Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
I thought some separation was starting to occur in September, but this past weekend’s results threw that off. Everyone is beating everyone again, and so far, only Virginia Tech has set itself apart. There wasn’t much movement in the bottom rankings, but everyone else got shuffled. One reader asked me to include the previous week’s ranking, so that’s what LW stands for in each of these -- last week. Here’s how it looks heading into Week 5 and the month of October:
1. Virginia Tech (3-1, 1-0 ACC, LW: No. 2): The Hokies put together their most complete game this season, and if they continue to run the ball that effectively the rest of the season and clamp down on defense, there’s no reason to think the Hokies can’t be in the mix for the national title with one loss. The only three teams that are the clear-cut front-runners on the national level right now are Florida, Texas and Alabama. After that, it’s an open invitation.
2. Miami (2-1,2-1, LW: No. 1): The Hurricanes could have made a lot of excuses -- they were down two starters on defense and a driving rain made it more difficult to execute their offense. But the fact is Virginia Tech looked like the better team and the Canes learned a tough lesson on the road. The challenge now is to respond this week against Oklahoma.
3. Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-1, LW: No. 6): That’s what the Yellow Jackets’ offense looks like when they execute -- capable of controlling the clock and paving the way for Jonathan Dwyer. And with an extra linebacker helping out on defense, Georgia Tech smothered UNC’s offense this past weekend. With wins over Clemson and North Carolina, Georgia Tech is off to a good early start in the conference race.
4. NC State (3-1, LW: No. 8): The gritty win over Pittsburgh revealed that NC State is a more complete team than it looked after season opener, and anyone who’s been paying attention to South Carolina can see that loss wasn’t so bad after all. Now, on a three-game winning streak, the Pack have to continue that momentum at Wake Forest this week.
5. Florida State (2-2, 0-1, LW: No. 3): This program is not where it needs to be, plain and simple. Everything from coaching to execution has been questionable so far, and who knows what sort of finger-pointing might be going on internally at this point. But if Florida State is going to contend for the ACC title this year, it has to show up for every game, not the ones it feels like, starting Saturday at Boston College.
6. Clemson: (2-2, 1-1, LW: No. 5): The Tigers don’t look like they’ve made any dramatic turnaround offensively since the days of Rob Spence and Tommy Bowden, which leads me to believe it’s not the X's and O's, it’s the Jimmys and Joes. This is the team Dabo Swinney has to work with, though, and considering the weaknesses throughout the rest of the Atlantic Division, he can still win with it -- especially if that defense keeps it up.
7. North Carolina (3-1, 0-1, LW No. 4): Georgia Tech exposed the Tar Heels for what they aren’t -- a Top 25 team. The defense, which had drawn so much praise in three nonconference games, couldn’t get off the field for 42 minutes against Georgia Tech. The offense couldn’t sustain a drive. Not a good combination for a team trying to contend for the Coastal Division, as they start a step behind.
8. Boston College (3-1, 1-1, LW No. 9): This is what the Eagles do -- prove their doubters wrong. BC was embarrassed by its performance against Clemson and played with something to prove in an overtime win against Wake Forest. Check the Atlantic Division standings. BC is right where it left off in 2008. And 2007. At the top.
9. Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1, LW No. 7): The Deacs’ youth on defense was exposed by first-year BC quarterback Dave Shinskie, and despite Riley Skinner’s best efforts, a busted play in overtime left Wake Forest in an early hole in the Atlantic Division standings.
10. Duke (2-2, LW: No. 10): The Blue Devils remain status quo after handing NC Central a lopsided loss. The competition will increase exponentially, though, when Virginia Tech visits Durham this weekend.
11. Maryland (1-3, LW No. 11): With their only win coming in overtime against James Madison, it’s no secret the Terps have some problems. The thing is, they’re not even giving themselves a chance to win. Maryland has given up 61 points off turnovers this month. That’s more than some teams allow in a whole season.
12. Virginia (0-3, LW No. 12): The bye week came at a perfect time for the Cavaliers, and the only way to go from this point is up.