Not a lot of movement in the power rankings this week. There was an interesting pattern, though: each team in the very well-defined top tier (VT, NCST, and FSU) visited a team in the very well-defined next tier (Miami, Maryland, and UNC). Each game turned out the same way: a close game decided in the final quarter that was ultimately won by the team higher in the power rankings. Sorry to spoil the surprise.
In the division race updates, Virginia Tech has clinched the Coastal. If N.C. State beats Maryland, the Wolfpack win the Atlantic. If they lose to Maryland, Florida State wins the Atlantic. Simple enough.
1. Virginia Tech Hokies (9-2, 7-0)
Last: W @ Miami, 31-17
The Hokies' road win over the Hurricanes wasn't quite as easy as the score would have you believe, but it wasn't that far off, either. It's also the most impressive win of the Hokies' schedule and one of the best that any ACC team possesses. With only lowly Virginia left on the schedule, in-conference perfection - a first for the expanded ACC - is on the horizon. Considering that the Atlantic still seems a mess, VT is looking like a very good bet to head to the Orange Bowl right now.
Next: vs. Virginia, 12:00, ESPN3.com
2. N.C. State Wolfpack (8-3, 5-2)
Last: W @ UNC, 29-25
Winning a rivalry game on the road against solid opposition is never an easy task, so you take a win any way you can get it. That includes a game when you give up 411 yards through the air and are held to only 275 total yards of your own, getting bailed out by an 87-yard punt return and a crazy tipped-then-caught prayer of a touchdown. You won't find any Wolfpack fans complaining about the outcome, and neither am I: UNC is for real, and winning at Chapel Hill is a tough task. Credit goes to the 'Pack's run defense, which held UNC to -7 yards on the ground.
Next: @ Maryland, 3:30, ESPN2
3. Florida State Seminoles (8-3, 6-2)
Last: W @ Maryland, 30-16
Don't let the score fool you: this one was a squeaker for Florida State. The Terps actually outgained FSU, and were an errant pass by Danny O'Brien on Maryland's final drive away from overtime. Their offense consisted of a lot of big plays and not much else, but the defense - which forced four turnovers - was enough to grab the win. But the Noles' destiny is no longer in their hands, and they'll become huge Maryland fans next week: they need the Terps to knock off N.C. State to earn a trip to Charlotte.
Next: vs. Florida, 3:30, ABC
4. Miami Hurricanes (7-4, 5-3)
Last: L vs. Virginia Tech, 31-17
Miami hung tough for three quarters against the ACC's best and the game was tied heading into the final stanza, but VT scored 14 in the fourth quarter and shut out Miami. The stat of the game was Miami's six turnovers, including three interceptions from freshman QB Stephen Morris. With a young, inexperienced QB against the most ball-hawking defense in the ACC, you can expect that to happen. Still, progress is being made in Coral Gables. Now, if they could just get some fans in the stadium, everything would be okay.
Next: vs. South Florida, 12:00, ESPNU
5. Maryland Terrapins (7-4, 4-3)
Last: L vs. Florida State, 30-16
Maryland hasn't really played a good team all year, with the exceptions of Clemson (which was a rather fluky game by both teams), West Virginia (which was before Danny O'Brien became quarterback) and Miami (which was without Jacory Harris came down to the final play). So, as I've been saying all year, we really didn't know how good this team was. We finally know: they came out and played FSU hard, nearly coming away with a victory. They got some unlucky bounces and some weird officiating, but in the end the four turnovers did Ralph Friedgen's squad in. Still, they weren't far away from winning this game, and it's safe to proclaim that this Maryland team is legit. Too bad it took this long to figure that out.
Next: vs. N.C. State, 3:30, ESPN2
6. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-5, 3-4)
Last: L vs. N.C. State, 29-25
UNC's running back injuries finally caught up to them: the Heels lost more yards on the ground than they gained, with a grand total of -7 on the day. QB T.J. Yates did his best to make up for it and proved himself the most prolific passer in UNC football history, but his 411 yards weren't quite enough to make up for two ridiculous N.C. State highlight plays late, including an unbelievable tipped touchdown catch. Still, six wins - with a very good chance to grab a seventh at Duke - is an undeniable success considering all the turmoil this team went through.
Next: @ Duke, 3:30, ESPNU
7. Clemson Tigers (6-5, 4-4)
Last: W @ Wake Forest, 30-10
Beating Wake Forest - one of the BCS conferences' worst teams - by 20 is nice, but not shocking. The stats - 142 yards on the ground from RB Jamie Harper, 15-17 passing by Kyle Parker - are impressive, but dampened slightly by WF's low standing. All in all, there's only so much you can really take from this game, but it was nice to see Dabo Swinney and his team take care of business. Quietly, Clemson's been one of the better teams in the ACC the past few weeks - 4-2 in the past six weeks, with the two wins coming by less than 7 points apiece. Actually, the worst loss that Clemson has suffered - 9 points at Miami when they had Jacory Harris - is very respectable. Had four plays turned out differently - and it wouldn't have taken much for any of them to have done so - this team could be 10-1 right now.
Next: @ South Carolina, 7:00, ESPN2
8. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-5, 4-4)
Last: W vs. Duke, 30-20
You have to feel good for GT, which finally pulled out a win after three straight losses. Sure, it was Duke. And at home. And only by 10 points. But something's better than nothing. They finally clinched bowl eligibility with the win, an important achievement considering they'll be a big underdog in the Hate Week matchup between with archrival Georgia in Athens.
Next: @ Georgia, 7:45, ESPN
9. Boston College Eagles (6-5, 4-4)
Last: W vs. Virginia, 17-13
Major props go out to BC, who have won their last four - admittedly, against mostly inferior competition - to get bowl eligible after a 2-4 start. The defense has been the only thing keeping this team alive the past few weeks, so perhaps it was fitting that it was the offense - particularly the ground game, led by star RB Montel Harris - that won the too-close-for-comfort win over UVA. Harris rushed for a game-high 114 yards and out-of-nowhere backup RB Andre Williams pitched in with 108 of his own. It's been quite the turnaround for BC, which will be going bowling for the 12th straight year.
Next: @ Syracuse, 12:00, ESPN
10. Duke Blue Devils (3-8, 1-6)
Last: L @ Georgia Tech, 30-20
Sean Renfree continues to be one of the more prolific QBs in the conference, but the running game that had kept Duke competitive the past few weeks was nowhere to be found against Georgia Tech, with the leading rushers of Brandon Connette and Jay Hollingsworth registering just 32 and 31 yards, respectively. There's still a nice little talent base on this team and they'll be better a few years down the road.
Next: vs. UNC, 3:30, ESPNU
11. Virginia Cavaliers (4-7, 1-6)
Last: L @ Boston College, 17-13
This loss is a tough one to swallow: the Cavs went on the road and outgained the Eagles, dropping upwards of 400 yards on a very good defense. But they still found a way to lose, giving up a variety of big plays to an inconsistent-at-best BC offense. That's now three straight losses and six of the last eight, with the Miami win and good showing at USC as the sole bright spots on the schedule.
Next: @ Virginia Tech, 12:00, ESPN3.com
12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-9, 1-7)
Last: L vs. Clemson, 30-10
Had it not been for two fourth-quarter scoring drives, Wake would've been shut out by Clemson and lost by 30, and that's kind of par for the course for Wake Forest this year. No one knows if Tanner Price is the guy at QB for the future and the previous bright spot, freshman RB Josh Harris, has faded. Hey, at least the men's basketball team has won 2 of their last 3 (against Elon, Winthrop, and Marist). Hey, beggars can't be choosers.
Next: @ Vanderbilt, 7:30, ESPN3.com
Game of the Week: N.C. State @ Maryland, 3:30, ESPN2
Quite simply, it's the only game left that matters. If Maryland wins, FSU goes to the ACC Championship Game. If N.C. State wins, the Wolfpack head to Charlotte. If you care about the ACC, you have to watch this game, or at least flip back and forth between this and whatever other game your fanhood carries you to.