1. Clemson Tigers: What a week for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers. After naming true freshmen QB Trevor Lawrence the starter veteran Kelly Bryant announced his decision to transfer. Last year Clemson suffered their only loss, in the regular season, at the hands of Syracuse. This week they were barely able to defeat the Orange, 27-23, but not without cost. Lawrence went down during the second quarter with a head injury after inexplicably diving forward on a scramble. Another freshman, Chase Brice, found himself helming the Clemson comeback effort. Clemson’s defense struggled to put pressure on Syracuse QB Eric Dungey and their secondary again looked vulnerable. Brice didn’t do anything to lose the game, but it was Travis Etienne that saved the Tigers. Etienne had a career day, earning 203 yards on 27 carries (7.5-yard average per carry) and three TDs. Of the two good teams the Tigers have faced they have had close calls. Good teams win close games and Clemson remains the class of the ACC. There are a few games remaining that could be dangerous, including Saturday’s upcoming clash with Wake Forest.
2. Syracuse Orange: The late third quarter ineligible receiver down field penalty that negated a fourth down conversion might have cost Dino Babers and the Orange a victory at Death Valley. Had they kept that drive alive and scored, even a field goal, it might have been enough to keep the game out of the reigning ACC champions’ reach. ‘Cuse seemed to be the aggressive defense on the field, sacking Clemson’s QBs four times and earning six TFLs. It was a near complete game from the Orange and they didn’t really lose until Etienne scored Clemson’s final TD with 41 seconds left in regulation. The running defense was the only glaring negative, allowing 293 yards and three TDs. Barring any sort of hangover Babers and Syracuse should qualify for a bowl over the next two games when they face the dregs of the Coastal division. Pitt next week and UNC two weeks later.
3. N.C. State Wolfpack: NCST defeated UVA, 35-21, on the back of another solid Ryan Finley performance. Throwing for 257 yards and three touchdowns, Finley and the Wolfpack took control of the game early in the second quarter and were never really threatened by the Hoos. The N.C. State defense did a solid job corralling Bryce Perkins. Four sacks, nine TFLs, and six passes defended made it difficult for the Virginia QB to keep drives alive. The ‘Pack will host Boston College, looking to improve to 5-0 and be the next undefeated ACC team to take on Clemson.
4. Boston College Eagles: AJ Dillon returned to form, running for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Anthony Brown did not have as good a performance, but he added two TDs and it was enough for BC to survive Temple, 45-35. The offense can put points on the board, but that defense is starting to look questionable. Next week the Eagles take on NCST.
5. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Wake beat up on a struggling Rice Owls squad to improve to 3-2. Sam Hartman and Greg Dortch combined to score four TDs. Life gets quite a bit worse when they host Clemson.
6. Florida State Seminoles: Deondre Francois had another stellar game and is the life and soul of this offense. With 1:13 left in regulation Francois hit Nyqwan Murray for a 58-yard touchdown to take a late lead. FSU managed to win, but it was very much due to assistance from poor late-game decisions and a dedication to troubled defense from Louisville. This matchup represented one of the more winnable games for both programs and could be the difference in making a bowl game. Five of the seven teams left on FSU’s schedule are ranked. Even with the victory it will be extremely difficult for Taggert and company to find bowl eligibility. Next week the Seminoles face their in-state rival Miami.
7. Louisville Cardinals: Louisville absolutely could’ve won this game. For almost 43 minutes the Cardinals held a 21-7 lead, but Bobby Petrino refused to out coach Willy Taggert and inexplicably decided to throw the ball late in the fourth quarter… on a first down… when Louisville should’ve been running the clock down. Instead Jawon Pass threw an interception and Francois hit that 58-yard TD pass to win the game. Next week the Cardinals face GT in an AFC pillow fight.
1. Miami-Florida Hurricanes: Miami’s defense could’ve beaten UNC by themselves, scoring on defense three times – two interceptions and one scoop and score. When he was on the field newly named starting QB, N’Kosi Perry played well. He had 125 yards, one TD, and one interception. DeeJay Dallas gouged the Tar Heel defense for 114 yards and a TD over 11 carries. Next week the Hurricanes will host the Seminoles.
2. Virginia Tech Hokies: There’re the Hokies we know! Virginia Tech looked like the team we thought they were as they trounced the Blue Devils, 31-14. Ryan Willis executed the offense efficiently and to great effect. Next week the Hokies will face their largest test thus far, hosting the No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
3. Duke Blue Devils: Duke might have lost, but they are a solid football team. The return of Daniel Jones means that depth at the QB position is solidified. The Blue Devils have a bye this weekend but will face the Yellow Jackets in two weeks.
4. Virginia Cavaliers: Bruce Perkins continues to be the only consistent aspect of a relatively toothless Cavalier squad. Perkins had two costly interceptions and the running game was nearly non-existent. Some more reality is coming to town, in two weeks, when Virginia hosts Miami.
5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: GT thrashed Bowling Green, 63-17, which they desperately needed to keep their bowl hopes alive. Next week could bring more good news when GT visits Louisville and their troubled defense.
6. North Carolina Tar Heels: UNC appeared to be the same team that lost to ECU three weeks ago. They were helpless on offense and the defense was never put in a position to contribute since the offense gave up 21 points on their own. North Carolina gets a breather this weekend but must then host Virginia Tech.
7. Pittsburgh Panthers: Yeah, UCF’s offense feasted on the horrible defense of Pitt. If they don’t update their current level of play the Panthers could easily finish the season 2-10. That should start next week when a dangerous Syracuse team comes calling.
Overall Conference Rankings
1. (No. 4 AP / No. 4 Coaches) Clemson Tigers (5-0) – Static
2. (No. 17 / No. 17) Miami-Florida Hurricanes (4-1) – Up One
3. Syracuse Orange (4-1) – Up One
4. (No. 24 / No. 23) Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1) – Up Four
5. (No. 23 / No. 25) N.C. State Wolfpack (4-0) – Up One
6. Duke Blue Devils (4-1) – Down Four
7. Boston College Eagles (4-1) – Static
8. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-2) – Up One
9. Virginia Cavaliers (3-2) – Down Three
10. Florida State Seminoles (3-2) – Static
11. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-3) – Up Two
12. Louisville Cardinals (2-3) – Down One
13. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-4) – Down One
14. Pittsburgh Panthers (2-3) – Static