What a crazy week for the ACC in college football, which dramatically affected this week's ACC Power Rankings. N.C. State upset Florida State and took control of the ACC Atlantic Division on Thursday. Then, Clemson, fresh off a big win over Georgia Tech, did what Clemson does and lost to Boston College. Then, Jacory Harris got TKO'd against Virginia and the Canes fell to the Cavs. North Carolina needed a fourth-quarter comeback to top William & Mary, Maryland threw down the gauntlet with a 48-point victory over Wake Forest and three of the ACC's bottom four won.
The only positive is that the losses left and right made the race to Charlotte much clearer. Virginia Tech has the ACC Coastal in their hands, and both N.C. State and Maryland control their own destiny in the Atlantic.
1. Virginia Tech Hokies (6-2, 4-0)
Virginia Tech had a bye week to prepare for Georgia Tech on Thursday night. They lucked out, too, as Florida State fell to North Carolina State and gave the Hokies the No. 1 spot by default. They haven't faced a real opponent since Oct. 2 (N.C. State) so there might be a rust factor against Georgia Tech, but the Jackets aren't what they once were. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor has a chance to acquaint himself with the nation on national TV in a game the Hokies should be able to handle.
Next: vs. Georgia Tech, 7:30 (Thurs), ESPN
2. N.C. State Wolfpack (6-2, 3-1)
Last: W 28-24 vs. Florida State
No one said it had to be a definitive win, and it wasn't. But quarterback Russell Wilson was outstanding for the Pack in a crucial game, scoring every single touchdown N.C. State had (three on the ground and one - the game-winning one - through the air). The stats for the two teams were nearly identical - the difference in total yardage was only seven yards and they both had two turnovers. Florida State had a chance to win it with the ball at the N.C. State nine-yard line with under a minute to go, but Christian Ponder fumbled after he bumped into his running back. The Pack didn't definitively claim the ACC Atlantic title with the Thursday night upset, but they did take the lead and control of their own destiny.
Next: @ Clemson, 12:00, ESPN3.com
3. Florida State Seminoles (6-2, 4-1)
Last: L 28-24 @ N.C. St.
The 'Noles lost on Thursday, but they came as close to winning as possible without actually taking home the W. They out-gained N.C. State and were a botched playfake away from potentially winning it in the final seconds. Considering it was a road game against a fellow top-3 ACC team, that's an excusable loss. Still, they can't remain at their top spot, and definitely can't remain ahead of N.C. State. They now need the 'Pack to drop another game before they can start thinking of Charlotte and an ACC title.
Next: vs. UNC, 3:30, ABC
4. Maryland Terrapins (6-2, 3-1)
Last: W 62-14 vs. Wake Forest
The Terps have beaten teams with an 11-19 combined record and are being outscored and outgained on the year if you take out the Morgan State and Wake Forest beatdowns. But when the other middle-of-the-road teams play like they did last week and Maryland beats down Wake Forest, I don't have much of a choice. As it stands now, they're one of four bowl-eligible ACC teams, just beat a BCS team by 48 and are in control of their own destiny. Their only ACC loss, against Clemson, was closer than the score indicates, as the Terps were a few special teams errors from entering halftime with the lead. Maryland might implode once they play a good team, but the awful play of Miami, Clemson and UNC has to be punished while Maryland's beatdown has to be rewarded, at least a little.
Next: @ Miami, 12:00, ESPNU
5. Miami Hurricanes (5-3, 3-2)
Last: L @ UVA, 24-19
QB Jacory Harris got very visibly knocked out of the game with a concussion, and that's admittedly the biggest reason the Canes fell short. The brief Spencer Whipple detour, which resulted in two interceptions, didn't help and dug the Canes into a bigger hole. But this wasn't a game they should've lost, Jacory or no. If Randy Shannon doesn't make it out of winter with a job in Coral Gables, this loss will be a big reason why. It looks like Stephen Morris, who captained the near comeback, will be the starter against Maryland, but the Canes' ACC title hopes are all but vanished already.
Next: vs. Maryland, 12:00 ESPNU
6. Clemson Tigers (4-4, 2-3)
Last: L @ Boston College, 16-10
The Tigers, a team with a reputation for being flaky, were coming off two big ACC wins that silenced doubters and put them in position as an ACC darkhorse. With N.C. State, Florida State and Wake Forest on the schedule, three straight wins would've given them the ACC Atlantic crown. All they had to do first was get through lowly Boston College. From here, you can guess what happened. Clemson was outgaind by 40 yards, gave up 140 on the ground to Montel Harris, only scored three points on offense (the touchdown was a pick-six) and lost RB Andre Ellington - ie, the only thing the Tigers had going for them on offense - to injury for at least two weeks. With FSU, N.C. State and South Carolina still on the schedule, they're now in danger of missing a bowl game. Dabo Swinney, it was fun while it lasted.
Next: vs. N.C. State, 12:00, ESPN3.com
7. North Carolina Tar Heels (5-3, 2-2)
Last: W vs. William & Mary, 21-17
This is never a good situation: going into the fourth quarter, UNC was losing to William and Mary at home by 10, the victim of two TDs thrown by former UNC backup quarterback Mike Paulus. The Heels played better than the score indicates - they outgaind W&M by nearly 150 yards - but they committed untimely turnovers and found themselves very nearly another ACC victim of the CAA. A 67-yard run from running back Johnny White with a little over 5:00 remaning in the game changed all that and gave the Heels their final margin, but this one was too close for comfort and makes me very distrusting of the Heels going forward. Still, at least they won.
Next: @ Florida State, 3:30, ABC
8. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-3, 2-2)
Thank God for the bye week if you're Georgia Tech. They didn't move up, but they closed the gap between six and eight to almost nothing. If the Tigers lose to N.C. State and the Heels lose to FSU, as expected, all the Jackets need to do is put up a fight against VT and they'll be at least No. 6 next week.
Next: @ Virginia Tech, 7:30 (Thurs), ESPN
9. Virginia Cavaliers (4-4, 1-3)
Last: W vs. Miami, 24-19
Virginia's a rebuilding process to the nth degree, but Mike London could've used a trademark win to galvanize the Hoos' fanbase and show the progress he was making wasn't just on the recruiting trail. Well, he needed Jacory Harris to leave the game and a solid five interceptions to make it happen, but he got that win against Miami. Running back Keith Payne was the star, rushing for 81 yards and two touchdowns. The Cavs even have an outside shot to get bowl-eligible now, with Maryland, BC and Duke all still on the schedule. They might not be a power yet, but if London keeps stealing the best recruits out of Maryland and D.C., UVA's going to be a team to reckon with in the future.
Next: @ Duke, 12:00, ESPN3.com
10. Boston College Eagles (3-5, 1-4)
Last: W vs. Clemson, 16-10
The Eagles and Frank Spaziani don't have much going for them on offense past star running Montel Harris, who scored the only touchdown of the day for BC, pitched in with nearly 40 more carries and racked up 140 yards on the ground. But the defense showed up against Clemson, too and forced three turnovers, including two in their own territory. Harris will get worn down eventually, and when he does you can expect BC's offense to struggle. Until then, though, they're content with just giving him the ball 70 percent of the time and hoping the defense can make plays.
Next: @ Wake Forest, 3:30, ESPN3.com
11. Duke Blue Devils (2-6, 0-4)
Last: W @ Navy, 34-31
Duke's clearly improving as time goes on this year. They lost to a Wake Forest team early in the year that has obviously regressed, but they came within a Tony Logan punt return of beating Maryland a few weeks ago and topped a decent Navy team in Annapolis last week. Quarterback Sean Renfree was simply outstanding for the Blue Devils, throwing 28-30 for 314 yards and even running for two touchdowns. Renfree's the best thing the team has going for it and is only a sophomore, so a year similar to last year - when then-QB Thaddeus Lewis was a senior and the Blue Devils were a win away from bowl eligiblity - may be possible a few years down the road.
Next: vs. Virginia, 12:00, ESPN3.com
12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-6, 1-4)
Last: L @ Maryland, 62-14
There wasn't a lot of positive momentum in Winston-Salem, but whatever there was got absolutely cratered when Maryland, a team that beat Duke and Boston College by a combined eight points, hung 62 on the hapless Deacs. Jim Grobe should be employed there for a long time considering how little WF has to work with, but I can't imagine a true freshman quarterback, Tanner Price, and a redshirt freshman running back, Josh Harris, are going to win too many games for them.
Next: vs. Boston College, 3:30, ESPNU
Game of the Week: Maryland-Miami, 12:00, ESPNU.
I have a bias toward Maryland, sure, but now that UNC has dissolved hope of an FSU upset and Clemson has lost Andre Ellington, this is the most exciting game on the docket. Jacory Harris might not play, but Stephen Morris showed a spark and WR Travis Benjamin is always fun to watch. The Terps, meantime, have to win one of their next two to have a legitimate chance at the ACC crown. We'll find out if they're for real on Saturday.