ACC Football Power Rankings, Week 9: Resurgent Clemson On The Rise

There's not a lot of movement toward the top of the conference, but Clemson is slowly making their case as an elite ACC team.

The best team in the ACC had a bye. The second best team in the ACC played Duke, which isn't much different. Last week's No. 4 team was inactive, too. The supposed "game of the week" was a whitewash. They all combine to result in a relatively static power rankings, influenced mostly by Clemson's surprising rise.

Luckily, we don't even need to wait until Saturday to get an influx of excitement, as we get treated to a Thursday night game that should decide the ACC title race. Until then, though, read up on the Week 9 SB Nation D.C. ACC football power rankings:

1. Florida St. Seminoles (6-1, 4-0)

Last: Bye

The Seminoles didn't play on Saturday, and Virginia Tech's light fare of opponent guaranteed that the Noles would hold on to their spot for at least another week. Quarterback Christian Ponder had been struggling with an elbow injury lately and used the week to get healthy again, which is a good sign for FSU and a bad one for everyone else. They take on N.C. State tomorrow in a game that will likely decide the fate of the Atlantic Division. That's the start of a brutal finishing slate, including games against UNC, Clemson, and Florida.

Next: at N.C. State, 7:30 (Thursday), ESPN

2. Virginia Tech Hokies (6-2, 4-0)

Last: W vs. Duke, 44-7

The Hokies kept on rolling on Saturday, with Duke providing little more than a minor speed-bump to VT's sixth consecutive win. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was hyper-efficient, throwing for 280 yards and three TDs on just 17 attempts, and the Hokies' pass defense held a once-potent passing game to just 116 yards. Tech has won six straight for the first time since 2006, but the six teams they beat have a combined record of just 17-26. They've hit their stride against poor opposition, but the question is if they'll be able to keep it up once competition rises. 

Next: Bye

3. Miami Hurricanes (5-2, 3-1)

Last: W vs. North Carolina, 33-10

Miami's been looking for a truly impressive win since the season started, and they got one on Saturday by easily dealing with a resurgent UNC. Quarterback Jacory Harris is slowly returning to form and running Damien Berry has quietly had a four-game streak of 100 yard performances. Most impressive was the defense, which looked like "the U" days of yore, holding the Heels to fewer than 150 passing yards. With Virginia Tech still on the slate, Miami's ACC title hopes remain alive and in their own hands.

Next: @ Virginia, 12:00, ESPN/ESPN3.com

4. Clemson Tigers (4-3, 2-2)

Last: W vs.  Georgia Tech, 27-13

No, neither Maryland nor Georgia Tech are world-beaters. Yes, both of those games were at home. But Clemson's now at .500 in the ACC and a darkhorse division contender just weeks after the Tigers (and head coach Dabo Swinney) looked dead in the water. They didn't look great against Maryland, particularly offensively, but they answered plenty of questions with a 166-yard, three TD performance from running back Andre Ellington against Georgia Tech. Meanwhile, defensive end Da'Quan Bowers has all but cemented his status as an All-American. With N.C. State and FSU still on the schedule, the Tigers should be relishing the chance to play spoiler - and maybe make a run of their own.

Next: @ Boston College, 12:00, ESPN3.com

5. N.C. State Wolfpack (5-2, 2-1)

Last: Bye

Tom O'Brien's squad got an extra week to stew over that disappointing loss to East Carolina. But it probably couldn't have come at a better time: the Wolfpack play host to FSU on Thursday in what should be the deciding game in the ACC Atlantic race. After a poor showing by FSU against BC, there's legitimate hope for that the Pack can pull off the upset.

Next: vs. Florida State, 7:30 (Thursday), ESPN

6. North Carolina Tar Heels (4-3, 2-2)

Last: L @ Miami, 33-10

UNC looked undeniably bad against Miami, but the Hurricanes are one of the most talented teams in the country and the Heels were without several of their best players, like linebacker Quan Sturdivant and safety Da'Norris Searcy, due to injury. With a glut of impressive wins on their resume, including Clemson, Rutgers, and beat-downs of ECU and UVA, a sole road loss to a top-25 team isn't going to kill the Heels' ranking. The injuries, plus the well-publicized suspensions, are starting to add up, but some help is on the way: star cornerback Kendrick Burney's now back with the team. I still think a healthy UNC team will be one of the better in the conference. The problem, then, is getting healthy.

Next: vs. William & Mary, 3:30, ESPN3.com

7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-3, 3-2)

Last: L @ Clemson, 27-13

The Jackets came away with fewer points than they should've had thanks to a few untimely stalls in the red zone, but the running gamefailed: it was held under 250 yards (for GT, that's not good) and was kept out of the end zone. More problematically, quarterback Joshua Nesbitt has raised some serious questions about his passing ability. Throwing the ball isn't a big part of their offense, but Nesbitt didn't help matters: he was just 3-12 in the first half, including a variety of incompletions on 3rd downs and near the goal line. The closest thing GT has to a marquee win is UNC, and that was a close game early in the year. The jackets are getting dangerously close to being passed by a more productive Maryland team.

Next: Bye

8. Maryland Terrapins (5-2, 2-1)

Last: W @ Boston College, 24-21

Yeah, the Terps needed great field position to score at all and played against a terribly inconsistent, unimpressive Boston College team. They needed a few more timely late stops to get out of Chestnut Hill with a win. And they still have no running game. But this was a game that Maryland would've almost certainly lost last year, so there's progress being made. Quarterback Danny O'Brien is emerging as a potential front-runner for ACC Rookie of the Year and safety Kenny Tate has quietly been one of the better defensive backs in the country. With Wake Forest on the schedule, there's a good chance Maryland gets bowl-eligible on Saturday; considering where the Terps were this time last year, that's pretty impressive.

Next: vs. Wake Forest, 3:30, ESPNU

9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-5, 1-3)

Last: Bye

The best thing that could've happened to Wake Forest happened: they didn't play. That way, I - and everyone else - didn't get reminded of how bad they are. This isn't a good team, but they're still the only one of the bottom four with an ACC win. For now, that's good enough for No. 9 in the ACC. The future still isn't bright with Maryland, N.C. State, and Clemson still on the schedule, but at least running back Josh Harris' 241 yards against VT get more impressive every day.

Next: @ Maryland, ESPNU

10. Virginia Cavaliers (3-4, 0-3)

Last: W vs. Eastern Michigan, 48-21

I'm setting a dangerous precedent here, because all that UVA did to get a rankings bump was winning their first FBS game of the season over a team that's still winless. They weren't even particularly impressive. Sure, quarterback Marc Verica had 203 passing yards and Jimmy Howell threw a cool fake punt, but the Hoos also allowed 290 rushing yards. I'm not a huge fan of easy victories changing teams' rankings, but at this point I guess there's no such thing as an easy victory. Props, plus a small rankings boost, to UVA for taking care of business.

Next: vs. Miami, 12:00, ESPN/ESPN3.com

11. Boston College Eagles (2-5, 0-4)

Last: L vs. Maryland, 24-21

I was so disappointed with Boston College. I had so furiously convinced myself that the Eagles were on the rise, that they were victims of a brutal early schedule and that the good play against Florida State was the beginning of their comeback. I was certain that they were going to beat Maryland. Then that. BC not only lost to the Terps, they looked poor in the process. Running Montel Harris, Mr. Never Fumble, fumbled. Quarterback Chase Rettig still has little to work with, but his two interceptions and all-around average day didn't help matters. Throw in three injured defensive starters and, well, it's not good.

Next: vs. Clemson, 12:00, ESPN3.com

12. Duke Blue Devils (1-6, 0-4)

Last: L @ Virginia Tech, 44-7

The Blue Devils never really stood a chance against the Hokies in Lane Stadium. Quarterback Sean Renfree disappointed, throwing for just 116 yards on 12-32, and there's still no running game. After games against Miami and VT, the schedule lightens up only slightly as the Dukies go up against Navy next. That's the same Midshipman team that's won three in a row, including a romp over Notre Dame. There might be light on the horizon somewhere, but it's far off in the distance.

Next: @ Navy, 3:30, CBS College Sports

Game of the Week: FSU @ N.C. State, 7:30 (Thursday), ESPN

Thursday night games are usually entertaining, but they're even better when they include two good teams fighting for ACC Atlantic supremacy. The winner of this will likely take the entire division. Even though N.C. State just lost to ECU, they should have a shot: it'll be played at Carter-Finley and the Noles have shown a few chinks in the armor lately.

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