Can we fast-forward to the Georgia Tech-Clemson game? It would really help settle the No. 1 position here. Until they meet head-to-head, though, Clemson gets my vote because it has the stronger résumé, having become the first team in ACC history to defeat three straight ranked opponents -- including one on the road. It’s a great start for the Tigers and the Yellow Jackets, who are clearly once again the two best teams in the ACC. Déjà vu, anyone?
No changes at the top this week, and only one change overall:
1. Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC; LW: No. 1) – The Tigers beat Virginia Tech 20-3 in Lane Stadium and held the Hokies without a touchdown on their home field for the first time since 1995. It was also the first time Clemson beat Virginia Tech since 1989. The Tigers were the more complete team.
2. Georgia Tech (5-0, 2-0; LW: No. 2) – The Yellow Jackets earned a road win with their 45-35 victory over NC State. The Jackets are 5-0 for the first time since 1990, and their offense is one of the best in the country.
3. Virginia Tech (4-1, 0-1; LW: No. 3) – The Hokies’ problems on offense, namely up front and in the passing game, were exposed in the loss to Clemson. Following the game, those within the program were confident they’re still a championship-caliber team, but they’ve got to rebound this weekend against Miami.
4. North Carolina (4-1, 1-1; LW: No. 5) – The Tar Heels get bumped up a notch this week because of an important road win at East Carolina. They avoided a letdown and got impressive performances from quarterback Bryn Renner and tailback Giovani Bernard.
5. Florida State (2-2, 0-1; LW: No. 4) – The Seminoles had a bye week and they needed one to get several key players healthy, including starting quarterback EJ Manuel. The Noles travel to Wake Forest this weekend, and it’s not a gimme. FSU can’t afford another loss in the Atlantic Division race, and believe it or not, the Deacs have the edge right now.
6. Wake Forest (3-1, 2-0; LW: No. 6) – The Deacs continue to quietly improve and got another leg up in the Atlantic Division race with their win at Boston College. It will be a much bigger challenge this weekend, though, as they host Florida State, which had the bye week to prepare. We’ll find out on Saturday if Wake Forest is truly a sleeper in this conference race.
7. Miami (2-2, 0-1; LW: No. 7) – The Hurricanes got off to another flat start against Bethune-Cookman, but rebounded and got the win they needed. The Canes travel to Blacksburg this weekend for an important Coastal Division matchup for both teams.
8. Maryland (2-2, 1-0; LW: No. 8) – It was another lackluster win against an unheralded Towson team, but the Terps won and took a step toward putting that ugly Temple loss behind them. Unfortunately for Maryland, it only gets harder with three straight games against ranked opponents. Can they pull a Clemson? Methinks not.
9. Duke (3-2, 1-0; LW: No. 9) – After a poor start with a loss to FCS Richmond, Duke has since rebounded and put together three straight wins. They’re halfway to bowl eligibility, but the easiest part of their schedule is behind them, and there was nothing easy about any of those wins. Duke has a bye week to prepare for Florida State.
10. Virginia (3-2, 0-1; LW: No. 10) – The Cavaliers needed overtime to beat Idaho. That says it all. This team is still plagued by turnovers and penalties, but it has a bye week to work on those issues AND prepare for Georgia Tech’s offense. They might need more than a week.
11. NC State (2-3, 0-2; LW: No. 11) – Yikes. The Wolfpack are sinking fast this year. Hard to believe they were a nine-win team and ranked at the end of 2010, and it’s impossible to ignore the success former quarterback Russell Wilson is having with Wisconsin. NC State fans must be going mad.
12. Boston College (1-4, 0-2; LW: No. 12) – And now they’re supposed to win at Clemson? It looks like a daunting task for the Eagles, who are last in the ACC in scoring offense, total offense and passing efficiency. Sorry, but linebacker Luke Kuechly can only do so much.