Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
There are only two teams in the Atlantic Division with winning records. Nine teams have at least three losses. Really, the question in this league is not who is the best, it’s who’s the worst?
Is it North Carolina, which hasn’t won a conference game yet and suffered a complete meltdown in the second half on national television against Florida State on Thursday night? Is it NC State, which hasn’t won a conference game yet and got beat at home by Duke? Is it Maryland, which has lost five of its past six games and refuses to take the wins when opponents try to hand it to them?
All three are trying to make their case, but one thing is for sure -- it’s not longer Duke.
1. Georgia Tech (7-1, 5-1 ACC; LW; No. 2) -- The Yellow Jackets have established themselves as the frontrunner to win the Coastal Division, and only need wins over Wake Forest and Duke to cement it. They beat Virginia, winning in Charlottesville for the first time since 1990, and have perfected their offense to the point where nobody can seem to get it off the field.
2. Virginia Tech (5-2, 3-1; LW: No. 3) -- The Hokies had a bye week but move ahead of Miami because Virginia Tech lost to one of the top teams in the nation in Alabama and ranked Georgia Tech on the road, while Miami lost at home to an unranked, three-loss Clemson team.
3. Miami (5-2,2-2; LW: No. 1) -- This is not a bad football team, but it’s still very young. Quarterback Jacory Harris -- through no fault of his own -- has been acting his age lately instead of playing above it like he seemed to do in the first half of the season. What could have been a great season has been minimized to a good season, and there’s no shame in that.
4. Clemson (4-3, 3-2; LW: No. 6) - C.J. Spiller morphed into the Heisman contender the athletic department promoted him to be this summer, and he proved a triple threat as a running back who can catch the ball out of the backfield and a return threat. The Tigers proved their flash of offense against Wake Forest wasn’t a one-hit wonder, but something to build on.
5. Boston College (5-3, 3-2; LW: No. 4) -- The Eagles had their six-game winning streak against Notre Dame snapped, but they can take some solace in the fact they put up their first respectable road performance of the season. And the fact still remains that nobody in the Atlantic Division has more overall wins.
6. Duke (4-3, 2-1; LW: No. 9) -- The Blue Devils strung together their first back-to-back conference wins since 1994, and matched last year’s win total with five games still remaining. They continue to struggle to run the ball, but have been able to compensate for it with a passing game that can only be slowed, not stopped.
7. Virginia (3-4, 2-1; LW: No. 5) -- The Cavaliers played their toughest opponent to date on Saturday, and it was reflected in the loss to Georgia Tech. Virginia’s wins over North Carolina and Maryland helped turn around the Cavaliers’ record, but considering the struggles both of those opponents have, it will take more than those two wins to change outside perception.
8. Wake Forest (4-4, 2-2; LW: No. 7) -- The Deacs faced a Navy team that was playing without its starting quarterback, and for the second straight year Wake Forest lost to the Mids during the regular season. After back-to-back road losses, Wake Forest is now tasked with rebounding against Miami, and has to win two of its last four games to get to a bowl game.
9. Florida State (3-4, 1-3; LW: No. 11) -- The lasting impact of the Seminoles’ win over North Carolina on Thursday night can’t be measured, other than to say it was the kind of win that could propel FSU into the postseason and quiet some of Bobby Bowden’s loudest critics. Quarterback Christian Ponder put on another spectacular show in front of a nationally televised audience, and rallied the team from an 18-point deficit, proving this team can come from behind in the big picture, too.
10. Maryland (2-6, 1-3; LW: No. 10) -- It’s hard to believe this team’s one conference win could be over the Atlantic Division champs, Clemson. The Terps have sunk into a hole so deep the bye week won’t do anything to help them climb out of it. In order to reach a bowl, Maryland has to win out, and Virginia Tech alone is enough to keep that from happening.
11. NC State (3-4, 0-3; LW: No. 12) -- The Pack had a bye week, but they’ll restart with an emotionally charged Florida State team that will have home-field advantage. If UNC’s defense struggled to stop Ponder, odds are NC State will, too. The difference between NC State and North Carolina right now? The Pack have an offense, the better quarterback and at least a win over nationally ranked Pitt.
12. North Carolina (4-3, 0-3; LW: No. 8) -- The Tar Heels have officially won the title of biggest disappointment in the ACC this year. It’s looking worse than Butch Davis’ first year instead of the improvement expected to see in his third year. Ponder exposed weaknesses in North Carolina’s defense that previous opponents did not, and odds are Virginia Tech will do the same in Lane Stadium on Thursday night.