Xavier Rhodes leads one of the top pass defenses in the ACC.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 10 ACC Power Rankings
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1. Clemson (8-1) – The Tigers had a much-needed bye last week and return to action against Wake Forest this Saturday. With a win over the Demon Deacons, Clemson would clinch the ACC Atlantic title. If the Tigers are able to knock off Wake Forest, they will earn their second trip to the conference title game under coach Dabo Swinney. The Demon Deacons are a much-improved team this year, but have lost four out of their last five matchups to Clemson. The Tigers also expect running back Andre Ellington to return to the lineup, after missing the Week 9 matchup against Georgia Tech due to injury.
2. Virginia Tech (8-1) – The Hokies can add a little more breathing room to their lead in the ACC Coastal on Thursday night, as they travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech. The winner of the last three matchups in this series has only won by seven points or less, so expect another close one on Thursday night. With injuries taking its toll on the defense, having some extra time to prepare for the Yellow Jackets’ option attack will be valuable for the Hokies.
3. Georgia Tech (7-2) – If the Yellow Jackets have any hope of getting back into the ACC title game, they desperately need a win on Thursday against Virginia Tech. With a victory over the Hokies, Georgia Tech would setup a three-way tie atop the division. The last matchup in Atlanta was won by the Yellow Jackets 28-23 and they nearly upset the Hokies 28-21 in Blacksburg last year.
4. Florida State (6-3) – The Seminoles have been on a roll the last four weeks, posting blowout wins over Duke, Maryland, NC State and Boston College. Sure, the competition hasn’t been great, but Florida State is starting to put everything together and will be a dangerous team looking ahead to 2012. The Seminoles host rival Miami this week and have won two out of the last three in that series. Since returning from a shoulder injury, quarterback EJ Manuel has thrown for 1,290 yards, eight touchdowns and only four picks.
5. Miami (5-4) – After a disappointing loss to Virginia in Week 9, the Hurricanes bounced back with a dominant 49-14 win over Duke. Running back Lamar Miller gashed the Blue Devils for 147 yards, which put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Quarterback Jacory Harris is quietly having a good year, throwing for 1,757 yards, 18 scores and only four interceptions. Although the Miami-Florida State matchup may not feature two top-10 teams, this is still one of the top rivalries in college football. The Hurricanes have won the last two in Tallahassee, but last season's game in Miami was a complete mismatch in favor of the Seminoles.
6. Virginia (6-3) – Mike London has done a great job in a short amount of time in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers earned their sixth win of 2011 on Saturday, defeating Maryland 31-13. The win over the Terrapins should send Virginia back to the postseason for the first time since 2007. Although the Cavaliers are headed back to a bowl, there’s still a lot to play for over the final three games of 2011. If Virginia can beat Duke, Florida State and Virginia Tech, it will have a chance to play for the ACC Championship on Dec. 3. Thanks to beating Georgia Tech on Oct. 15, the Cavaliers control their destiny in the ACC Coastal race.
7. North Carolina (6-4) – Interim coach Everett Withers lobbed a few jabs in NC State’s direction, which certainly added some spice to the rivalry leading up to kickoff. However, the result on the field is all that matters, and North Carolina dropped its fifth straight game to NC State, losing 13-0 on Saturday. The shutout was the first time since 1960 the Tar Heels failed to score against the Wolfpack. North Carolina has a bye this Saturday, before making a trip to Virginia Tech for a Thursday night matchup on Nov. 17.
8. Wake Forest (5-4) – The Demon Deacons have been on a slow slide in the power rankings over the last few weeks. After starting 4-1, Wake Forest has lost three out of its last four games, including Saturday’s 24-17 defeat to Notre Dame. However, even with the struggles in recent weeks, the Demon Deacons can take control of the ACC Atlantic with a win at Clemson this Saturday. Wake Forest will be a heavy underdog against the Tigers, especially considering it has not won in Death Valley since 1998.
9. NC State (5-4) – It has been an up and down season in Raleigh, but Saturday’s 13-0 win over North Carolina should give the Wolfpack some momentum over the final three weeks of regular season play. Coach Tom O’Brien has only a 30-29 record at NC State, but has won five in a row over the Tar Heels. Considering O’Brien has been feeling a little pressure, that winning streak over rival North Carolina should buy him another year. And the Wolfpack still have a shot to get bowl eligible, especially with Boston College and Maryland remaining on the schedule.
10. Duke (3-6) – The Blue Devils have suffered some close losses in ACC play this year, but Saturday’s game at Miami wasn’t one of them. Duke suffered its worst defeat in conference play this season, losing 49-14 at Miami. Defense has been a significant question mark for the past couple of seasons in Durham, and the Blue Devils rank near the bottom of the ACC in total, scoring and pass defense. Also, the rushing attack ranks 11th in the conference, managing only 105.3 yards per game. Coach David Cutcliffe has Duke on the right track, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to get to a bowl in 2012.
11. Boston College (2-7) – One week after scoring their first ACC win of 2011, the Eagles suffered a blowout 38-7 loss at the hands of Florida State. Looking for a spark on offense, Boston College turned to Josh Bordner for a few snaps at quarterback and he finished with 45 rushing yards. However, Bordner and starter Chase Rettig wasn't able to get much going through the air. The Eagles host NC State this Saturday, which is probably their best shot at victory in the final three games.
12. Maryland (2-7) – An awful season in College Park continued to spiral downhill with a 31-13 loss to Virginia. There are many reasons on both sides of the ball for the 2-7 record. Despite entering the year with one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks (Danny O’Brien), the offense has yet to find its rhythm. Also, the Terrapins rank 10th in the ACC in points scored. Injuries, most notably to linebacker Kenny Tate, have been a factor in the defense’s poor play. With Notre Dame, Wake Forest and NC State remaining, there’s no guaranteed victory on the schedule. Coach Randy Edsall has a lot of work to do this offseason, especially if Maryland wants to get back into ACC title contention next year.