1. Florida State (last week: 38-20 W vs Duke)
The Seminoles have been the top team for a while here, but they are clearly #1 now. At 5-0 in ACC play, FSU really only needs to win two of their next three to secure a spot in the ACC title game since Duke plays both UNC and Louisville and since VT is clearly not going to run the ACC table from here. FSU is playing for a national title at this point.
2. Duke (last week: 20-38 L @ Duke)
You really have to feel for Duke. They lost that Notre Dame game with or without the injury to Riley Leonard, but the Blue Devils were up 20-17 on FSU when Leonard reinjured his ankle. They should have kicked the FG on that drive to go up by 6, but clearly the offense was done after Leonard went down which allowed the Seminoles to turn a 3-point deficit into an 18-point victory. Even without Leonard, Duke’s defense is good enough to win them games, but the offense will have to figure out how to consistently move the ball with Henry Belin IV under center if Leonard is going to miss significant time. Duke can still make the ACC title game to force a rematch with FSU.
3. Miami (last week: 28-20 W vs Clemson)
It’s long drop from #2 to #3 on this list; the ACC right now is FSU and Duke and then everyone else lagging far behind. The Hurricanes are a wet coaching brain fart away from still being in contention for the ACC title game. They kept what little hope they have of that alive by taking down Clemson in double overtime. Up next is a home tilt against Virginia.
4. Clemson (last week: 20-28 L @ Miami)
The Tigers are now 2-3 in the ACC, their most conference losses since the 2010 team went 4-4 during Dabo’s 2nd full season at the helm. If not for horrendous turnovers, Clemson is 7-0 right now and we’re all lamenting about how the machine keeps running. A date in Raleigh is on the books next before facing off against Notre Dame in Death Valley.
5. Louisville (last week: Bye)
As big a drop as there is from 2 to 3, there’s probably an equal drop from 4 to 5 here. Since they were on a bye, I’ll rank Louisville on their total body of work so far this year... although outside of the win over Notre Dame, it’s really not that impressive, but the Cardinals get Duke this weekend to help change that.
6. Virginia Tech (last week: Bye)
Is VT the 6th best team in the ACC? Not a chance, but they’ve won two of their last three with the loss being at FSU. Placed here for now because I didn’t feel like going with 10-team tie for 5th place.
7. Virginia (last week: 31-27 W @ North Carolina)
Well done, Wahoos. Well done. Virginia overcame a couple dreadful red zone turnovers to top the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, quickly putting a turd in UNC’s undefeated punch bowl. The Cavaliers held UNC to just 4-of-15 combined on 3rd and 4th downs in the game to come up with the big stops it needed when it needed them. I wouldn’t expect Virginia to win many more games this year, but this was a huge win for Tony Elliott’s program - and one the coaching staff badly needed.
8. Boston College (last week: 38-23 W @ Georgia Tech)
So this Eagles team is going to go bowling. With three straight wins and games remaining against UConn, Syracuse, VT, and Pitt, there are definitely two wins remaining on the schedule. Considering where BC was after their loss at Louisville - or, heck, even after their wins over Virginia and Army - that didn’t seem possible. This was the first BC win this year where they had a postgame win expectancy hit 60% or greater (it was 89%).
9. NC State (last week: Bye)
Call this a speculative ranking because, 1) Duke’s defense is really good, and 2) NC State’s offense is probably somewhere in between what they showed against Marshall and Duke. NC State’s defense is good enough that a consistent 25-point effort from the offense will lead to more wins than losses.
10. Georgia Tech (last week: 23-38 L vs Boston College)
The Yellow Jackets continued their streak of alternating wins and losses by the week. So that’s good news for them coming off a loss. Next up is a home game against UNC. Giving up 563 yards to Boston College is not a good good sign. The Jackets need much better play from QB Haynes King. The Texas A&M transfer has been downright awful over the last two weeks, completing less than 46% of his passes while tossing five interceptions and just two TDs. He has rushed 20 times for 196 yards and a pair of TDs in that span, though, so he’s at least being productive.
11. Wake Forest (last week: 21-17 W vs Pittsburgh)
Wake probably shouldn’t have won that game. Actually, they absolutely should not have won that game. On a 3rd & 9 with 55 seconds left in the game, Pitt QB Christian Veilleux ran for a first down and then immediately slid to keep the clock running... except the side judge said he began his slide a yard shy of the first down marker, which was a garbage and incorrect call. Credit to Wake for making the most of that opportunity to drive for the winning score with just a matter of seconds remaining, but still. The Deacs have a brutal closing kick to the season with FSU, Duke, and Notre Dame still to go.
12. Pittsburgh (last week: 17-21 L @ Wake Forest)
The good news: Pitt topped 400 yards against an FBS opponent for the first time this year, and topped 300 yards for just the second time. The bad news: that still only resulted in 17 points on the board. The Panthers still should have won the game against the Deacs, but they also had a 32 yard punt and then gave up a 48-yard TD drive in 33 seconds with the game on the line. The other bad news: Like Wake, Pitt still has FSU, Duke, and Notre Dame to go, with the Irish up first.
13. Syracuse (last week: Bye)
The lone remaining 0-fer team in ACC play, the Orange head to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech next. If Syracuse used the bye week well, they could easily go on a 5-0 finishing kick to the season to end up as a 9-win team with a winning ACC mark. For now, they’ll slot here.
14. North Carolina (last week: 27-31 L vs Virginia)
Top 10 teams simply don’t lose home games against programs that haven’t beat an FBS team in 365 days. It used to be called “Clemsoning”, but should it be “Heeling” now? I did laugh at UNC going for it on a 4th & 12 from the Virginia 20 while down 4 with 3:12 remaining and all three timeouts left. Had they kicked the FG to cut it to a 1-point game there, they likely win. Instead, we all get to laugh. The Tar Heel defense that has lived on turnovers (tied for 8th in turnover margin but 66th in total defense) got a couple huge ones, but ultimately wasn’t able to force enough. Next up is a trip to Atlanta to play GT.