games in North Carolina, eight in Raleigh) this may not be apparent in their record.
14. Virginia: 2-4 (0-2)
Pre-Season Power Ranking: 11th
It is rather unthinkable just how bad Virginia has been after starting the season with a rather impressive win over BYU. It is now Mike London’s 4th year at the helm in Charlottesville, and despite my initial optimism and a solid 8-5 2011, his tenure is beginning to look like a failure. It is really making Collin Cowherd’s rant (below) look spot on.
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