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ACC Rankings Week Nine

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We’ve just passed the mid-way point of the regular season! Let’s rack and stack ‘em!

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Virginia Tech Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

You guys! I am back for a little while! Apologies for my absence and the lack of weekly rankings, but the real world rears its head... ANYWAY, let’s get to it!

Atlantic

1. Clemson Tigers: The defending national champions are the only undefeated team remaining in the ACC and are the sole hope for conference representation in the CFB Playoff. Despite their spotless record the Tigers have been jumped in the polls over the last few weeks. A seeming communication of how unimpressed the voters are with Clemson’s strength of schedule. That being said, Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne represent two of the most potent offensive talents in the NCAA. I would expect Clemson to continue racking up the scores to make up for their close call against North Carolina in hopes of swaying the pollsters and CFB Playoff committee. You can be sure that the Tigers will pray for the success of Wake Forest in hopes that a victory over that program will carry greater weight. But, regardless of Wake’s performance it would be stupefying to expect the committee to leave Clemson on the curb if they go undefeated in the regular season, which they are almost sure to do.

2. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: The Demon Deacons are lamenting the 28-point fourth quarter that allowed Louisville to hand them their sole loss of the season thus far, but Wake is the only other ACC squad in the Top 25 past Clemson. They have somewhat respectable wins over UNC, BC, and I guess FSU, but the remainder of their schedule carries four ACC teams with winning records. They’ve already matched their regular season wins from last year and every remaining game is winnable sans the 16 November match-up against Clemson.

3. Louisville Cardinals: Their losses against Clemson and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are to be expected, but the 11-point fall to Florida State is something of a black mark. Regardless, two of their three losses are against top ten teams and they have a quality win in the 62-59 shootout against Wake. Their two-point win against BC is also respectable. Don’t sleep on the Cardinals.

4. Boston College Eagles: The Eagles’ best wins are the season opener against VT and this past weekend’s 21-point victory over NCST. The loss against the Big-12’s dead last, 2-5 Kansas Jayhawks, where BC allowed 48 points, is ugly. But, there is simply no denying the offensive prowess of Anthony Brown and A.J. Dillon, both of whom could have a future on Sundays.

5. Florida State Seminoles: FSU is a squad that is hard to get a feel for, because all their losses are against respectable teams. Boise State is currently ranked as is Wake and when they fell to UVA the Cavaliers were carrying a top-25 pedigree. Their other loss is against Clemson. The overtime win against Louisiana Monroe is tough to argue, but the second half of the schedule is much kinder to the Seminoles.

6. N.C. State Wolfpack: NCST returns to their old tricks, meaning their four wins are against teams that they should always beat. Three are against weak non-conference foes and their fourth is a Syracuse squad who has yet to earn an ACC victory. NCST will struggle to make a bowl with UNC, GT, and Louisville representing the only potential wins to get them to the necessary six.

7. Syracuse Orange: The Orange is the lone team in the ACC that is winless in the conference. Too bad they didn’t roll GT in the regular season, because the Yellow Jackets are the only conference squad that looks worse than the Orange. They are certainly missing the ability and leadership of Eric Dungey, who carried Syracuse to a ten-win season last year.

Coastal

1. Virginia Cavaliers: The loss of Bryce Hall is a hit to the program’s efforts but the other Bryce, QB Bryce Perkins, has arguably been the most dynamic player during the first half of the Coastals’ season. The loss to Miami seems inexplicable, while the fall to Notre Dame makes sense. With games against Liberty and GT on the horizon a bowl is all but guaranteed. Definitive wins against Pitt and Duke show promise, but UVA must continue to demonstrate they can dominate the muddy Coastal. Their biggest question mark is a running game that doesn’t involve Perkins.

2. Pittsburgh Panthers: They lost to UVA and barely fell to the Penn State Nittany Lions. Close wins over UCF and Duke keep them in the No. 2 spot of the Coastal, but the truth of Pitt remains elusive. They have shown flashes of brilliance and play tough teams close. The problem is they play lesser programs close too (17-14 over Delaware). If Pitt can stabilize their efforts in the second half of the season they could easily win the Coastal.

3. Virginia Tech Hokies: The performance and turnovers of Willis can easily account for the loss to Boston College. There is an argument that his performance was also key during the Duke loss. I think I echo the sentiments of all Hokies when I am stupefied that Willis was chosen as the starter over Hooker and Patterson who have electrified the Hokie offense. If there were any doubts to the abilities of those two, they were laid to rest during the 6OT win over UNC. The reality is that Hooker and Patterson have used their athleticism to account for the deficiencies of the offensive coaching. I’ve said it since Fuente took over – offensive coordinator / QB coach, Brad Cornelsen, is simply outmatched in Power Five play. (Was it his idea to start Willis over the other two?) The Hokies have players like tight end, Dalton Keene, but still cannot seem to find a middle passing game. Willis couldn’t make up for that so the losses against BC and Duke showed up. Hooker and Patterson have salvaged busted third and middling plays despite the coaching staff’s dedication to low percentage ideas in those situations. The Hokies do not have an easy path in the last half of their schedule, but with Hooker and / or Patterson under center there isn’t a team that the Hokie offense cannot keep up with, including Notre Dame in two weeks.

4. Duke Blue Devils: Duke’s signature win, by far, is against the Hokies. Those of you that have read the rankings over the last four years have heard this from me before – regardless of the situation do not sleep on a Cutcliffe coached team. That has not changed, despite the beating they took against UVA.

5. North Carolina Tar Heels: UNC is a painfully dangerous squad. Three of their four losses are one score defeats to ranked teams (Clemson, Appalachian State, and Wake Forest). The fourth is obviously against the Hokies in 6OT. The Tar Heels have tough road ahead that includes Duke, UVA, and Pitt, but I believe they find the six wins required to be bowl eligible. They might not be this year or even the next, but just imagine what freshmen QB, Sam Howell, and head coach Mack Brown are going to do in two years. UNC represents the largest obstacle to the Hokies winning the Coastal in the coming years and could be quite the spoiler this year.

6. Miami-Florida Hurricanes: Miami is in a flux after the surprise departure of head coach, Mark Richt last year. They returned Manny Diaz after he took the Rutgers head coaching job but have a lot of work left to do. Their victory against then No. 20 UVA is their highest quality win – the other two coming against Central Michigan and Bethune Cookman. The only sure win they have remaining is against FIU. Two years ago, the ‘Canes were poised to be the premiere team in the Coastal. After losing to GT they must fight for simply a bowl appearance.

7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: GT is in a transition. They are in the first year of moving on from Paul Johnson’s triple option offense and the associated players recruited for such an effort. They fell to the Citadel and collected losses against every program they needed to beat for any hope of a bowl. They aren’t a threat to win the division, but showed they have the temerity and fight to be spoiler like they did against the Hurricanes.

Overall

1. (No. 4 AP / No. 2 Coaches) Clemson Tigers (7-0 overall / 5-0 ACC)

2. (No. 25 / No. 23) Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-1 / 2-1)

3. Virginia Cavaliers (5-2 / 3-1)

4. Pittsburgh Panthers (5-2 / 2-1)

5. Louisville Cardinals (4-3 / 2-2)

6. Virginia Tech Hokies (5-2 / 2-2)

7. Boston College Eagles (4-3 / 2-2)

8. Duke Blue Devils (4-3 / 2-2)

9. North Carolina Tar Heels (3-4 / 2-2)

10. Florida State Seminoles (3-4 / 2-3)

11. N.C. State Wolfpack (4-3 / 1-2)

12. Miami-Florida Hurricanes (3-4 / 1-3)

13. Syracuse Orange (3-4 / 0-3)

14. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-5 / 1-3)