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ACC Power Rankings, Week 12: Virginia Tech Hokies Remain on Top

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As things get clearer in the ACC, there's not a lot of change at the top: Virginia Tech remains the ACC's best team.

In the big picture, Virginia Tech has essentially sealed the ACC Coastal title. Resurgent Miami is the only team still alive in that race, and they need to not only beat the Hokies on Saturday but also hope for the Hokies to lose to Virginia in their finale. That's doubtful to say the least.

Meanwhile, the ACC Atlantic is a little more complicated. Both N.C. State and Maryland control their own destiny: if either wins their final two games, they win the ACC Atlantic. Florida State needs to win their ACC finale against Maryland and hope for an N.C. State loss. It can get a lot more complicated, but that covers the most plausible scenarios for the moment.

In the power rankings world, everything's starting to shake out, making most of the rankings pretty clear. Unsurprisingly, the top team remains the same:

1. Virginia Tech Hokies (8-2, 6-0)

Last:W @ North Carolina, 26-10

I know it, you know, everyone knows it: Virginia Tech is the best team in the ACC. Had they not lost to James Madison earlier in the year, they're probably a top 10 team. No, they aren't the Great ACC Football Hope - at least not this year's iteration of the team - but they're the best in the conference and it's not really debatable. UNC outplayed the Hokies for a quarter before losing the lead in the second half and not putting up much of a fight afterwards. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor isn't perfect and the offense still has some bumps in the road, but any defense that can force six turnovers is good enough to make up for a merely above-average offense.

Next: @ Miami, 3:30, ESPN/

2. N.C. State Wolfpack (7-3, 4-2)

Last: W vs. Wake Forest, 38-3

The difference between two and four has dwindled to basically nothing, and is the only real thing left to figure out in the ACC's big picture. For now, the Wolfpack remain just barely in the No. 2 spot. Quarterback Russell Wilson was outstanding against Wake Forest in what was a pretty easy win, but the lead was only seven (10-3, if'n you're wondering) heading into halftime. The rushing game (only 59 yards, most of which came from Wilson) is a problem, too. But they have the best ACC win in the group (over Florida State) and did, after all, just beat their last opponent by 35, which is impressive, Wake Forest or not.

Next: @ UNC, 12:00,

3. Florida State Seminoles (7-3, 5-2)

Last: W vs. Clemson, 16-13

What a time for kicker Dustin Hopkins to come through. After losing two straight heartbreakers, one of which was caused by Hopkins, the maligned kicker nailed an incredible 55-yard walkoff field goal - the first walkoff in Florida State history - to squeak out a win over Clemson. Meantime, quarterback Christian Ponder (finally) sat to heal his injured elbow. His replacement, former five-star QB E.J. Manuel, was decent through the air and sensational on the ground, but Ponder should be ready to go before the Noles take on Maryland with the ACC Atlantic title on the line.

Next: @ Maryland, 8:00, ABC

4. Miami Hurricanes (7-3, 5-2)

Last: W @ Georgia Tech, 35-10

Count me in as a Stephen Morris believer, if there's any more room in that group. He only attempted 18 passes against Georgia Tech, but completed 10 of them for an efficient 230 yards and one touchdown. It probably wasn't a bad idea by Randy Shannon to declare him the starter against Virginia Tech. Granted, he got a lot of help from Miami's five-some of running backs - Lamar Miller, Damien Berry, Mike James, Storm Johnson, and Graig Cooper - whom combined for 259 yards and four TDs. The Hurricanes have won two straight in semi-convincing fashion since losing to Virginia and losing Jacory Harris; with Tech up next, they've suddenly worked their way back into the ACC Coastal picture, if only on the margins.

Next: vs. Virginia Tech, 3:30, ESPN

5. Maryland Terrapins (7-3, 4-2)

Last: W @ Virginia, 42-23

Maryland's still yet to beat a good team, and they're still yet to lose a game they really shouldn't have lost (Clemson, Miami, and WVU are all excusable). That makes it really tough to figure out exactly where they stand in the big picture, but for now they're still technically a contender, considering they do control their own destiny. Redshirt freshman quarterback Danny O'Brien has been the key to Maryland's success: he's been extraordinarily efficient, taken care of the ball, and has won a ridiculous four ACC Rookie of the Week awards in just seven starts. A night game against FSU for the right to play for the ACC Atlantic title against N.C. State should be enough to pull off the improbable: get College Park excited for football during basketball season.

Next: vs. Florida State, 8:00, ABC

6. Clemson Tigers (5-5, 3-4)

Last: L @ Florida St., 16-13

If Dustin Hopkins chooses the Clemson game instead of the UNC game to suddenly lose his otherwise omnipresent accuracy, or if their own kicker hit better than 50 percent on his four FG attempts, Clemson gets out of Tallahassee with a win. That's not an easy thing to do, no matter whether have the Heisman candidate (Ponder) or the former five-star (Manuel) at quarterback. In fact, the Tigers played pretty well against the Noles; Kyle Parker threw two interceptions but was otherwise effective and running back Jamie Harper finally looked like the former blue-chip that he is. Clemson's actually 3-2 in their past two games, with the two losses coming by a combined nine points.

Next: @ Wake Forest, 2:00,

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

Last: L vs. Virginia Tech, 26-10

UNC's loss to Virginia Tech had some goods and some bads. On the good side, they were leading at the end of the first half and were relatively effective offensively without their top two running backs. On the bad side, they turned the ball over six times and didn't score in the second half at all. The Heels have two winnable games to end the season against N.C. State and Duke, but they'll need to clean up a lot of those mistakes - among which were four T.J. Yates interceptions - to beat the Wolfpack. If they do, they'll reach eight wins on the season, and considering the circumstances they were placed under, that's absolutely fantastic.

Next: vs. N.C. State, 12:00,

8. Boston College Eagles (5-5, 3-4)

Last: W @ Duke, 21-16

This is where the big drop-off hits. We have two choices for No. 8: BC, obviously, and Georgia Tech.The Eagles' relatively hot hand gives them a very slight lead, though 8 and 9 are basically the same. BC has won three straight, but only one of them was an actually impressive win (the upset over Clemson three weeks ago). They didn't handle Wake Forest, which is a negative at this point, and needed a fourth-quarter stand to stave off Duke. I'm not really convinced they're any better than the best of the bottom yet, but all they need is one win over UVA to become bowl-eligible.

Next: vs. Virginia, 12:00, ESPNU

9. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-5, 3-4)

Last: L vs. Miami, 35-10

The Jackets have lost three straight, including a straight blowout at home against Miami last week. It's really difficult to defend them, but I'll try it anyway. They're just a week removed from a near-win at Virginia Tech and fell to Miami while breaking in new quarterback Tevin Washington. There's clearly talent on this team, but for whatever reason it's never really come together. Next week's game against Duke will be crucial; they need to win to pick up bowl eligibility before playing Georgia in Athens, a game in which they'll be heavy underdogs.

Next: vs. Duke, 1:30,

10. Duke Blue Devils (3-7, 1-5)

Last: L vs. Boston College, 21-16

Duke's been a pretty good story the past few weeks. They surprised Navy and beat UVA in a shootout to rise to No. 10, and then came within a touchdown away from upsetting Boston College on top of it. Their downfall: a complete lack of a running game. The ground game got them wins over Navy and UVA, in both of which they had a consistent running game to ground clock. Against BC? Only four yards. Sean Renfree and his wide receiving corps are pretty good, but not that good.

Next: @ Georgia Tech, 1:30,

11. Virginia Cavaliers (4-6, 1-5)

Last: L vs. Maryland, 42-21

Virginia's had some struggles after that surprising Miami win. Before falling to Duke, of all teams, they got obliterated in the fourth quarter by Maryland. After taking a 23-21 win into the fourth quarter, the Cavs were outscored 21-0 in the 4th. They're now eliminated from bowl eligibility and will likely be playing for little more than pride and progress for the final two weeks, but it's safe to say that Mike London's first year was more successful than not.

Next:@ Boston College, 12:00, ESPNU

12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-8, 1-6)

Last: L @ N.C. State, 38-3

Not a lot to say in defense of the Deacs here. A quick wrap-up of the carnage they endured at the hands of N.C. State: they lost by 38 points, mustered fewer than 200 yards, had neither a 100-yard-passer or a 100-yard-rusher, and gave up nearly 400 yards to the Wolfpack. The positives from earlier in the year, namely Josh Harris and Tanner Price, have started to fade. Heck, even the basketball team is struggling: they lost to Stetson in their opener and got blown out by VCU last night. It's been a long year, and it'll get longer.

Next: vs. Clemson, 2:00,

Game of the Week: Virginia Tech @ Miami, 3:30, ESPN

Miami's the last real test for Virginia Tech before the ACC title game in Charlotte. Miami destroyed Georgia Tech in Atlanta and dominated the ground game, which is probably what they'll have to do against VT. The Hokies have been occasionally gutted by the ground game in the past (they gave up upwards of 250 yards on the ground against both Wake Forest's traditional attack and Georgia Tech's triple option). No one knows is Stephen Morris is for real as Miami's quarterback, but this will be the best test you could dream up.