1. Clemson Tigers: Clemson responded to their close call with NCST with a dominating performance over the Seminoles. The Tiger defense was all over FSU, holding them to 229 total offensive yards, generating two turnovers, and allowing only 21 rushing yards on 24 carries for an abysmal 0.9-yard average. Clemson’s offense continued to struggle in the passing game. Bryant only threw for 151 yards and fumbled twice, losing one. Instead the Tigers did what they have done so much this year and rode the running attack to victory, dominating time of possession 36:10 to 23:50. Travis Etienne led the team with 97 yards on 14 carries and two TDs. With their 31-14 victory over FSU Clemson locked up the Atlantic. The Tigers are poised for another College Football Playoff berth if they can get past the Hurricanes in the ACC Championship game. BUT FIRST… they face the Citadel next week.
2. N.C. State Wolfpack: NCST needed a 50-yard TD run halfway through the fourth to take the lead from BC, but the ‘Pack survived 17-14. Past that the Wolfpack relied on some lucky breaks to avoid a loss, or at the very least OT. Those of you that have been reading these rankings for the last few years know that I have largely been unimpressed with NCST’s conference performance and their reliance on a weak non-conference slate to secure bowl games. But, respect where respect is due. With the win over Boston College the Wolfpack has won five conference games for the first time since 2010. Back then a fellow by the name of Russell Wilson was under center for State. You might have heard of him. A tough Wake Forest team awaits NCST this week before closing out the season against bitter rival UNC.
3. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: You guys remember last year when the WF offense was the source of weakness for the Deacons? Well, that is certainly a thing of the past. Scoring their most points of the season and surpassing 35+ points for the sixth time this year WF defeated Syracuse, 64-43. With the win Wake Forest qualifies for a bowl. Can their brand of offense and strong defense answer the mail against NCST next week? WE SHALL SEE.
4. Louisville Cardinals: I seriously doubt the Cardinals thought they would be playing for a bowl this deep into the season, but they earned it with a 38-21 win over UVA. Lamar Jackson detonated for 195 yards in the air, 147 yards on the ground, and four total TDs. This weekend they face Syracuse in what will likely be quite the offensive shootout.
5. Boston College Eagles: AJ Dillon went off again, running for 196 yards and a TD, but it wasn’t enough to carry the Eagles past the Wolfpack. For three and a half quarters the Eagles held NCST RB Nyheim Hines to mortal numbers. But, during the fourth they allowed Hines to rip off a 50-yard TD run. BC bumbled an opportunity to tie it up due to a botched field goal snap, and were unable to recover. As if things weren’t bad enough, QB Anthony Brown was injured and will miss the remainder of the season with a right leg injury. The Eagles still need another win to secure a bowl berth, and will look to capture that against UCONN next week.
6. Syracuse Orange: Eric Dungey was out, but backup QB Zach Mahoney filled in nicely passing for 384 yards and three TDs. Unfortunately, two costly turnovers and an impressive second half carried the Demon Deacons past Syracuse. The Orange must win out against Louisville and Boston College to secure a bowl win.
7. Florida State Seminoles: Unsurprisingly FSU was defeated by Clemson. In other news they were able to reschedule their matchup against ULM for December 2. That is the same day as the ACC Championship. I find that humorous. All three of their final games are very winnable and the ‘Noles look to finish the season on a three-game winning streak in hopes of extending their non-NCAA recognized bowl streak.
1. Miami-Florida Hurricanes: Miami followed up last week’s excellent performance with an even better performance, routing the then No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 41-8. The Hurricane defense wasn’t remotely interested in hearing what ND and their Heisman hopeful RB had to say. The Hurricanes only allowed ND 261 total offensive yards and forced four turnovers, including a pick six. Fighting Irish RB Josh Adams was completely neutralized, mustering only 40 yards on 16 carries. The Miami offense wasn’t statistically spectacular, but they protected the ball (zero turnovers) and ran well (42 attempts, 237 yards, 5.6-yard average per carry). With two impressive back to back wins against ranked opponents and an undefeated record the Hurricanes are in their season’s driver seat. The remaining regular season includes UVA and PITT. Unless Miami completely mails it in they should enter the ACC Championship game undefeated. Oh yeah, with UVA’s loss to Louisville Miami has finally won the ACC Coastal for the first time since joining the conference waaaaaaay back in 2004.
2. Virginia Tech Hokies: Well… that was disappointing. Last week the Hokies played a sloppy game and lost to a better team. This week the Hokies played a sloppy game and lost to… not a better team. Coaching decisions loomed large after several inexplicable gambles failed to materialize any investment. The Hokies were burned bad by three long scoring plays of 60+ yards. It’s time to go ahead and realize that this is, in fact, a rebuilding year even though the Hokies got off to a fast start. VT needs to recover quickly and finish the season strong. Expect the Hokies to come out swinging against a woeful Pitt team.
3. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: GT finally carried a fourth quarter lead to victory, but not from any lack of effort to cough it up against VT. The fourth quarter was best described by a friend of mine when he said, “both teams wanted to lose, the Hokies just wanted it more.” Poor / risky decisions and sloppy play was demonstrated by both squads towards the end of regulation, but GT was able to grab the necessary upset they needed to keep bowl eligibility on life support. Now all they must do is defeat Duke next week and they’re into the post season. Of course, upsetting VT and then dropping an easy game against a conference opponent would be the most GT thing to do.
4. Virginia Cavaliers: Being held to 277 yards by Louisville’s porous defense does not bode well for the Hoos when they travel to Coral Gables and face Miami next weekend. As if the Hurricanes were not already a tough customer, the match up also has the makings of a look ahead game for UVA. The Cavaliers could really care less what happens with Miami, but the Hokies are vulnerable, and the Cavaliers must be thinking that this is it. THIS is the year that they can finally put a halt to VT’s 13-year winning streak.
5. Pittsburgh Panthers: The Panthers absolutely needed to beat UNC to even think about the post season. Pitt will need upsets at VT and Miami to reach the required six wins and that simply isn’t realistic.
6. Duke Blue Devils: Duke fought hard, but the nation’s best rushing attack proved too much for the Blue Devils who fell 16-21 against Army. Duke isn’t technically eliminated from bowl contention, but getting wins against both GT and WF is a tall order.
7. North Carolina Tar Heels: They might not be bowl eligible, but they can still play the spoiler. UNC all but mathematically eliminated the Panthers from eligibility with their 34-31 victory. The Heels look to put something of a short win streak together when they face Western Carolina University next week.
1. (No. 2 AP / No. 2 Coaches) Miami-Florida Hurricanes (9-0, 6-0 ACC) – Up One
2. (No. 4 / No. 3) Clemson Tigers (9-1, 7-1 ACC) – Down One
3. (No. 25 / No. 22) N.C. State Wolfpack (7-3, 5-1 ACC) – Up One
4. Virginia Tech Hokies (7-3, 3-3 ACC) – Down One
5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-4, 4-3 ACC) – Up Five
6. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-4, 3-3 ACC) – Down One
7. Louisville Cardinals (6-4, 3-4 ACC) – Up One
8. Virginia Cavaliers (6-4, 3-3 ACC) – Down One
9. Boston College (5-5, 3-4 ACC) – Down Three
10. Syracuse Orange (4-6, 2-4 ACC) – Up One
11. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-6, 2-4 ACC) – Down Two
12. Florida State Seminoles (3-6, 3-5 ACC) – Static
13. Duke Blue Devils (4-6, 1-5 ACC) – Static
14. North Carolina Tar Heels (2-8, 1-6 ACC) – Static