1. Clemson Tigers: The Tigers were reliant on two big plays to carry them past NCST, 38-31. A 77-yard punt return during the middle of the first quarter and an 89-yard run from Tavien Feaster allowed Clemson to survive the Wolfpack. Clemson’s elite defense allowed an uncharacteristic 491 yards of offense, including 338 passing yards and three passing TDs. It took all four quarters, but the Tigers collected another quality win over a ranked opponent. Next week Clemson hosts the stumbling Seminoles.
2. N.C. State Wolfpack: The ‘Pack didn’t dwell on their week-old loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and showed up to play against Clemson. The experience of the O-line showed through, allowing only a singular QB sack against the vaunted Clemson D-line. With only one conference loss and three very winnable conference games remaining, NCST is still not eliminated from the Atlantic Crown. They next travel to Chestnut Hill to face a surprising Boston College squad.
3. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Wake Forest lost to Notre Dame, 37-48, during an offensive exposition. The Fighting Irish generated 710 yards of offense while WF presented 587. While their passing performances were comparable the ND rushing attack was responsible for a stupefying 380 yards (8.3 yards per attempt) and four TDs. The Deacons had a respectable second half, outscoring ND 27-17, but the deficit built during the first half was too much to overcome. Wake Forest will next travel to the Carrier Dome and face a dangerous Syracuse squad.
4. Boston College Eagles: BC was idle this week, but are currently riding a three-game winning streak which has made bowl eligibility within reach. The Eagles have a challenging game next week when they host NCST.
5. Louisville Cardinals: The Cardinals were also idle this week and are still seeking bowl eligibility after losing three of their last four. This Saturday they host UVA, looking for that sixth win.
6. Syracuse Orange: Big plays given up by the Orange defense led directly to their 24-27 loss to the Seminoles. Syracuse outgained FSU 463 to 343 and Eric Dungey continued to show what a player he is, but it wasn’t enough. The Orange still need two wins to become bowl eligible, and that pursuit starts next week against Wake Forest.
7. Florida State Seminoles: Three big scoring plays carried the Seminoles past the Orange. Cam Akers had TD runs of 54 yards and 63 yards and 199 yards total. That was after James Blackman hit Nyqwan Murray for a 51-yard TD pass. It was just barely enough for the ‘Noles to collect another single score victory. The last two games against Delaware State and Florida are winnable, but first they must play Clemson away. I don’t think anyone expected the canceled game against ULM holding FSU out of bowl eligibility, but right now that looks to be a reality.
1. Miami-Florida Hurricanes: The Hurricanes played, not only the best game of their season, but their best game since Mark Richt took over. Miami came to play and burned the Hokies with trick plays and long scoring plays. VT did pick off Malik Rosier three times, but the ‘Canes defense held the VT offense to their lowest points of the season. With games against UVA and Pitt remaining they still haven’t completely secured the Coastal crown, but unless there is a complete implosion they should finally earn their first division title since joining the ACC. That is a concern for future Miami. First the Hurricanes must come to terms with the biggest game of their season: The No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Their game against ND has significant playoff implications, and Miami will need to execute at the same level they achieved against VT if they hope to defeat the visiting Fighting Irish.
2. Virginia Tech Hokies: While the Hurricanes played their best game of the season the Hokies offered the complete reciprocal, turning in their worst performance of the year. While the VPI defense had three interceptions they allowed big plays and the ‘Canes outgained the Hokies 429 yards to 299 yards. Cam Phillips turned in his fourth 100+ yard effort of the year, but overall the Virginia Tech offense had a very rough night. They turned the ball over four times, went 3-14 on third down, 0-3 on fourth down, and were held to a horrific 2.4 yards per carry on the ground. All of us at Gobbler Country believed that the Hokies were an 8-4 or 7-5 team, but the early performance of Josh Jackson and the dominating way the Hokies were winning gave the impression that perhaps the Hokies were premature in their readiness for big games. I was honestly surprised by the Hokies’ performance and genuinely believe they were going to be in control of this game from start to finish. While the youth and inexperience, particularly on offense, was brought to the surface against Miami, the Hokies have still, thus far, performed at a higher level than I initially expected. It can be easy to fall into negativity, which is exacerbated due to the surprising performance of this team over the last two years. Last year everyone was talking about Richt’s ability to build Miami after they suffered a four-game losing streak mid-season, including a 37-16 beating at the hands of the Hokies. Now there are rumblings about the same thing surrounding Coach Fuente and his staff. Everyone take a deep breath. This stings more than it should because we have had a taste of success earlier than expected. Fuente is still constructing this team. Consider the learning experiences these red shirt and true freshmen are getting this year. Consider the injection of talent expected with the next two recruiting classes. The Hokies are poised to be a regular part of the ACC Championship and CFB Playoff discussion. The challenge will now be for Coach Fuente to keep this team focused and motivated. They have three tough games against GT, Pitt, and UVA remaining, but they have the talent and ability to finish the regular season 10-2. That starts next week when the Hokies travel to Atlanta and face a desperate Georgia Tech team.
3. Virginia Cavaliers: After being manhandled by BC and PITT I never would have picked the Hoos to upend Georgia Tech. A heroic press during the fourth quarter allowed the Cavaliers to earn their sixth win of the season and qualify for a bowl. UVA has three rough games left on the schedule, facing Louisville, Miami, and Virginia Tech. Finishing 7-5 would be phenomenal for Bronco Mendenhall, but even if they finish 6-6 this season can be considered nothing short of a resounding success.
4. Pittsburgh Panthers: Pitt was on a bye this week. They will likely collect their third straight conference win when they host the battered Tar Heels on Thursday, but after that I expect their charge to halt. Pitt is 106th in passing defense and 87th in overall defense. They will be hard pressed to upset Miami or VT for the necessary sixth win to become bowl eligible.
5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: For a third time the Jackets were leading in the fourth quarter and lost the game near the end of regulation. With the surprising loss to UVA the Yellow Jackets still need two wins to become bowl eligible, and the opportunities to do so have quickly dwindled. GT is a dangerous team, but with their final three games including two ranked squads they will need to find an upset against either VT or UGA, along with a win over Duke. Perhaps next week when they host a crestfallen Hokie squad they can finally overcome their fourth quarter collapses.
6. Duke Blue Devils: Duke was off this weekend, and hopefully the break will help Cutcliffe and company figure out how to end the five-game skid they are on. Next up they host a surprising 7-2 Army squad that just shut out Air Force.
7. North Carolina Tar Heels: UNC was idle. At 1-8 and 0-6 in the ACC they are simply playing for pride and to not be completely defeated in the conference. They travel to Pittsburgh and face the Panthers this Thursday.
1. (No. 4 AP / No. 4 Coaches) Clemson Tigers (8-1, 6-1 ACC) – Static
2. (No. 7 / No. 6) Miami-Florida Hurricanes (8-0, 6-0 ACC) – Static
3. (No. 17 / No. 17) Virginia Tech Hokies (7-2, 3-2 ACC) – Static
4. (Unr. / No. 24) N.C. State Wolfpack (6-3, 4-1 ACC) – Static
5. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-4, 2-3) – Static
6. Boston College Eagles (5-4, 3-3 ACC) – Up One
7. Virginia Cavaliers (6-3, 3-2 ACC) – Up Three
8. Louisville Cardinal (5-4, 2-4 ACC) – Up One
9. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-5, 2-2 ACC) – Up Two
10. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-4, 2-3 ACC) – Down Four
11. Syracuse Orange (4-5, 2-3 ACC) – Down Three
12. Florida State Seminoles (3-5, 3-4 ACC) – Up One
13. Duke Blue Devils (4-5, 1-5 ACC) – Down One
14. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-8, 0-6 ACC) – Static