1. Clemson Tigers: The Tigers seem to have completely shaken off whatever malaise hindered them during the opening of the season. Against BC they looked every bit the Clemson we were used to seeing last year. Considering that Auburn is now represented in the Top 25 and Troy’s only loss on the season is against the Tigers, perhaps Clemson wasn’t struggling, and it was more a case that their competition was better than realized. The Clemson offense rolled, racking up 503 yards and dominating time of possession 38:08. Their attack was balanced, 274 yards in the air and 229 yards on the ground. The defense was no slouch either, holding the Eagles to a paltry 96 yards in the air. Boston College was able to muster up 155 yards rushing, but over 48 attempts they only averaged 3.2 yards per carry. The final garnish on Tiger’s complete domination of the Eagles was a 42-yard interception return for a TD during the last two minutes of regulation. Next week Clemson will face the Wolfpack. They should have no issue with NCSU, but must avoid looking ahead to the following match against Florida State.
2. Louisville Cardinals: Louisville was off this weekend, which should help them recover physically and mentally from the hard fought loss against the Tigers. Their hopes of putting together an argument for a second ACC showing, in the CFB playoff, took a blow when Navy upset the then No. 6 Houston Cougars. They face Duke this weekend.
3. Florida State Seminoles: FSU recovered from their last minute loss against UNC with their own last minute victory over Miami. For the seventh year in a row the Seminoles defeated their in-state rivals. At the start of the game Miami jumped out to a 0-13 lead. FSU looked hungover for the majority of the first half, but was able to put three on the board before the break. As is tradition, the Seminoles dominated the second half. Including their second quarter FG, they ripped off 20 unanswered points before the Hurricanes returned to the end zone with under two to play. It seemed like the two squads were heading into overtime… until the Seminoles blocked the extra point. Great work by Jimbo Fisher to get the ‘Noles focused on beating a top ten team, on the road, after the loss to UNC.
4. N.C. State Wolfpack: Respect is given where respect is due. I have been hard on the Wolfpack since last season when they rode a four game opening streak of victories against cupcakes to a bowl game. So far, this season, they have played well against much stouter competition. They have handed Wake their only loss of the season and followed that up with win over the soup sandwich that is Notre Dame. Life gets a lot harder, next week, when they venture into Death Valley and face the resurgent Clemson Tigers.
5. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Wake Forest is 5-1. I wanted to put them over N.C. State, but the Wolfpack had a pretty decided head to head victory against them. The slate gets much harder for the Deacons for the remainder of their season. Three of their next games are against No. 14 FSU, No. 7 Lou, and No. 3 Clem. That schedule coupled with the fact that they are likely still out their starting QB, Kendall Hinton, means it is unlikely that WF will qualify for a bowl against one of those three teams. Instead they will need to find it against Army, UVA, or BC.
6. Boston College Eagles: As expected, the Eagles were devastated by Clemson. Boston College is off next week. But, their next game, against Syracuse, will be a battle for the bottom of the ACC Coastal. The BC defense must keep them in the game, because the offense is not going to win it for them. Over three conference games the BC offense has only managed to score 24 points, while the defense has allowed 122. The Orange are currently the only team remaining on the schedule that has a losing record. With Louisville, Florida State, a dangerous NCSU squad, and a chipper Wake Forest squad still left, the Eagles must defeat Syracuse if they are to have any real hope for a bowl.
7. Syracuse Orange: Wake Forest was able to stifle an offense that has seemed competent all season. Being halted was not the only problem for the Orange. The Syracuse offense provided an 83-yard scoop and score fumble recovery, to the Demon Deacons, with only 1:30 left to play. With VT, Clemson, FSU, NCSU, and Pitt all left to play the Orange needed this win for any chance at a bowl game. More realistically, Syracuse is simply hoping to match their four game victories from last year.
1. Virginia Tech Hokies: With the dominating win over UNC, not only is Virginia Tech number one in our hearts, they are also in sole possession of the ACC Coastal standings. The Hokies faced significant environmental and weather challenges, but still managed to put 34 points up against the then No. 17 team in the nation. More importantly, Bud Foster and the Hokies defense suffocated one of the more dangerous offenses in college football. With the Hokie air attack grounded, due to weather, the defense consistently put the Hokies in a position to score. VPI held the Tar Heels to 131 yards offense, 2-14 on third down, and 0-4 on fourth down. When the Hokies did have the ball they made the most of it, keeping the North Carolina offense off the field with a commanding 39:59 time of possession. Virginia Tech has signaled their return to national notice and the elite of the ACC. Their game against Miami, in two weeks, will likely determine who goes on to Orlando. First, the Hokies must avoid both a letdown game and a look ahead game when they are hosted by the struggling Orange. The primary concern I have going forward is how the team will deal with adversity. They have dominated since their meltdown during the Battle at Bristol, but what if they are faced with that situation again? Do they have the temerity to respond? If the Virginia Tech team that has appeared for the last three games can stay focused and show up then 11-1 and an appearance in the ACC championship game is absolutely realistic.
2. North Carolina Tar Heels: The Tar Heels are still a very talented and dangerous team. They aren’t out of contention in the Coastal, but a loss to Miami this weekend would likely take them out of the running. That being said, don’t be surprised if North Carolina defeats the Hurricanes next week. They’ve faced much stouter competition and are still the reigning Coastal champions that almost beat Clemson in the ACC Championship last year. Assuming UNC gets past Miami they could very easily run the table.
3. Miami-Florida Hurricanes: Miami is here because UNC has faced three Top 25 teams while The U has only faced one… and the one they faced was defeated by UNC. The Hurricanes still cannot overcome their in state rival. Miami almost won, but they gave up a 13-0 lead and allowed 20 unanswered points. They only managed 276 yards against a defense that allowed 538 yards against UNC, 450 yards against USF, 530 yards against Louisville (yeah, yeah, it’s Louisville), and 380 against Ole Miss. Those are not encouraging numbers when thinking about trying to keep up with UNC’s and Virginia Tech’s offenses. Additionally, Brad Kaaya got banged up during the loss and is nursing a hurt shoulder. Miami will face an absolutely rabid North Carolina team that will be seeking to keep their Coastal championship hopes alive. Miami will then have a short week before facing a surprising Virginia Tech squad on Thursday night.
4. Pittsburgh Panthers: The Panthers only seem to play close games, and it doesn’t matter how talented their opponent may or may not be. All of their losses and victories against Power 5 teams have been for one score or less. Any team that can stay in a game and win a close one is dangerous. Pitt’s offense is balanced, while their defense continues to struggle. The Panthers will face a mysterious Virginia team this weekend before life gets a lot harder. After visiting the Hoos they will have back to back games against VT, Miami, and Clemson.
5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: GT is struggling in conference play. They have lost three straight and still must face UNC and VT. The Pitt defense did just enough to stop Georgia Tech and the Panthers were able to win it with a FG as time expired. Winning the Coastal is not on the table at this point, but righting the ship and qualifying for a bowl is still within reach. The Yellow Jackets will look to do that against Georgia Southern this Saturday.
6. Virginia Cavaliers: The Hoos benefited from an off weekend and avoided the weather problems that plagued East Coast play. Riding a two game win streak into a bye week is a great position for Virginia to find themselves. QB, Kurt Benkert, has laid waste to the last secondaries he has faced, and Pitt doesn’t exactly have a great defense. The table is set for UVA to continue their recovery and potentially put themselves in a position for a bowl berth, before having to face UNC, Lou, Miami, and VT during the last half of their season.
7. Duke Blue Devils: Duke was able to defend their home against… an invading Army… BAHAHA! Get it? Ah, whatever… This was another game that was heavily influenced by Hurricane Matthew, but Duke was able to come up with the win. The remaining six games for the Blue Devils are challenging. Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech are the most winnable, although certainly not favored, for Cutcliffe and crew. But, even that would only get them to five wins. The remaining challengers are Louisville, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Miami. The Blue Devils will likely spend the bowl season at home, and worse, may not find another win until 2017.
Overall Rankings - Week 6:
1. (No. 3 AP / No. 3 Coaches) Clemson Tigers (6-0)
2. (No. 7 / No. 7) Louisville Cardinals (4-1)
3. (No. 17 / No. 19) Virginia Tech Hokies (4-1)
4. North Carolina Tar Heels (4-2)
5. (No. 14 / No. 16) Florida State Seminoles (4-3)
6. (No. 16 / No. 17) Miami Hurricanes (4-1)
7. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-2)
8. N.C. State Wolfpack (4-1)
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-1)
10. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-3)
11. Boston College Eagles (3-3)
12. Virginia Cavaliers (2-3)
13. Duke Blue Devils (3-3)
14. Syracuse Orange (2-4)