Lots of movement in the middle of the Power Rankings this week.
No. 1 Clemson (4-0, 2-0; last week: No. 1). The Tigers easily handled Wake Forest as Tajh Boyd notched the 100th touchdown of his career. What pleased coach Dabo Swinney most of all was a complete effort from both his offense and defense, despite missing several key starters and reserves because of injury. Clemson has now picked up a first-place vote in the coaches poll. When asked Sunday whether it was from him, Swinney said it was not. His team, he says, is not yet deserving of a No. 1 vote.
No. 2 Florida State (4-0, 2-0; last week: No. 2). Headed into Saturday, perhaps the only people who believed Boston College would hold a double-digit lead on the Noles at any point were the players and coaches in that locker room. Indeed, BC had the Noles on the ropes early, jumping out to a 17-3 lead. Florida State recovered in time to win, but BC exposed some major problems in the FSU defense, most especially some inconsistent play up front. The Noles have to get those problems shored up in a hurry with a much better Maryland team coming to town.
No. 3 Miami (4-0; last week: No. 3). The Hurricanes turned the ball over way too much and had costly penalties against South Florida, but still dominated. The key question is this: What do we know about this team today that we did not know three weeks ago following a win over Florida? Miami has not been tested since then in wins over Savannah State and the Bulls, and now the real season begins -- against Georgia Tech to open ACC play.
No. 4 Maryland (4-0; last week: No. 5). The Terps entered the AP Top 25 at No. 25 -- their first ranking since the final poll of the 2010 season. And they didn't even have to play to get in. Guess that means the Terps got a double bonus on their week off, spent preparing for Florida State. What helped their image this weekend was West Virginia's upset win over No. 11 Oklahoma State. Just last week, Maryland beat West Virginia 37-0. That win is looking a whole lot better.
No. 5 Virginia Tech (4-1, 1-0; last week: No. 6). This should become an ACC mantra: Never count out the Hokies. We all know the offense has had its issues, but the defense has been simply outstanding and showed it once again in a win against Georgia Tech last Thursday. Virginia Tech held the Jackets to just 129 yards on the ground and was dominant all the way around. Logan Thomas had his best game since 2011. If the defense keeps this up and Thomas plays as well as he did against the Jackets, the Coastal Division better watch out.
No. 6 Pitt (3-1, 2-1; last week: No. 9). Nice jump for the Panthers, who have won three in a row for the first time since the 2010 season. Now granted, New Mexico, Duke and Virginia are not world-beaters by any stretch, but Pitt showed it could win in a variety of ways during this three-game streak. Against Virginia, it was with an improved defensive effort and just enough from the passing game, though the offensive line clearly has a ways to go. Tom Savage was sacked seven times and sustained concussion symptoms as a result.
No. 7 Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-1; last week: No. 4). The Jackets fall a notch below Pitt because the Panthers have a slightly more impressive win selection. Georgia Tech has won over FCS Elon. All three Pitt wins have come against FBS teams. The fact is, Georgia Tech was the favorite to beat Virginia Tech at home in a crucial Coastal Division matchup. But it seems the Jackets come up short just about every time they play Virginia Tech. The offense was completely ineffective, and Vad Lee looked like a first-year starter. The good news is a win over Miami puts the Jackets in the heart of the race.
No. 8 NC State (3-1, 0-1; last week: No. 8 ). The Wolfpack had another big day against Central Michigan and certainly look like a team trending up. But their FBS wins have come against teams that are a combined 2-8. Their other win, over Richmond, was too close for comfort. Give NC State credit for playing Clemson tight, but we still want to see much more out of this team when the competition gets tougher.
No. 9 Boston College (2-2, 1-1; last week: No. 11). Coaches take no solace in moral victories, but there has to be some sense of confidence in knowing this team could hang with the No. 8 team in the nation. The biggest difference between last year and this year is the way the Eagles are playing up front. That translates directly into their success running the football. Andre Williams leads the ACC in rushing and is halfway to a 1,000-yard season after only four games (505 yards). Pretty impressive, considering BC was one of the worst rushing teams in the nation in 2012.
No. 10 Syracuse (2-2; last week: No. 13). Cuse looked like a different team in its last two games with Terrel Hunt under center, but they did face overmatched competition. We will have a good idea of where Syracuse is after this weekend, when the Orange host No. 3 Clemson. The Orange had a bye week to prepare for the Tigers and have had recent success against ranked teams at home.
No. 11 Duke (3-2, 0-2; last week: No. 12). Nothing has come easy for this team, not even against Troy. The Blue Devils got into another shootout this past weekend but ended up winning. Still, Troy gained 512 yards, the second consecutive week the defense has yielded more than 500 yards. Brandon Connette played a nice game, with 379 total yards and five total touchdowns.
No. 12 Virginia (2-2, 0-1; last week: No. 10). It appears as if Virginia has made plenty of progress on the defensive side of the ball this year with its coordinator change. But the offense looks even worse than it did a year ago, and that is saying something. Virginia continues to struggle on the offensive line and in the run game, putting way too much pressure on first-year starter David Watford. Virginia had 65 yards rushing in a 14-3 loss to Pitt, and is averaging 3.7 yards per carry -- third-worst in the ACC. Unless they figure out how to start running the ball effectively, this is going to be a long season.
No. 13 North Carolina (1-3, 0-1; last week: No. 7). Speaking of an inability to run the football, that is perhaps the biggest reason why the Tar Heels have made the biggest drop in the ACC power rankings. North Carolina started the year at No. 4, but an unsightly home loss to East Carolina has sent it plummeting. The Tar Heels have simply not found an replacement for Giovani Bernard's production nor the starters missing on the offensive line. The defense appears to have regressed as well. Good teams find ways to reload, not rebuild. But this year screams rebuilding all over it, given all the key pieces North Carolina lost off its 8-4 squad a year ago.
No. 14 Wake Forest (2-3, 0-2; last week: No. 14). The Demon Deacons got blown out by Clemson, but they have to regroup quickly against in-state rival NC State if they want to keep their bowl hopes alive. Wake Forest and NC State have split their last six meetings, with the home team winning each time. The matchup is in Winston-Salem, so perhaps that will give the Deacs the edge they need.