Georgia Tech has been declared ACC champs, following suit with the power rankings for the past seven weeks, and deservedly so. The Jackets are the best team in the conference. The only team that has been able to stop the Jackets’ offense this season was Miami, and Georgia Tech should head into the Orange Bowl with confidence after winning the school’s first ACC title since 1990 in Paul Johnson’s second season.
For the first time all season (and probably in the past two), there was no change in the rankings:
1. Georgia Tech (11-2, 7-1 ACC; LW: No. 1) – The Yellow Jackets have had rapid success in just two seasons under Johnson, and if receiver Demaryius Thomas stays true to his word and decides to return instead of entering the NFL draft, this program could be headed for an even brighter future. First, though, the Jackets must fare better in their bowl than they did last year.
2. Virginia Tech (9-3, 6-2; LW: No. 2) – Saturday’s championships revealed that the Hokies went 2-1 against their nonconference opponents who played for their respective league titles. Virginia Tech beat East Carolina and Nebraska (which should’ve beat Texas), and lost to Alabama. The Hokies deserved their spot in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and have a great shot against Tennessee.
3. Clemson (8-5, 6-2; LW: No. 3) –The Tigers need more than just C.J. Spiller, and Georgia Tech exposed that on Saturday in Tampa. Clemson’s defense couldn’t stop the spread option, and it turned into a shootout, but Georgia Tech is one team you don’t want to get into a shootout with. It was, as one reader pointed out, Spiller vs. Georgia Tech.
4. Miami (9-3, 5-3; LW: No. 4) – The Hurricanes are a better team than they were at this time last year, when Jacory Harris was again thrust into the starting role on a big stage. Harris has improved, and so have the players around him, so Miami fans should expect a more inspired bowl performance.
5. North Carolina (8-4, 4-4; LW: No. 5) – The Tar Heels are in a sense staying home for the holidays by playing in Charlotte’s Meineke Car Care Bowl for the second straight year, but considering how much the team struggled in the first half of the season, any bowl game should be considered a success. Besides, maybe this year they’ll win.
6. Boston College (8-4, 5-3; LW: No. 6) – The Eagles get the consolation prize of heading to San Francisco for the Emerald Bowl, but this is another team that should take pride in what it has accomplished this year given the trying circumstances and obstacles. On paper, BC and USC look quite similar this year. The Trojans have taken a step back, but it will still be a great challenge for the Eagles.
7. Florida State (6-6, 4-4; LW: No. 7) – It’s been a sad state of affairs in Tallahassee, with the underplayed, poorly announced retirement of legendary coach Bobby Bowden, and Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett is hoping for a more celebratory sendoff for Bowden in his bowl. The move was unfair to both Miami and Boston College, who were still available with better records.
8. Wake Forest (5-7, 3-5; LW: No. 8) – The Demon Deacons are lucky there has been so much added drama going on with the bowl selection process and coaching changes throughout the conference that their poor finish this year was overshadowed.
9. Duke (5-7, 3-5; LW: No. 9) – For the second straight year under coach David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils created some positive buzz and made improvements, but once again, it fizzled at the end of the season. The next step will be to build on that progress each week during the season, but they’ll have to do it without graduated star quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.
10. NC State (5-7, 2-6; LW: No. 10) – Tailback Toney Baker has been granted a sixth year of eligibility, but he’s not sure if he’ll use it yet. Baker is considering his options with the NFL draft, but the Pack could definitely use him back.
11. Virginia (3-9, 2-6; LW: No. 11) – The Cavaliers have reportedly shown immediate interest in Richmond coach Mike London as soon as his season ended, but nothing has been confirmed yet. The sooner the Cavaliers announce a new coach, though, the more success they’ll have keeping their recruiting class intact.
12. Maryland (2-10, 1-7; LW: No. 12) – Ralph Friedgen isn’t going anywhere, but entire staffs don’t usually survive a 2-10 season, nor should they. There has been too much mediocrity in College Park for some changes not to be made. The question still remains what moves Friedgen will make, if any, to improve his program.