For the first time since the initial preseason ranking, there has been a change at the top. Florida State left no doubt it was the better team in a convincing 45-17 win over Miami in Sun Life Stadium. And earlier on Saturday, NC State picked apart Boston College, 44-17. The two best scoring offenses are in the Atlantic Division right now, and it’s possible the two best teams in the ACC are, too. There’s only one problem: NC State blew a 17-0 lead to Virginia Tech, which is undefeated in league play. Head-to-head play counts in the final ACC standings. It counts in my Top 25 for ESPN.com (which is why I have South Carolina over Alabama and behind Auburn). And it means something here.
Here’s a look at how the ACC stacks up heading into Week 7:
1. Florida State (5-1, 3-0 ACC; LW: No. 2): The Seminoles ran all over Miami, and quarterback Christian Ponder beat the Canes with a short passing game. Florida State is back atop the Atlantic Division standings just six games into Jimbo Fisher’s head coaching career, and much of that can be attributed to a dramatic improvement on defense since the loss at Oklahoma.
2. Virginia Tech (4-2, 2-0 ACC; LW: No. 3): The Hokies have now won four straight heading into Saturday’s home game against Wake Forest. Their inability to convert a single third down against Central Michigan was nullified by 38 unanswered points after the Chippewas’ opening scoring drive, but it’s an issue Virginia Tech will need to fix against its Coastal counterparts.
3. NC State (5-1, 2-1 ACC; LW: No. 4): The Wolfpack rebounded from their loss to Virginia Tech and took it out on Tom O’Brien’s former team, Boston College. NC State’s defense has shown measurable improvement and has had surprising success in the running game with two rookies leading the way in Mustafa Greene and Dean Haynes.
4. Miami (3-2, 1-1 ACC; LW: No. 1): The Hurricanes were outplayed by Florida State in all three phases of the game. Quarterback Jacory Harris struggled against the blitz and the Seminoles’ defense took away his deep passes. Instead of taking a step forward in the fourth season under coach Randy Shannon, the Hurricanes remain stuck in neutral.
5. Georgia Tech (4-2, 3-1 ACC; LW: No. 5): The Jackets finally got what they needed from B-back Anthony Allen, who scored three touchdowns as Georgia Tech ran for 477 yards against Virginia. Coach Paul Johnson will always find something his team can improve upon, but the Jackets remain in contention to defend their ACC title.
6. Maryland (4-1, 1-0 ACC; LW: No. 6): The Terps remain status quo after their bye week, and should have some confidence heading into Death Valley. Clemson was the one ACC team Maryland was able to beat last year, and they’re catching the Tigers when they’re down. With Danny O'Brien at quarterback, the Terps stand a chance.
7. North Carolina (3-2, 1-1 ACC; LW: No. 8): Somehow, this undermanned team continues to find ways to win. The Tar Heels were missing a total of 15 players against Clemson, but took advantage of the Tigers’ inconsistent defense to earn their first ACC win. UNC’s three-game winning streak speaks volumes about the talent and depth the staff has built on this roster.
8. Clemson (2-3, 0-2 ACC; LW: No. 7): In its overtime loss at Auburn, Clemson looked like a team capable of defending its Atlantic Division title. Now it looks befuddled. The Tigers couldn’t stop UNC running back Johnny White and couldn’t make key fourth-down stops.
9. Wake Forest (2-4, 1-2 ACC; LW: No. 9): For the second straight week, the Demon Deacons lost a heartbreaker in the final minute of the game to a triple-option team. They didn’t learn from their mistakes against Georgia Tech, though, and could pay for it dearly with bowl eligibility. Wake needs to find four more wins in six of its remaining games, and it won’t get any easier on Saturday at Virginia Tech.
10. Virginia (2-3, 0-2 ACC; LW: No. 11): First-year coach Mike London isn’t into moral victories, but he and his staff deserve credit for putting the Cavaliers in position to win some games this year. The defense just couldn’t stop Johnson’s spread-option offense and the Cavs’ offense couldn’t convert on enough third downs against Al Groh’s 3-4 defense.
11. Boston College (2-3, 0-2 ACC; LW: No. 10): The Eagles have problems on offense that are too deep to fix in the second half of the season. The duo of Dave Shinskie and Mike Marscovetra struggled against NC State, and once again BC’s running game was limited. The one thing they can count on is a stingy defense that can get them the ball back.
12. Duke (1-4, 0-2 ACC; LW: No. 12): The Blue Devils had a much-needed bye week to recover from their loss to Maryland, but it won’t get any easier this weekend against Miami. Coach David Cutcliffe said his team wasn’t going to get any major overhaul during the break.