1. Florida State (last week: 39-17 W vs Virginia Tech)
Just kept on keepin’ on out of the bye week. Jumped out to a 22-0 first quarter lead, and even though Virginia Tech cut it to 22-17 after returning the second half opening kickoff for a TD, it felt like the Hokies never really threatened. FSU scored just two plays after that kickoff return TD and never looked back. Next up for the Noles is a home tilt with Syracuse.
2. Louisville (last week: 33-20 W vs Notre Dame)
A week after looking massively overrated in a close win against NC State, the Cardinals showed that they might be for real. Granted, they field goaled the Fighting Irish to death, but a win is a win and that was a good win. Louisville’s defense is impressive, having kept Notre Dame to under 300 yards of total offense and allowing only 3-of-15 conversions on 3rd and 4th down combined. Up next is a dangerous road game at Pitt... not because the Panthers are good, but because Pat Narduzzi loves nothing than to ruin a good season for someone else.
3. Duke (last week: Bye)
Who knows how good Duke is without Riley Leonard at QB, but we’re about to find out on Saturday night when the Blue Devils host the Wolfpack. Even without Leonard, this is the most complete Duke team that I can remember.
4. North Carolina (last week: 40-7 W vs Syracuse)
I’ll be the first to trumpet the weak schedule argument around UNC this year, but that was an impressive win they put together against Syracuse. The defense held the Orange to 221 yards of offense while the offense put up 644 yards on their own. Maybe UNC is legit after all. We’ll know more after this week against Miami. Win that one, and the Tar Heels will be 9-0 heading into their 11/11 game against Duke. Easy schedule and all that.
5. NC State (last week: 48-41 W vs Marshall)
I’m really not trying to put too much stock in a win over a Sun Belt team, but NC State’s defense played better than Marshall’s 41 points on the scoreboard would lead you to believe, and the offense showed some serious signs of life. The Thundering Herd defense is no pushover, so the lively display by the Wolfpack offense carries merit. M.J. Morris showed poise in addition to some expected rust, and there’s hope again for the season in Raleigh. Next up is a date in Durham with Duke.
6. Clemson (last week: 17-12 W vs Wake Forest)
The Tigers continue to have issues on offense and special teams. A fumbled punt return, another fumble on offense, not being able to punch in on a 1st-and-goal from the Wake 2 yardline. There are issues that Clemson needs to answer. The Tigers defense, however, is strout, as usual. Wake Forest managed just 239 yards of offense and converted just 2-of-13 3rd and 4th downs in the game. This might be the latest in a season that Clemson has been at .500 in ACC play in a long time. Next up: a bye week.
7. Wake Forest (last week: 12-17 L @ Clemson)
Well, if Clemson’s 6, then Wake is 7. The Demon Deacons defense has now held all five opponents to 24 or fewer points. That trend is likely to continue with VT and Pitt up next for Wake. Hard to get too worried about the offense given that they were playing defense, but if Clemson exposed some fatal flaws, the finishing kick of Wake’s schedule could be brutal with Pitt, FSU, Duke, NC State, and Notre Dame all sporting defenses that can shut down opponents.
8. Virginia (last week: 27-13 W vs William & Mary)
Well, the Wahoos won, so they’re no longer sporting a goose egg in the ‘W’ column. That’s cool. This is not the 8th best team in the conference, but they did win this week, and it’s more a statement about the next two teams on the list. Virginia has a bye week before heading to Chapel Hill.
9. Georgia Tech (last week: 23-20 W @ Miami)
Credit to GT for putting together a 4-play, 74 yard TD drive when they absolutely had to do it... but, wow, talk about a gift of a win. The Yellow Jackets are not a bad team, but they are not a good team, and they are certainly going to go lose against Boston College next week because that’s just the craziness that this GT team is about. Had Miami not allowed GT to get the ball back, the Jackets offense wouldn’t have broken 200 yards in the game.
10. Miami (last week: 20-23 L vs Georgia Tech)
I should put Miami last this week for running the ball with 33 seconds left on a 3rd & 10 play and Georgia Tech having no timeouts left, but the fact is that the team put themselves in a position to win it and the coaching staff lost it for them. I’ll not sully the player’s efforts too much on that. The Hurricanes didn’t look good by any means, but that should have been a gritty, grind-it-out win for them. However, you can’t turn the ball over 5 times in a game and expect to win. Hopefully the loss motivates the Canes and they come out and get a measure of revenge against North Carolina next week.
11. Boston College (last week: 27-24 W @ Army)
BC beat Army in a game where the Eagles attempted fewer passes than the Black Knights completed in the game. Maybe Jeff Hafley just really wanted to beat a team at their own game, but... I just don’t buy that this BC team is any good. Sitting at 3-3, though, and with GT, UConn, Syracuse, VT, and Pitt up next, we’re probably looking at a bowl team. #goacc
12. Virginia Tech (last week: 17-39 L @ Florida State)
Credit the Hokies for not giving up and getting back in it at the start of the 2nd half, but VT was no match for FSU. No shame in that, though, as this year’s FSU team is good. Next up is Wake.
13. Pittsburgh (last week: Bye)
Pitt had a bye, but the Panthers haven’t offered much in the way of confidence this year to put them anywhere higher than 13th. The Panthers host Louisville this coming Saturday.
14. Syracuse (last week: 7-40 L @ North Carolina)