1. Clemson Tigers: The Tigers dispatched their fifth (at the time of play) ranked team when they dominated the then No. 24 South Carolina Gamecocks, 34-10. The game itself was nowhere near as close as the score indicates. Clemson entered the fourth quarter up 34-0 before resting starters. Sweeney earned his 100th victory and the Tigers again showed that playing in a hostile environment has zero effect on them. Bryant had one of his best games of the year, throwing 22-34 (67.6%), 272 yards, two TDs and an INT. The defense kicked the scoring off when Clemson punished SC with a pick six in the first quarter. Since their surprising mid-season loss to Syracuse the Tigers have reloaded on the back of five straight wins and are poised to launch into the CFB Playoff for the third consecutive year. Assuming, that is, they can get past the Hurricanes in the ACC Championship game.
2. N.C. State Wolfpack: UNC got within two points of the ‘Pack, but NCST led for the entirety of the game. ‘Pack junior RB Nyheim Hines went off for his best game of the season, ripping off 196 yards on 22 carries for a blistering 8.9 yards per carry and two TDs. Considered by some to be a dark horse contender for the ACC Atlantic and the CFB Playoff, N.C. State should not be disappointed because they did not achieve such lofty preseason predictions. NCST earned their best conference performance in 23 years, and earned a third consecutive bowl bid.
3. Louisville Cardinals: The Cardinals absolutely blasted the Kentucky Wildcats, 44-17, avenging their loss to Kentucky from last year. It is, in my opinion, impossible not to include Lamar Jackson in the Heisman conversation. Jackson passed for 3489 yards and 25 TDs while rushing for 1443 yards and 17 TDs. He is responsible for 4932 total offensive yards and 42 TDs. Consider he has a bowl game to further pad those statistics and it’s completely realistic that he improves in every major statistical category from last year’s Heisman winning effort. Louisville’s three losses can be squarely laid at the feet of the Cardinal’s defense and Jackson deserves recognition for his incredible year. I would be dumbfounded if Jackson returned to Louisville next year.
4. Boston College Eagles: BC’s season is a tale of two halves. In the first six games the Eagles went 2-4, and only managed wins against NIU and CMU. The last six games they went 5-1, including wins over two bowl bound conference foes. The Boston College resurgence is certainly tied to the fantastic play of freshmen RB, AJ Dillon. During the initial six games Dillon only carried 89 times for 333 yards and two TDs. During the final six games Dillon carried 179 times for 1099 yards and 11 TDs. The Eagles are a dangerous team with a young RB to build on in the years to come.
5. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Come on guys. Wake Forest dropped the last game of the regular season to Duke, 31-23. QB John Wolford, after a streak of superb games, dumped his worst performance of the year, passing for only 191 yards (48.5% completion), two TDs, and two costly INTs. The Deacon defense also turned in one of their worst performances allowing Duke 443 offensive yards and 37:10 time of possession. Although it was a disappointing loss to a team that WF should have dominated this season has been a success. The 7-5 effort carried wins over Louisville and NCST, earning the Demon Deacons consecutive bowl berths.
6. Florida State Seminoles: FSU beat their woeful in-state rivals, 38-22. Next week… on the same day as the ACC Championship the Seminoles will face ULM and most assuredly earn a bowl berth. Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, the Seminoles are the most disappointing team in the ACC and probably the entirety of CFB.
7. Syracuse Orange: Not having Eric Dungey for the last three games of the season was a huge hit and certainly impacted the Orange’s ability to compete. Would it have been enough for them to find two wins in their last three? Maybe. Since their emotional and stupefying upset of the defending national champions Syracuse dropped five consecutive games. Assuming that FSU wins next week the Orange will be the only ACC Atlantic squad to fall short of bowl qualification.
1. Miami-Florida Hurricanes: Well… last year Clemson only had one regular season loss and it was to Pitt also… so basically that means Miami will win the championship. Right? Miami’s offense looked completely lost against Pitt. They had an abysmal 45 yards on the ground over 23 carries, and only mustered 232 total offensive yards against one of the worst defenses in the ACC. The Hurricane defense was beat up by a freshmen QB playing in only his fourth college game... ever. Such a pedestrian performance doesn’t bode well for Miami when they face an in-stride Clemson squad at the ACC Championship.
2. Virginia Tech Hokies: The offense still looked lackluster, but there were some bright spots in the running game. Deshawn McClease and Steven Peoples showed flashes of what’s to come as they continue to develop into a solid duo. Josh Jackson still seems to have a hard time making reads at the line and execution is consistently sluggish, giving opposing defenses plenty of time to react and blow up plays. The star of this matchup was the Hokie defense. VT delivered their third shut-out of the season as they completely stonewalled the Hoos’ offense. Stat of the day: UVA only managed five yards total rushing as the Hokies spent most of their time behind the Cavalier line. The Hokies now await the bowl invitations. They have much to improve on offense, but have a realistic shot at consecutive ten-win seasons.
3. Duke Blue Devils: Whelp… you’ve read it from me before, but don’t sleep on David Cutcliffe. Duke needed two upsets to close the season to become bowl eligible, and that is exactly what they did. QB Daniel Jones got his groove back throwing for 346 yards and two TDs. He ran for an additional score. Jones did throw three interceptions, but still held on to defeat WF.
4. Virginia Cavaliers: UVA has now lost 14 straight and 18 of the last 19 to Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers have dropped five of their last six games, but this team has shown significant improvement since last season’s debacle. At 6-6 the Wahoos are bowl eligible and pursuing a winning record for the first time since 2011.
5. Pittsburgh Panthers: Pitt saved their best for last when they took advantage of poor play out of the No. 2 team in the country. Although 5-7 and outside of bowl eligibility there was marked improvement out of this reloading Panthers team. RB Qadree Wilson and QB Kenny Picket could be quite the rushing combo next year. Picket had two respectable performances, as the starting QB, to close the season out. There is much to build on offensively, but the defense remains the weak spot on this team.
6. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Any hope the Jackets had of salvaging their season ended with the loss to Duke last week. The Georgia Bulldogs utterly dominated GT, 38-7. UGA beat GT at their own game, outrushing the Jackets 247 to 188. Georgia Tech falls to 5-6. As of this past Saturday there were already 79 eligible teams for the 78 bowl spots, so there’s no hope of sneaking into a bowl.
7. North Carolina Tar Heels: The Heels finish their worst season since 2007 when they went 4-8 and last failed to qualify for bowl eligibility. The talent drain and injury situation doomed the Tar Heels. The young men on the field never quit and made most of the opposing teams earn the win. With the resurgence of VT and Miami, fighting for the Coastal will be an uphill battle, but the Heels have some pieces on offense that they can build around next season.
1. (No. 1 AP / No. 1 Coaches) Clemson Tigers (11-1, 7-1 ACC) – Up One
2. (No. 7 / No. 7(T)) Miami-Florida Hurricanes (10-1, 7-1 ACC) – Down One
3. (No. 22 / No. 21) Virginia Tech Hokies (9-3, 5-3 ACC) - Static
4. N.C. State Wolfpack (8-4, 6-2 ACC) – Up Two
5. Louisville Cardinals (8-4, 4-4 ACC) – Static
6. Boston College Eagles (7-5, 4-4 ACC) – Up Two
7. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-5, 4-4 ACC) – Down Three
8. Duke Blue Devils (6-6, 3-5 ACC) – Up One
9. Virginia Cavaliers (6-6, 3-5 ACC) – Down One
10. Pittsburgh Panthers (5-7, 3-5 ACC) – Up Three
11. Florida State Seminoles (5-6, 3-5 ACC) – Static
12. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-6, 4-4 ACC) – Down Two
13. Syracuse Orange (4-8, 2-6 ACC) – Down One
14. North Carolina Tar Heels (3-9, 1-7 ACC) – Static