1. Clemson Tigers: Championship caliber teams step up and make plays to win when faced with adversity. Clemson did just that when the Wolfpack invaded Death Valley and punched the Tigers square in the teeth. NCSU forced overtime when they tied the game, 17-17, during the fourth quarter. Clemson started on offense and scored a TD, in an eight play drive that included a fourth down conversion. Immediately after their offense put them in a position to win the Tiger defense intercepted, Ryan Finley, to punctuate the win. Clemson averted disaster and walked away with a win against a dangerous NCSU team. Next up is another large test for the defending ACC Champions when they travel to Tallahassee and face the No. 13 Seminoles.
2. Louisville Cardinals: On Friday night, before every denizen of Kentucky became a Wolfpack fan, the Cardinals had their hands full with the oscillating Blue Devils. Duke was able to muzzle the high flying Cardinal offense and gave Louisville quite a fight. They managed to tie the game 7-7 during the first quarter, and again came within a field goal of tying the game in the middle of the fourth before Louisville was able to put the game away with 1:32 left in regulation. Although Duke was able to make the Cards look mortal on offense, Lamar Jackson continued to add to his Heisman resume. Of Louisville’s 469 total offensive yards, Jackson made up 325 of the yards. He was 13-26, 181 yards, threw one TD, and no interceptions. He was also the Cardinals leading rusher, adding 144 yards and another score, on 21 carries. This weekend the Cardinals must face an N.C. State team that took Clemson into overtime.
3. Florida State Seminoles: None of the elite teams in the ACC had an easy week. Wake Forest was within one score of the Seminoles, for the entire game, until the fourth quarter when Florida State was able to score a TD to put themselves up by 11 points, 17-6. While the Demon Deacons were able to keep Heisman hopeful, Dalvin Cook, to a reasonable 115 yards on 25 carries, they were absolutely dominated by WR, Travis Rudolph. Rudolph earned 238 yards on 13 receptions with a long of 58 yards. The Seminoles have been able to string together a couple of wins on the road to recovery after being dominated by Louisville and losing a close one to UNC. The Seminoles have two weeks to prepare before No. 4 Clemson comes calling.
4. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: A week after STONEWALLING A SYRACUSE OFFENSE THAT OVERWHELMED VIRGINIA TECH THIS WEEK the Demon Deacons faced their first top 25 opponent of the season. Still forced to start their second string quarterback, WF was never able to get moving on offense, only managing two field goals. Although not a realistic chance to win the Atlantic, the Demon Deacons are not a team to be taken lightly. After a bye week, and before they are forced to face Louisville and Clemson, back to back, WF will likely earn their sixth and seventh wins against Army and Virginia.
5. N.C. State Wolfpack: Yeah, they didn’t win, but this is definitely not the same team from 2015. Like WF, NCSU somehow rolled back to back games against Clemson and Louisville. This week the Wolfpack will travel to Kentucky and face their second consecutive top ten team. The remainder of their schedule is brutal. After something of a respite against Boston College they will face FSU. Afterwards, they will face a potentially dangerous Syracuse team before closing the year out against the class of the Coastal, Miami and UNC. NCSU should qualify for a bowl, even if it is just barely.
6. Syracuse Orange: The Orange weren’t too concerned with the Hokies "elite" passing defense when they hung 405 yards on Virginia Tech. In fact, their sophomore RB, Dontae Strickland, earned more passing yards, IN ONE TRICK PLAY, then dark horse Heisman candidate, Trubisky, from UNC. In 33 tries Trubisky was only able to muster up 58 yards, while Strickland was able to break the Hokie’s back with an 84-yard TD pass. Although they allowed Evans to throw for 307 yards they Syracuse defense did what they needed to do in order to hold the surprising Hokie offense to 17 points. The curse of the Carrier Dome continues. With remaining games against Clemson, FSU, NCSU, and Pitt still remaining, it is very unlikely that the Orange qualify for a bowl game. But, Dino Babers was able to get his signature win during his inaugural season as HC, against the Virginia Tech Hokies.
7. Boston College Eagles: BC was idle this week while Syracuse beat the then best team in the Coastal. So… down you go back down to last in the Atlantic, Eagles. Their next game is a heads up match against the Orange. BC’s schedule is much more friendly than what Syracuse will face, but there are no guarantees with foes like Louisville, FSU, and NCSU still on the docket. Syracuse, Connecticut, and Wake represent the most realistic wins within reach of the Eagles.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels: WELL THE HEELS WERE CERTAINLY ABLE TO RESPOND AFTER THEIR DECIMATION AT THE HANDS OF VT. After being blasted by the Hokies, 34-3, UNC answered by sending Miami into halftime with a 20-3 deficit. Although held scoreless in the second half, the Tar Heels were able to hold the Hurricanes to ten whole points, in the second half, and responded to their loss by beating then No. 16 Miami, and returned to the Top 25. Yeah, the Hokies have a dominant, head-to-head win over UNC, and the Hokies lost they still own the tie breaker over UNC. Also, the Tar Heels do not hold their fate in their hands, but they looked more a contender for the Coastal, this week, then the Hokies. UNC has a clear shot for the remainder of the season. Next week they play UVA. The hardest team they have left is in state rival, NCSU. Sandwiched between is GT, Duke, and the poor Citadel. Coach Fedora and UNC will likely finish the 2016 season, 10-2.
2. Virginia Tech Hokies: Based on their performance over the last three games the Hokies should’ve mowed and flowed right over the Syracuse Orange, but they didn’t. Instead the defense turned in their worst performance of the season and the offense failed to generate any opportunities. The Orange blasted the vaunted Hokie defense for 561 yards and owned TOP with 33:25. Syracuse showed that the Hokies still have an issue, nay, a subscription, when dealing with running QBs. Eric Dungey laid 106 yards and TD, on the Hokies, during 24 carries. He alone accounted for 417 offensive yards. The Syracuse offense beat the Hokies deep, with a 58-yard TD and 84-yard TD. They also beat them underneath with short passes. Virginia Tech seemed dedicated to a running game that simply wasn’t working. 45 attempts garnered 161 yards for a measly 3.5-yard average. Evans was again the leading VPI rusher with 61 yards on 11 carries. Inexplicably, the Hokies seemed dedicated to running Sam Rogers up the middle. On eight carries he earned 21 yards, but before you think that is remotely reasonable, understand that eight of those yards came on one play. That means he had 13 yards on seven carries, for an abysmal 1.86-yard average. On the opening drive of the second half, Travon McMillian, showed some ability to penetrate, and the Hokies were able to score a TD on that drive. But, for whatever reason, even though Travon was able to earn 25 yards on four carries, he only touched the ball two, TWO, more times for the remainder of the game. The Hokies were outplayed on the field and outcoached on the sidelines. If you didn’t know already, they lost, 17-31. Regardless, the Hokies still control their own fate in the ACC. As long as they don’t suffer another loss against an ACC squad they will earn a place in Orlando. This Thursday the Hokies will host Miami in Blacksburg. You know what? The Hokies are going to win this game, because sandwiching a loss to, arguably the worst team in the ACC, between wins against the best teams in the Coastal is the most Virginia Tech thing I can think of.
3. Miami-Florida Hurricanes: Since joining the ACC, Miami has never won the conference. With a loss to the Tar Heels the Hurricanes are pretty much eliminated from Coastal contention, and the vacuum of an ACC championship will remain. As you’ve heard me saying for weeks, the Hurricanes had no business being ranked in the top ten. That being said, they are a good team. Although they lost to FSU and UNC, back to back, both of those defeats were one score or less. The last time that Miami visited Lane Stadium, they defeated the Hokies 6-30. Last year they defeated VPI, 20-30. Traditionally, the men from Coral Gables have struggled in Blacksburg. Prior to 2014, the Hurricanes dropped three straight to VT, when playing in Blacksburg. The Hokies have won four of the last six meetings at home, and I expect that to continue, because… well, because, Virginia Tech.
4. Pittsburgh Panthers: I thought long and hard about giving Pitt the No. 3 spot in the Coastal. As disappointing as the loss to Syracuse is, the Hokies have a quality win against UNC and dominant performances to lean on, while Pitt has struggled in almost all their FBS matchups. This weekend the Panthers faced UVA, and that story of struggle remained. For the sixth time this year Pitt allowed opposing defenses to score 27, or more, points. At halftime the Panthers were winning by a TD, but had allowed the Hoos to score 28 points. The second half was night and day. While Pitt was able to earn another ten points, they held Virginia to an anemic three points. Additionally, the Panthers were able to score in every phase of the game. They returned an interception 59 yards for a TD, returned a kickoff for six, and then added an additional 31 points on offense. Pitt has the weekend off before hosting Virginia Tech at the end of the month when the Hokies have their second consecutive Thursday night game.
5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: GT beat Georgia Southern, 35-24. Honestly, I feel like that score is too close, but whatever. With the win the Yellow Jackets were able to achieve their fourth win, something that eluded them during the 2015 season. Georgia Tech has no guaranteed wins left, and with UNC, VT, and Georgia left to play they will need to defeat Duke, this weekend, if they want to remain hopeful of a bowl berth.
6. Duke Blue Devils: Duke is a confusing team. They struggle, and lose, to UVA, while holding the Heisman leader and the Cardinal offense to ten points less than they did UVA, and scored more points against Louisville than they did against the Hoos. Similar things can be said about all their losses. The Blue Devils have an absolutely brutal schedule ahead of them. After facing GT, in two weeks, they then must run the gauntlet of VT, UNC, Pitt, and Miami. There probably isn’t a path to a bowl in there, but man, do they have the ability to be a serious spoiler in the Coastal.
7. Virginia Cavaliers: If UVA could’ve kept Pitt’s defense and special teams off the scoreboard they would’ve been in that fight, but they didn’t. They lost by 14 points and there were 14 non-offensive points scored on the Hoos. The Cavaliers are much better than the ICU patient they were for the first three weeks of the season, but based on their performance and the performances of those that were below them last week… they return to the bottom of the ACC. Life gets harder next week when they host UNC and follow that up with Louisville.
Overall Rankings – Week 7
1. (No. 4 AP / No. 3 Coaches) Clemson Tigers (7-0)
2. (No. 7 / No.7) Louisville Cardinals (5-1)
3. (No. 22 / No. 21) North Carolina Tar Heels (5-2)
4. (No. 13 / No. 15) Florida State Seminoles (5-2)
5. Virginia Tech Hokies (4-2)
6. Miami Hurricanes (4-2)
7. Pittsburgh Panthers (5-2)
8. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-2)
9. N.C. State Wolfpack (4-2)
10. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-3)
11. Syracuse Orange (3-4)
12. Duke Blue Devils (3-4)
13. Boston College (3-3)
14. Virginia Cavaliers (2-4)