Well, the regular season for the Hokies has come to a close. The season itself is not over – there are still bowl games to consider. Until bowl season comes to a close here is how Gobbler Country sees the ACC rankings.
1. Clemson Tigers: Nothing has changed since the Tigers were named the number one team in the country by the CFB Playoff committee, except they beat their third top ten team. The Tigers faced, arguably their toughest foe of the season during the ACC Championship, and they came away with another win over a ten-win foe. Clemson remains the only undefeated team in FBS. Regardless of how the CFB Playoffs shake out the Tigers are the clear top ACC team of the season.
2. Florida State Seminoles: The No. 9 Seminoles defeated their arch nemesis this past week. FSU just racked up their fifth ten win season. While they may be out of the CFB Playoff discussion this is still a very good football team and will be looking to snag a New Year’s Day bowl.
3. Louisville Cardinals: What a comeback! Yeah, it was against Kentucky, but to erase a 21 point deficit and to hold the Wildcats to three points for the last three quarters is impressive. In the end, except for NCSU, Louisville failed to defeat an FBS team with a winning record. But, the only team to really dominate them was FSU. They made teams like Clemson and Houston earn their victories. If the Cardinals can iron out their issues on offense look for them to be a player in the Atlantic next year.
4. N.C. State Wolfpack: NC State was hoping to improve on what they had accomplished last year, but the reality is this team is almost a mirror image of last year’s team. In 2014 they opened the season with four cupcakes – this season they did the same. After that they were only able to muster up three wins against the worst teams in the ACC, and finished this season with the same amount of wins they did last year.
5. Syracuse Orange: Syracuse had an absolutely brutal schedule for the last half of the season – Pitt, FSU, Lou, and Clemson, in that order. Although their record did not show it the team did seem to be improved from last year. Regardless, that did not stop the athletic department from firing HC Scott Shafer.
6. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Like the Orange, the Demon Deacons showed improvement that is not necessarily reflected in their season’s record. Wake Forest also had the poor luck of having a brutal schedule. Throughout the season they had to face FSU, UNC, Clemson, Lou, Duke, and Notre Dame.
7. Boston College Eagles: The poor Eagles are a tale of yin and yang. One of the best defenses in FBS paired with one of the worst offenses. The Eagles were beset with a bevy of key injuries that certainly didn’t help them, and Boston College failed to earn an ACC victory this year. I expect them to be much higher on this ranking next year.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels: The Tar Heels came to play when they faced Clemson. It was a hard fought game with a bad call by the refs during an onside kick, but in the Tigers won. UNC made Clemson work for it though. Just when it seemed that the Tigers were about to run away with the game the Tar Heels fought back. It was a solid effort by UNC to close out their ACC effort.
2. Pittsburgh Panthers: What a heartbreaker for Pitt, losing to Miami to close the year. UNC separated themselves, in the Coastal, but the Panthers were the best of the rest. Pitt probably has the biggest "what if" in the ACC. What if 2014 All-American and ACC Player of the year, running back James Conner, had not been injured? They may have found themselves in the ACC Championship game.
3. Miami-Florida Hurricanes: What a year for the ‘Canes! They fire their head coach and still manage an eight win season. After firing Golden all Miami did was go 4-1 (with the help of some referees). Regardless, here they are. The Mark Richt hire was a good pick up and Miami will be looking to return to power in the ACC.
4. Duke Blue Devils: The loss to Miami seemed like a turning point for the Blue Devils’ season. The inexplicable and unfair lateral touchdown, to close out the game, seemed to take the fight out of Duke. After a four game skid Duke was able to end the regular season on a high note with a defeat of Wake Forest.
5. Virginia Tech Hokies: This was a hard one, but the Blue Devils defeated the Hokies, heads up, in Blacksburg. VT played UNC to the bone and fought back to win Frank Beamer one last game against UVa, which qualified VT for a 23rd consecutive bowl game. The Hokies have already hired Beamer’s successor in Memphis coach Justin Fuente and are retaining Bud Foster as DC. The future is bright ladies and gentlemen.
6. Virginia Cavaliers: After Pittsburgh I would argue that this team is the next largest "what if" squad in the ACC. The Cavaliers had a brutal schedule that included UCLA, Notre Dame, Boise State, Pitt, UNC, and Lou. Even facing all that they were only blown out once, by Boise. Five of their losses were only by one score or less. There is talent on this team, but it was not enough to save London’s job. I was surprised with the Bronco Mendenhall hire, but it strikes me as an inspired move that will pay off for UVA immediately. Coaching changes at the two major football programs in Virginia means that the Hokie – Cavalier rivalry is entering a new era!
7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Hands down the most disappointing team in the FBS. GT was favored by many to win the Coastal and that clearly did not happen. Not only did it fail to happen, but the Yellow Jackets completely imploded and had their worst season since 1994. They failed to earn a bowl, but they did find a way to beat an undefeated FSU team.
Total Conference Rankings
1. Clemson Tigers (13-0)
2. North Carolina Tar Heels (11-2)
3. Florida State Seminoles (10-2)
4. Miami-Florida Hurricanes (8-4)
5. Pittsburgh Panthers (8-4)
6. Louisville Cardinals (7-5)
7. Duke Blue Devils (7-5)
8. Virginia Tech Hokies (6-6)
9. N.C. State Wolfpack (7-5)
10. Virginia Cavaliers (4-8)
11. Syracuse Orange (4-8)
12. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-9)
13. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-9)
14. Boston College Eagles (3-9)