This might be a first. Has to be. I can’t remember another time that there wasn’t any movement in the power rankings. This is the exact same lineup from a week ago, and yet we still don’t know for sure who’s in the ACC championship game. Half of the equation appears to be solved with Virginia Tech’s hold over the Coastal Division standings, but it’s not over until the Hokies win one more game. Congrats to the Atlantic Division for redeeming itself from last week. Florida State, Maryland and NC State all took care of business and kept things interesting. In the Coastal Division, so did Miami. Georgia Tech? Not so much. Here’s a look at how the ACC stacks up heading into Week 12:
1. Virginia Tech (8-2, 6-0 ACC; LW: No. 1): The Hokies further distanced themselves from the rest of the ACC with their 26-10 win against North Carolina. The Hokies need only to win one of their final two games to clinch the Coastal Division, but they’ve got a tough road trip at Miami looming. Virginia Tech will have to play better against the run more consistently in this game in order to win.
2. NC State (7-3, 4-2 ACC; LW: No. 2): Led by another impressive performance by quarterback Russell Wilson, the Wolfpack picked apart the Wake defense in a 38-3 win. NC State can win the division if it wins out, but first has to get past rival North Carolina in Chapel Hill this weekend. Tom O’Brien has won the past three games against Butch Davis, but this year, there’s more on the line.
3. Florida State (7-3, 5-2 ACC; LW: No. 3): After losing back-to-back heartbreakers in the previous two weeks, the Seminoles found a way to come out on top – kicker Dustin Hopkins. A week after missing the game-winning field goal in the loss to North Carolina, Hopkins redeemed himself with a 55-yard game-winner as time expired against Clemson. The Seminoles are back atop the Atlantic Division standings heading into Saturday’s game at Maryland.
4. Miami (7-3, 5-2; LW: No. 4): The Hurricanes kept their slim Coastal Division hopes alive by beating Georgia Tech for the second straight year, but the Hurricanes have to win out and hope the Hokies lose their next two games in order to win the division. Miami hosts Virginia Tech on Saturday and will need another strong performance from the running game.
5. Maryland (7-3, 4-2; LW: No. 5): Maryland’s offense is hitting its stride at just the right time, thanks in large part to quarterback Danny O’Brien. The Terps were able to snap Virginia’s three-game winning streak in the series, and they did it in Charlottesville, keeping their ACC title hopes alive. Maryland needs to win out in order to win the division, but the Terps close out their schedule with their top competition, starting Saturday against the Seminoles.
6. North Carolina (6-4, 3-3 ACC; LW: No. 6): Despite an impressive performance by backup running back Anthony Elzy, the Tar Heels were doomed by their season-high six turnovers in the loss to Virginia Tech. They’ll have to settle for a bowl game as a consolation prize this year, but even that is an accomplishment considering the off-field distractions the program has had to overcome. Of course, playing the role of spoiler for rival NC State this weekend would also be gratifying for the Heels.
7. Clemson (5-5, 3-4; LW: No. 7): The Tigers couldn’t make the stops when they had to (namely in the second half when FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel started running the option), and once again, there were problems in the kicking game. A missed field goal and a blocked field goal came back to haunt the Tigers in the fourth quarter. Their hopes at defending their division title were also blocked.
8. Georgia Tech (5-5, 3-4; LW: No. 8): The Yellow Jackets couldn’t stop Miami’s quartet of running backs, nor could they force rookie quarterback Stephen Morris into any critical mistakes. The Yellow Jackets are still searching for bowl eligibility and have now lost three straight games for the first time under coach Paul Johnson.
9. Boston College (5-5, 3-4; LW: No. 9): Frank Spaziani’s defense rose to the occasion again, as defensive end Max Holloway got his hand on Duke quarterback Sean Renfree’s fourth-down pass to preserve the Eagles’ win. They’re one win away from bowl eligibility now with Virginia and Syracuse – both beatable teams – still on the schedule.
10. Virginia (4-6, 1-5; LW: No. 10): The Cavaliers scored on a fake field goal, but that was the highlight of their offensive performance. The defense couldn’t keep D.J. Adams out of the end zone, or slow down quarterback Danny O’Brien. Virginia lost its chance at becoming bowl eligible in Mike London’s first season.
11. Duke (3-7, 1-5; LW: No. 11): The Blue Devils will have to wait another year for another chance at the postseason, as the loss to Boston College put them out of contention for bowl eligibility. Duke can still make a foundation to build upon by closing its season with wins against Georgia Tech and rival North Carolina.
12. Wake Forest (2-8, 1-6; LW: No. 12): The Deacs appeared to make a little bit of progress – at least defensively early when they were able to hold NC State in a 3-3 tie, but the game is four quarters, not one. They’ll catch Clemson when the Tigers are down this week, but it will be tough for Jim Grobe’s team to match that talent and speed.