1. Clemson Tigers: Clemson was idle this week. This Saturday evening another important conference matchup faces the Tigers. Florida State will host Clemson, in Tallahassee, where the Tigers haven’t been able to win since 2006. After their overtime scare against NCSU the Tigers will be looking to send a message that all is well in Death Valley.
2. Louisville Cardinals: Last week the Wolfpack looked very formidable when they took Clemson into overtime, but that was not the case this week. Louisville hosted NCSU and absolutely destroyed them. Lamar Jackson added yet another feather to his Heisman cap. Jackson went 20-34, 355 yards, 3 TDs, zero INTs. On the ground, he ran 17 times for 76 yards and an additional touchdown. In total, Jackson was responsible for 431 yards and four TDs against a defense that held Clemson to 24 points just last week. With Houston losing, yet another game, being dropped down to No. 24 in the Coaches poll and completely dropped from the AP poll, the Cardinals hopes of making the CFB Playoff took another hit. They certainly seem to be one of the best teams in the FBS, but unless Clemson loses the Atlantic it looks like it will be very difficult for Louisville to make it into the playoff. This week the Cardinals will be hosted by UVA.
3. Florida State Seminoles: After losing a close game to UNC, FSU has put back to back victories together against Miami and Wake Forest. This weekend the Seminoles will host a seemingly mortal Clemson team. FSU has had two weeks to prepare for Clemson. They are likely out of the running for the division, but can certainly play the spoiler. A role that Louisville would desperately like to see come to fruition.
4. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Wake was idle this week, but will be looking to qualify for a bowl, this weekend, when Army comes to call.
5. Syracuse Orange: Syracuse QB, Eric Dungey, is establishing himself as something of a force to be reckoned with. It is easy to overlook him with so much passer talent in the ACC, but the sophomore from Lake Oswego, Oregon has now put back to back 300+ yard passing games against supposed strong defenses. On the season, he has six 300+ yard games and the 434 yards he hung on BC was the second time he eclipsed the 400-yard mark. With the win the Orange has reached the same victory mark they achieved last year. The win has Syracuse looking towards the potential for a bowl game. They have this weekend off, but they next travel to Death Valley to face a Clemson team that continues to demonstrate bouts of vulnerability. Their schedule doesn’t get easier after the Tigers, with games against NCSU, FSU, and Pitt representing the remainder of the regular season. The Orange are heavy underdogs in every game except their match with NCSU, although they are still not favored against the Wolfpack either. If Dino Babers manages to find two upsets, and qualify for a bowl, he should garner serious consideration for ACC Coach of the Year.
6. N.C. State Wolfpack: Oh boy. After an incredible and hard fought performance against the top team in the ACC the Wolfpack became the next victim to fall to the force of Lamar Jackson. There are still plenty of winnable games left for N.C. State, starting this weekend when they host Boston College. The Wolfpack must put the brutalization they suffered at the hands of Louisville behind them, and focus on earning a bowl berth. After BC, they face a brutal stretch that includes FSU, Miami, and UNC.
7. Boston College Eagles: Boston College has lost 12 straight conference games and have only managed a single win against FBS competition, and that came against independent MASS. Next week is close to a must win game for BC if they are to have any hope of appearing in a bowl game. Louisville and Florida State still await. After NCSU, late season matchups against Connecticut and Wake Forest represent the only realistic chances they have of victory.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels: No surprises here. UNC was hosted by a beleaguered Cavalier team. The Tar Heels defense held the reasonably potent UVA offense to only 253 total yards. While UNC QB, Trubisky, punished them for 310 yards and three TDs in the air, Elijah Hood humbled the Cavaliers on the ground with 107 yards on 16 carries and a TD. UNC has their bye this weekend, but looking ahead at their remaining schedule, the Tar Heels have a straight shot to a 10-2 regular season record. Neither GT, Duke, nor the Citadel have thus far demonstrated the ability to keep up with UNC. The rivalry match against the Wolfpack, to close of the regular season, represents the only true stumbling block remaining on their path. UNC is still very much in the hunt for the Coastal crown.
2. Virginia Tech Hokies: Well… I did predict that the Hokies would win, but I am surprised at the dominant fashion with which they did. The Hokies defense absolutely punished Miami QB, Brad Kaaya, earning eight sacks on the night. VT held the Miami running game to a pedestrian 42 yards on 29 carries. Led by Travon McMillian, on the ground, and Jerod Evans in the air, the Hokies presented a balanced offensive effort. Evans and Sam Rogers combined for 272 yards and three TDs, with no interceptions. McMillian was the leading rusher with 131 yards on 18 carries. Evans added 98 more yards and a rushing TD on 13 carries. Whatever ailed the Hokies last week, against Syracuse, didn’t seem to affect them against Miami this past Thursday. The Hokies control their own destiny in the ACC. With the tiebreaker over UNC, if the Hokies don’t falter against any remaining ACC foes, they will win the Coastal and travel to the ACC Championship game. That being said… the Hokies immediately face another significant conference foe when they travel to Pittsburgh, Thursday night, and face a dangerous Panthers squad. Both of Pitt’s losses, this season, are by one score or less, and ESPN’s matchup predictor currently has Pitt with a 56.6% probability to win. The Hokies have always struggled when playing at Pitt, and Virginia Tech has not defeated the Panthers since 2013 when they won, 19-9. The Hokies team that beat UNC and Miami must show up against the Panthers.
3. Pittsburgh Panthers: With only one loss in the ACC, the Panthers represent the third team that is very much in the Coastal hunt. The Pitt defense has struggled heavily against conference competition. UVA’s 31 points represent the lowest points total they have held a conference opponent to. Although the Panthers surrendered 28 points, against the Cavaliers, during the first half of last week’s match, they stonewalled UVA in the second half, allowing only a single field goal. As mentioned before, Pitt is alive, but after VT they must face Miami and Clemson. It seems unlikely that Pitt can win out and that UNC will stumble.
4. Miami-Florida Hurricanes: Ouch. After achieving an inexplicable No. 10 ranking the Hurricanes have fallen on hard times. Things got even worse for Miami after two close losses against FSU and UNC. The Virginia Tech Hokies put together a dominant offensive and defensive performance, on national television, against the downtrodden Hurricanes. The slate gets much easier starting this weekend when the Hurricanes visit a struggling Notre Dame squad that has not performed well against ACC foes. The two win Fighting Irish are entering a dangerous phase where they must start winning or risk not even qualifying for a bowl. Staring 4-4 in the face is not where the Hurricanes thought they would be at this point in the season. With three straight losses to conference opponents Miami has again failed to win the division.
5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: After a three-game losing streak against Clemson, Miami, and Pittsburgh the Yellow Jackets returned to winning with a 35-24 victory over Georgia Southern. This week GT faces Duke in what can arguably be considered a must win game. After the Blue Devils, Georgia Tech faces UNC, VT, UVA, and in-state rival, Georgia. It is a pretty brutal stretch and GT still needs two wins to get to the critical six victories required to qualify for a bowl berth.
6. Duke Blue Devils: Duke was idle this week, and has had two weeks to prepare for Georgia Tech. After an impressive outing where the Blue Devils held the Louisville Cardinals to their lowest offensive production of the season they must still be thinking they can push for a bowl berth. The GT game represents the most winnable game remaining on their brutal second half schedule. After the Yellow Jackets, Duke hosts VT and then UNC, before finishing the season with away games against Pittsburgh and Miami. With only three wins on the season, Duke must start winning now. It seems like a longshot, but I simply won’t ever count a Cutcliffe team out.
7. Virginia Cavaliers: UVA was easily handled by UNC, and QB, Kurt Benkert, was brought down to earth when the Tar Heels held him to only 126 yards. The Hoos stayed in the game for the first half, but UNC took over in the third quarter and never looked back. This weekend the Cavaliers must weather the superstorm that is Lamar Jackson when the Cardinals come to Charlottesville. Every team remaining on their schedule is a conference foe with a winning record. Add to that reality the distracting off field legal issues now surrounding the football team. Bronco has righted the ship, and the Hoos are not the soup sandwich they were for the first three weeks of the season, but another win for the men of Charlottesville will be hard to come by.
Overall Rankings – Week Eight
1. (No. 3 AP / No. 3 Coaches) Clemson Tigers (7-0)
2. (No. 5 / No. 5) Louisville Cardinals (6-1)
3. (No. 21 / No. 20) North Carolina Tar Heels (6-2)
4. (No. 12 / No. 14) Florida State Seminoles (5-2)
5. (No. 25 / No. 25) Virginia Tech Hokies (5-2)
6. Pittsburgh Panthers (5-2)
7. Miami-Florida Hurricanes (4-3)
8. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-2)
9. Syracuse Orange (4-4)
10. N.C. State Wolfpack (4-3)
11. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-3)
12. Duke Blue Devils (3-4)
13. Boston College Eagles (3-4)
14. Virginia Cavaliers (2-5)