- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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If everyone who lost this past weekend dropped in the rankings this week, three of the top four teams would lose their spots, as NC State, Florida State and Maryland all stumbled. It’s around this time where it gets tougher to give credit to head-to-head results.
The bottom line is this: There’s only one team that has separated itself from the rest of the pack, and that’s Virginia Tech, which is the only team still undefeated in conference play. This month is more about the race for No. 2, and right now, it’s whoever wants it the most.
Here’s a look at how the ACC stacks up this week:
1. Virginia Tech (7-2, 5-0 ACC; LW: No. 1) -- The Hokies weren’t flawless against Georgia Tech -- they allowed 426 yards -- but they were good enough to win. They’ve been the most consistent team in the ACC since their Sept. 11 loss to James Madison, but back-to-back road trips against North Carolina and Miami could be traps in the Coastal Division race.
2. NC State (6-3, 3-2; LW: No. 2) -- The Wolfpack couldn’t take advantage of Clemson’s numerous mistakes, and made one too many of their own. Fortunately for NC State, so did everyone else in the hunt for the division title.
3. Florida State (6-3, 4-2 ACC; LW: No. 3) -- Two words: Wide right. Once again, a missed field goal was the difference, and it could come back to haunt the Seminoles in the final standings. Florida State hosts Clemson this weekend, and the Tigers just proved anything is possible with their win over NC State.
4. Miami (6-3, 4-2; LW: No. 5) -- The Hurricanes are still hanging on, and they’re doing it with a true freshman quarterback in Stephen Morris. The defense is good, but is it disciplined enough to handle Georgia Tech this week? Is the entire team disciplined enough to win? Miami had 10 penalties for 100 yards against Maryland.
5. Maryland (6-3, 3-2; LW: No. 4) -- The Terps’ defense made several game-changing plays against Miami, but couldn’t make the stops when they needed to most and failed to capitalize on Miami’s numerous mistakes. Maryland allowed Miami possession for almost 37 minutes.
6. North Carolina (6-3, 3-2; LW: No. 8) -- This team has nine lives. At least. The Tar Heels are still finding ways to win, but now they’ve lost their injured leading rusher, Johnny White, for the rest of the season. Can they continue to win without him this week against the best team in the ACC?
7. Clemson (5-4, 3-3; LW: No. 6) -- The Tigers won’t quit, but they should be taking the defense out to dinner every night this week. The offense, for all of the experience and talent on it, isn’t going anywhere fast. And quarterback Kyle Parker is getting mixed signals from his coaches. The offense will need to be much more productive in Tallahassee this weekend.
8. Georgia Tech (5-4, 3-3; LW: No. 7) -- The Yellow Jackets lost one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC when starting quarterback Joshua Nesbitt broke his right forearm against Virginia Tech last Thursday. Backup Tevin Washington had a valiant effort, but his interception in the end zone sealed the win for the Hokies.
9. Boston College (4-5, 2-4; LW: No. 10) -- The Eagles will hit the road for the second straight week, but they’ll take something with them that Duke has been missing -- defense. BC has to win two of its next three to become bowl eligible, and this is one of its best shots.
10. Duke (3-6, 1-4; LW: No. 12) -- Duke earned its first conference win of the season over Virginia, and will have home field advantage again this weekend against Boston College. The Blue Devils have enough offense to win, but stopping Montel Harris will be a tough task.
11. Virginia (4-5, 1-4; LW: No. 9) -- The Cavaliers weren’t able to build on their momentum from the upset of Miami and fell on the road to Duke, making the third straight year they’ve lost to the Blue Devils. Virginia’s three turnovers and 11 penalties were the difference in the game.
12. Wake Forest (2-7, 1-5; LW: No. 11) -- Well, this is a first for coach Jim Grobe, at least as long as I’ve been covering the ACC. It’s impossible for the Deacs to become bowl eligible now, and with a road trip to NC State looming, it doesn’t look like things are going to get much better soon.
If everyone who lost this past weekend dropped in the rankings this week, three of the top four teams would lose their spots, as NC State, Florida State and Maryland all stumbled.