- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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With one month remaining in the regular season, there is a clear front-runner in the ACC -- Virginia Tech. The Hokies are no stranger to the No. 1 spot, but after starting the season 0-2, it didn't seem likely that's where they would end up. With upsets throughout the league this past week, the Hokies stayed safe with a bye week and moved up as others fell:
1. Virginia Tech (6-2, 4-0 ACC; LW: No. 2) – The Hokies are the lone team remaining undefeated in conference play, and have been the most consistent team since its Sept. 11 loss to James Madison. Virginia Tech has one of the most difficult schedules remaining, though, and it starts on Thursday night in Blacksburg against Georgia Tech.
2. NC State (6-2, 3-1; LW: No. 4) - The 28-24 win over Florida State has the Wolfpack bowl eligible and in position to win the Atlantic Division. Three of NC State’s final four games are on the road, though, including this weekend at Clemson.
3. Florida State (6-2, 4-1 ACC; LW: No. 1) – Quarterback Christian Ponder’s fumble in the fourth quarter was the difference in the game, and the game could be the difference in the Seminoles’ season. The good news for FSU is that three of the final four games are in Tallahassee, including the season finale against Florida.
4. Maryland (6-2, 3-1; LW: No. 6) – The bowl-eligible Terps can finally put last year’s 2-10 season behind them, but they’re still not satisfied, as the Atlantic Division title remains a realistic goal. The Terps still control their own destiny, as Florida State and NC State are still on the schedule. First, though, they’ve got a trip to Miami.
5. Miami (5-3, 3-2; LW: No. 3) – Two-loss teams have played in the ACC championship game before, but the Canes will need some help knocking the Hokies off their perch. Miami took a major step back in the Coastal Division race with its loss to Virginia, and injured quarterback Jacory Harris (concussion) is questionable for Saturday’s game against Maryland.
6. Clemson (4-4, 2-3; LW: No. 5) – The Tigers blew it. Clemson had a chance to get back in the Atlantic Division race but lost it with a 16-10 loss at Boston College. Now the Tigers will have to face a confident NC State team without leading rusher Andre Ellington, who will miss the next two games with a toe injury.
7. Georgia Tech (5-3, 3-2; LW: No. 7) – The Yellow Jackets have a tough task on Thursday in Blacksburg, as there are problems up front, in the passing game and on defense. It’s a well-coached team, though, that like Miami, isn’t out of it quite yet.
8. North Carolina (5-3, 2-2; LW: No. 8) – The Tar Heels were fortunate they didn’t lose to William & Mary on homecoming. It wasn’t pretty, but UNC was able to pull ahead in the fourth quarter for the win. It’s only going to get more difficult, though, starting this weekend at Florida State. If the Heels play as poorly as they did this past weekend, they might not win another game.
9. Virginia (4-4, 1-3; LW: No. 10) – It was a statement win for the program and the first ACC win for first-year coach Mike London. Virginia hasn’t quit once this season, so don’t expect it to down the stretch. Because the Cavaliers played two FCS opponents, only one counts toward bowl eligibility, so they need to win three of their last four to reach the postseason. Despite their effort, that’s still asking a lot.
10. Boston College (3-5, 1-4; LW: No. 11) – The Eagles surprised Clemson with a 16-10 win and suddenly bowl eligibility doesn’t seem so far-fetched. The Eagles have back-to-back road trips to Wake Forest and Duke before coming home to face Virginia. All three are winnable games.
11. Wake Forest (2-6, 1-4; LW: No. 9) – The Deacs looked hopeless and hapless in their 62-14 loss to Maryland, and the defense isn’t getting any better. It’s shaping up to be one of the most disappointing seasons under coach Jim Grobe.
12. Duke (2-6, 0-4; LW: No. 12) – The Blue Devils’ progress finally showed in the win column, and much of that can be attributed to a record-setting performance by quarterback Sean Renfree. Duke is still searching for its first ACC win, and could get it against Virginia this week if it continues to protect the ball and show improvement on defense.
3hDavid Ching and Edward Aschoff
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