- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Miami has been the ACC’s top team in the power ranking since this preseason and that hasn’t changed. The Hurricanes continued to prove worthy of it with their win at Clemson, going 2-1 in a difficult three-game stretch of road games. With its only loss coming on the road against Ohio State, Miami should be considered one of the top 15 teams in the country. The rest of the ACC? There was a bit of shuffling, including at the No. 2 spot where Clemson was bumped in favor of a Florida State team with some momentum. With Miami at No. 1 and Florida State at No. 2, it should make for an interesting Week 6 in South Florida. Here’s how the rest of the league shakes out:
1. Miami (3-1, 1-0 ACC, LW: No. 1) – The Hurricanes forced Clemson into six turnovers, quarterback Jacory Harris threw for four touchdowns and receiver Leonard Hankerson tied a school record with three touchdown receptions. There are still kinks to work out, but if Miami is playing its best football in November, look out for the Canes.
2. Florida State (4-1, 2-0 ACC, LW: No. 4) – Saturday will provide the Noles with their toughest competition since losing on the road to Oklahoma. Florida State dominated Virginia on the road and the defense has shown measurable improvement, but can it sustain it against Miami’s big-play offense?
3. Virginia Tech (3-2, 2-0 ACC, LW: No. 5) – The overall record isn’t impressive, but right now the conference record is what counts, and the Hokies are right where they usually are -- in position to make a run. The Hokies took advantage of NC State’s mistakes and should continue to build some momentum against Central Michigan.
4. NC State (4-1, 1-1 ACC, LW: No. 3) – It must’ve been torture for NC State to watch the game film of its loss to the Hokies, but most of those wounds were self-inflicted. The Pack blew a 17-point lead at home and life in the Top 25 was short-lived. NC State is still one of the teams to beat in the Atlantic Division.
5. Georgia Tech (3-2, 2-1 ACC, LW: No. 5) – Send your thank-you notes to Mr. Joshua Nesbitt. He was a driving force behind the Jackets’ come-from-behind win, but this clearly isn’t the same team that won the ACC title last year. Credit Wake Forest’s defense for stuffing the option for most of the game, but Georgia Tech also has had turnover trouble.
6. Maryland (4-1, 1-0 ACC, LW: No. 7) – The Terps are in a favorable position heading into the bye week, and they need the break to heal before traveling to Clemson. Maryland continues to find a way to win, even if it’s not earning any style points in the process. Two wins shy of bowl eligibility is a big turnaround from a year ago.
7. Clemson (2-2, 0-1 ACC, LW: No. 2) – The Tigers have to regroup after tough back-to-back losses, but they’re not out of it yet. Last year can serve as a reminder not to count Clemson out after a rocky start. It has to take care of the ball better, though, in order to have any chance at defending its division title. This isn’t a bad team, but it’s going to have to earn its way back into the top half of the ranking.
8. North Carolina (2-2, 0-1 ACC, LW: No. 10) – The Tar Heels had two 100-yard rushers for the first time in six years against a porous East Carolina defense and have back-to-back wins despite still missing 11 players because of the impending NCAA investigation. They’ve got the momentum and home-field advantage heading into Saturday’s game against Clemson.
9. Wake Forest (2-3, 1-2 ACC, LW: No. 9) – The Deacs lost another heartbreaker to Georgia Tech, the second straight year the game has come down to the wire (last year’s was in overtime). The defense can take pride in its performance, but the quarterbacks are banged up.
10. Boston College (2-2, 0-1 ACC, LW: No. 11) – The Eagles couldn’t stop Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist, and freshman quarterback Chase Rettig was injured early. BC needs a quick fix on offense as it has back-to-back road trips against Atlantic Division opponents up next.
11. Virginia (2-2, 0-1 ACC, LW: No. 6) – FSU exposes weaknesses that two FCS schools and USC didn’t, and after USC’s loss to Washington, the Cavaliers' performance on the road seems less impressive. Saturday’s 34-14 loss to the Noles was a reality check, but there’s still a lot of football left.
12. Duke (1-4, 0-2 ACC, LW: No. 12) – The Blue Devils sunk a little farther with their loss at Maryland, as they were unable to hold onto a 9-0 lead. The prospects of a bowl appearance look grim.