Welcome back, Clemson and Georgia Tech. Two programs which had losing seasons last year are 4-0 and look capable of returning to the ACC championship game, where they met in 2009. The big game this weekend will be in Blacksburg, where Virginia Tech will host Clemson in a battle of two of the league’s three remaining undefeated teams. Much like the latest bowl predictions, there have been some major changes in the power ranking this week. You’ve got a new leader, ACC fans:
1. Clemson (4-0, 1-0 ACC; Last week: No. 3): The Tigers’ offense has gotten most of the credit, but it was a key defensive play -- Rennie Moore’s sack on FSU quarterback Clint Trickett -- that helped seal the win for the Tigers on Saturday. Clemson has now defeated back-to-back ranked opponents, but will play its first road game of the season when it travels to Virginia Tech this weekend.
2. Georgia Tech (4-0, 1-0; LW: No. 5): North Carolina’s defense gave Georgia Tech the most problems of any opponent this season, but the Tar Heels couldn’t stop receiver Stephen Hill, and the Jackets found a way to win their first Coastal Division game. The reason for the inconsistency here and in the bowl projections is because Chick-fil-A officials would probably choose the Hokies' fan base and their travel money over the hometown team, even if the Jackets win the head-to-head in the regular season.
3. Virginia Tech (4-0, 0-0; LW: No. 2): This has to be one of the least convincing undefeated teams left in the country, but it is still undefeated. An interception, a missed field goal, a fumble -- all mistakes that could prove costly against better competition, which starts on Saturday. We’ll find out more about the Hokies against Clemson, but their consistency is what has separated them in the past.
4. Florida State (2-2, 0-1; LW: No. 1): It was an impressive performance by backup quarterback Clint Trickett in his first career start, but he didn’t get enough help from his teammates in the loss to Clemson. This is not the end for the Noles. Once healthy, this is a team that can still make a push for the Atlantic Division title, but now they need Clemson to trip up twice.
5. North Carolina (3-1, 1-1; LW: No. 4): The Tar Heels had a chance to win, but poor execution on their final drive negated the opportunity. Much like FSU, UNC is still a good team that can contend for the division, but now the Heels have to hope Georgia Tech loses twice. UNC can’t afford to let this one beat them twice when they face East Carolina this weekend.
6. Wake Forest (2-1, 1-0; LW: No. 8): The Deacs had a bye week, but they move up on account of the poor performances by Miami and Maryland. Wake Forest lost a respectable game to Syracuse in overtime and has a conference win. The Deacs could take another step towards bowl eligibility this weekend with a win against Boston College, but they have to do it on the road.
7. Miami (1-2, 0-1; LW: No. 6): With the game on the line, Miami couldn’t score from two yards out. That calls into question Miami’s desire, its heart and its toughness. Miami fans will blame quarterback Jacory Harris, because he was the one holding the ball, but he didn’t lose the game for the Canes. Then again, he didn’t win it, either. Bottom line: There’s no excuse for Miami letting this one get away.
8. Maryland (1-2, 1-0; LW: No. 7): It was a pitiful performance by the Terps. They were beaten soundly in a 38-7 loss to Temple that looked worse than the final score. Temple running back Bernard Pierce said “there were rude things said” by Maryland during pregame warm-ups. Pierce got the last word with his school-record five rushing touchdowns. Yeah, Maryland beat Miami. But that’s not carrying much weight anymore.
9. Duke (2-2, 1-0; LW: No. 11): The Blue Devils looked good in their win against Tulane and have now put together back-to-back wins. That should give them some confidence heading into this weekend’s road trip to FIU. Duke’s defense, which had gone five quarters without allowing a touchdown, has shown significant improvement, and the offense is rolling again under quarterback Sean Renfree.
10. Virginia (2-2, 0-1; LW: No. 10): The Hoos’ loss to Southern Miss was evidence that this program isn’t quite ready for a bowl game in Mike London’s second season. Part of the problem is at quarterback, where Michael Rocco threw three interceptions. Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis didn’t throw one. Virginia needs to rebound this weekend with a win against Idaho.
11. NC State (2-2, 0-1; LW: No. 9): The Wolfpack’s defense is riddled with injuries, but that can’t explain the three turnovers on offense, the seven sacks allowed, or the fact they rushed for minus-26 yards. A home game against a ranked Georgia Tech team looks daunting, and a bowl bid already looks out of reach.
12. Boston College (1-3, 0-1; LW: No. 12): The Eagles rallied together for their first win of the season and in the process made the statement that they haven’t given up. The next step is to get their first conference win, and they’ll have home-field advantage on Saturday against Wake Forest.