- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's too bad Duke doesn't play NC State, because then we could really settle who the best team in the state is this year. The ACC race remains as clear as mud as we head into Week 9, but the league's two ranked teams have held their ground the entire season. Despite Florida State's stronghold on the top spot, the Atlantic Division race is still wide open, as four teams have one league loss each. The Coastal Division race is a jumbled mess, as Virginia Tech and Miami both lost AGAIN, and could still win the division. For now, these are the ACC's teams to beat ...
1. Florida State (7-1, 4-1 ACC; LW: No. 1) -- The Seminoles got off to a slow start against Miami and overcame 12 penalties and five fumbles, two of which were lost, to beat the Canes 33-20. They’ll face a bowl-eligible Duke team this weekend and are looking for their third straight win.
2. Clemson (6-1, 3-1; LW: No. 2) -- The Tigers finally got a strong defensive performance and forced four turnovers in a 38-17 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday. The defense allowed a season-low in points to an FBS team and had three interceptions, but the Tigers have a quick turnaround, with a game against Wake Forest on Thursday night.
3. NC State (5-2, 2-1; LW: No. 3) -- It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t have to be. Coach Tom O’Brien snapped a 13-game road losing streak against Atlantic Division opponents with the 20-18 win at Maryland. The Wolfpack can control the ACC race, but will likely have to beat rival UNC in Chapel Hill this weekend.
4. Duke (6-2, 3-1; LW: No. 8) -- The Blue Devils were the feel-good story of college football in Week 8, as they became bowl eligible for the first time since 1994 and took the lead in the Coastal Division standings with a 33-30 win over rival North Carolina. Their toughest tests remain, as they now have back-to-back games against the ACC’s two ranked teams, FSU and Clemson.
5. North Carolina (5-3, 2-2; LW: No. 4) -- The Tar Heels let their lead slip away, as the defense couldn’t make the stops on Duke’s game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. UNC allowed 510 total yards and 234 yards rushing -- the most it has allowed this season. The Tar Heels have another tough in-state test this week against NC State, which has won the past five games in the series.
6. Miami (4-4, 3-2; LW: No. 7) -- The Hurricanes started strong against rival Florida State, but they faded down the stretch and have now lost three straight games. They’re still in the hunt to win the Coastal Division, but will have to beat Virginia Tech at home in a Thursday night game on Nov. 1.
7. Virginia Tech (4-4, 2-2; LW: No. 5) -- The Hokies started fast in Death Valley, but the offense was stifled in the third quarter and they couldn’t overcome three first-half turnovers. The defense played one of its best games of the season, but it wasn’t enough to overcome yet another stagnant offensive performance.
8. Maryland (4-3, 2-1; LW: No. 6) -- The loss to NC State might go down as the most heartbreaking of the season for the Terps, who gave a valiant effort despite the injury to starting quarterback Perry Hills. The already-depleted quarterback position is in flux, and Maryland still has to play Florida State and Clemson.
9. Wake Forest (4-3, 2-3; LW: No. 9) -- The Deacs couldn’t get anything going on offense, but the defense played well enough to beat Virginia 16-10. It was a critical win for keeping Wake’s bowl hopes alive, but they’ll have to find some offense quickly in order to stand a chance against Clemson on Thursday night.
10. Georgia Tech (3-4, 2-3; LW: No. 10) -- The win over BC was a complete performance and exactly what the Jackets needed after a turbulent bye week in which defensive coordinator Al Groh was fired, but Boston College is so bad it’s hard to really gauge any improvement from Georgia Tech. The Jackets took the first step in turning things around, but they’ve got to keep it up against BYU.
11. Virginia (2-6, 0-4; LW: No. 11) -- What has happened to this team? Most reasonable observers probably thought the Hoos would struggle a bit this year, but this is more like a face-plant. Quarterback play has been a problem, but so has just about everything else.
12. Boston College (1-6, 0-4; LW: No. 12) -- The Eagles have yet to beat an FBS team. They rank No. 112 in the country in rushing offense and No. 119 in rushing defense. Can’t run the ball. Can’t stop the run. Can’t win. Next ...
12hMatt Fortuna and Andrea Adelson