Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
There’s starting to be a pattern here. At the top, anyway. At the bottom? It’s a whole new world in the ACC. Brace yourself:
1. Virginia Tech (5-1, 3-0 ACC; LW: No. 1) -- Nobody in the ACC is playing as well as the Hokies are right now. Against Boston College, they looked capable of beating anyone. With their only loss being to Alabama, the ACC finally has a true national title contender.
2. Miami (4-1, 2-1; LW: No. 2) -- The Canes showed signs of maturity on Saturday by continuing to play like a top-10 team instead of playing down to their opponent, Florida A&M. If they keep that focus and discipline each week, there’s no reason the ACC shouldn’t have two teams in BCS bowls this year.
3. Georgia Tech (5-1, 3-1; LW: No. 3) -- At some point, those defensive problems are going to catch up with the Jackets, but because Florida State’s defense was worse, they got away with it in Tallahassee. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt has this offense running smoothly now, though.
4. Wake Forest (4-2, 2-1; LW: No. 5) -- The Deacs are suddenly the frontrunners in the Atlantic Division, and the reason for it is because the offense is much better than it was a year ago. The entire team, including a young defense, has rallied around veteran quarterback Riley Skinner.
5. Boston College (4-2, 2-2; LW: No. 4) -- The only reason the Eagles are still in the top half of the rankings this week is because two of their wins were against Wake Forest and Florida State, both Atlantic Division opponents (nobody ranked below them has two conference wins). After the way they played against Virginia Tech, though, they should be a few spots lower. They can take some solace in the fact they were embarrassed by a top-5 team.
6. Virginia (2-3, 1-0; LW: No. 11) -- Indiana isn’t a great team, but it’s still a program that almost beat Michigan on the road and played a semi-respectable game against Ohio State. And Virginia gave the Hoosiers and old fashioned whoopin’ on Saturday with a 47-7 win. After wins over UNC and IU, the Cavs have earned back some respect.
7. Clemson (2-3, 1-2; LW: No. 7) -- The Tigers had a bye week but are below the Cavs because Virginia’s wins were over a Big Ten team and a Coastal Division opponent on the road. The Tigers beat Middle Tennessee and Boston College at home, and had an unacceptable loss to Maryland. We’ll see if the break paid off this weekend when Clemson hosts Wake Forest in a key Atlantic Division game.
8. North Carolina (4-2, 0-2; LW: No. 9) -- Wins over East Carolina (3-3) and Connecticut (3-2) aren’t carrying much clout anymore. The Tar Heels beat Georgia Southern soundly, and got more points from their offense AND their defense in the process. But doubts remain after a poor start in Coastal Division play. UNC has a bye week to continue working.
9. Duke (3-3, 1-1; LW: No. 12) -- Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis put on a one-man show in the Blue Devils’ win over NC State, and Duke showed improvement in all facets of the game, including defense. The question now is can the Blue Devils keep it up? Maryland is next on the schedule, which leads me to believe yes, they can. Before Duke skyrockets in the rankings, let's see some consistency against better opponents than Army and NC Central.
10. NC State (3-3, 0-2; LW: No. 6) -- Russell Wilson can’t do it all, especially when the Pack’s secondary is holding the door open for opposing quarterbacks. The most impressive win on NC State’s resume is against Pitt, but it’s the conference play that counts, and the Pack are off to another poor start there in Tom O’Brien’s third season.
11. Maryland (2-4, 1-1; LW: No. 10) -- Quarterback Chris Turner has been sacked 22 times. It’s amazing he’s still walking. Skinner had his way with the Terps’ secondary, and the defense allowed 516 total yards. Right now, Clemson is Ralph Friedgen’s best friend.
12. Florida State (2-4, 0-3: LW: No. 8) -- I warned you to brace yourself. Look, no other team in the conference is off to a worse start in ACC play. Maryland is the only other team that has four overall losses. This program doesn’t get by on its name -- or Bobby Bowden’s -- when it comes to winning football games. This is just the beginning of a downward spiral in Tallahassee.