It was upset weekend in the ACC, as a couple big-time programs fell and a few more were pushed to the brink.
ACC Power Rankings
1. Clemson Tigers (6-1, 4-1 ACC) (Last Week: 1)
Last week: at Syracuse Orange (4-3) - L 24-27
Next week: BYE
If “Any Given Saturday” doesn’t apply here, then I don’t know when it would. Clemson learned that lesson the hard way and didn’t seem to take Syracuse seriously enough in their Friday night road loss to the Orange. Well, it cost them dearly and, to add insult to injury, now Kelly Bryant is out with a concussion. The Tigers will get a week off to regroup, heal up, and figure out what went wrong. Strength of schedule and the Tigers’ relative dominance before last week keeps them #1 for now, but how they respond to this loss will tell us a lot about this team.
2. Miami Hurricanes (5-0, 3-0 ACC) (Last Week: 2)
Last week: vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-2) - W 25-24
Next week: vs. Syracuse Orange (4-3)
Miami did it again this weekend, getting another last second win on a amazing drive that was centered completely on... bubble screens? Seven straight to be exact, but the Yellow Jackets couldn’t adjust and FSU hero Darrell Langham would not be denied, setting up Michael Badgley’s game-winning FG with a juggling circus catch on 4th and 10. Travis Homer looked like the truth in his first career start, racking up 188 total yards and 2 TD’s. The Canes were in heavy consideration for the top spot in the rankings, but I really need to see a more complete game from Mark Richt’s squad before feeling comfortable moving them up. How well Miami handles a dangerous Syracuse team, when Clemson couldn’t, will be a factor in that decision next week. However, like Toledo before them, Syracuse’s dynamic passing attack is a bad matchup for a questionable Miami secondary; I’ve long had this game circled as a potential upset, and that was before the Orange went out and took it to Clemson.
3. N.C. State Wolfpack (6-1, 4-0 ACC) (Last Week: 3)
Last Week: at Pittsburgh Panthers (2-5) - W 35-17
Next Week: BYE
N.C. State was also almost a part of upset week, and the Wolfpack made their game against Pitt a little too close for comfort, but pulled away in the 4th quarter to decisively put away the Panthers. Ryan Finley Interception Watch: Finley still has yet to throw a pick through 7 games this season, now with a 11-0 TD-INT Ratio, and extended his streak of consecutive passes without an interception to 313, the second-longest in ACC history. Nyheim Hines came up huge against Pitt and ran for an 83 yard touchdown and returned a punt 92 yards for another score on his way to 249 total yards in the win. With Clemson proving beatable, N.C. State is now in position to take the Atlantic, a goal that many people thought unattainable a month and a half ago. The Wolfpack get a bye this week before a tough stretch of back-to-back games against Notre Dame and Clemson.
4. Virginia Tech Hokies (5-1, 1-1 ACC) (Last Week: 4)
Last week: BYE
Next week: vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-6)
The Hokies luckily had a week off to get healthy and prepare before walking into an all-out war against UNC this weekend. *the sarcasm is strong with you, young padawan*
5. Florida State Seminoles (2-3, 2-2 ACC) (Last Week: 7)
Last week: at Duke Blue Devils (4-3) - W 17-10
This week: vs. Louisville Cardinals (4-3)
The FSU running game is really starting to hit its stride after a slow start to the season. Jaques Patrick has 3 straight games with 90+ yards, while true freshman Cam Akers has gone over the century mark in back-to-back contests. And aside from 2 bad picks, James Blackman was slinging the rock with extreme accuracy against Duke, going 18 for 19 on throws not to the other team. With that being said, this FSU offense still struggles mightily at times and has only scored 8 total touchdowns in 5 games this season. Both of FSU’s wins this year have come on the road by 7 points over middle of the pack ACC opponents (Duke, Wake Forest). Both games were saved by a 4th quarter big play on offense, and both games came down to the Noles having to defend a hail mary endzone heave in the closing seconds to escape. FSU looks to avenge last season’s complete demolition by Louisville and Lamar Jackson this week in a matchup of 2 disappointing preseason darlings.
6. Virginia Cavaliers (5-1, 2-0 ACC) (Last Week: 8)
Last week: at North Carolina Tar Heels (1-6) - W 20-14
Next week: vs. Boston College Eagles (3-4)
Who would have guessed that, just past the midway point of the season, Virginia would be considered a better team than Louisville? Let me answer that for you: not even UVA fans. The Cavaliers just keep on winning and Boise State’s win over previously unbeaten San Diego State makes UVA’s win over the Broncos look even better. QB Kurt Benkert is second to only Lamar Jackson in touchdown passes in the conference with 15, and he tossed 2 against North Carolina. Converted running back Olamide Zaccheaus has been a big play threat at wide receiver, and he took a pass from Benkert 81 yards to the house versus the Tar Heels. The ACC’s, and maybe the nation’s, most surprising team looks to keep it going against Boston College, who is coming in riding high off their own big win against Louisville.
7. Louisville Cardinals (4-3, 1-3 ACC) (Last Week: 5)
Last week: vs. Boston College Eagles (2-5) - L 42-45
Next week: at Florida State Seminoles (2-3)
Same shit, different week: Lamar Jackson has a huge game and puts up crazy numbers, only for the defense to give up even more yards, and even more points, to let the Cardinals down. Jackson put up over 500 total yards and 5 TD’s, but Louisville’s defense couldn’t hold off what was previously one of the country’s worst offenses in Boston College, allowing 369 yards in rushing alone. I can confidently say I have no idea what to expect from this team against the Noles this week.
8. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-2, 2-1 ACC) (Last Week: 6)
Last week: at #11 Miami Hurricanes (5-0) - L 24-25
Next week: vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-3)
Georgia Tech started fast against the Canes, running out to a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter. They even got a gift touchdown to extend their lead right after halftime, when a Miami onside kick attempt went awry and GT’s Lamont Simmons ran it back for a touchdown. However, the defense just couldn’t hold up, especially after Miami figured out the Tech offense and shut them down in the second half. The Yellow Jackets were held to 226 yards rushing, well below their nearly 400 yard season average, and leading rusher TaQuon Marshall was stymied to the tune of only 18 yards on 19 carries. GT now has 2 losses on pretty much the final play of the game, which is some bad luck for an otherwise very good team.
9. Syracuse Orange (4-3, 2-1 ACC) (Last Week: 11)
Last week: vs. #2 Clemson Tigers (6-0) - W 27-24
Next week: at #8 Miami Hurricanes (5-0)
If you’re a frequent reader of this weekly series, you know how big of a proponent I’ve been of Syracuse this season. Well, they showed how dangerous they can be when everything is clicking, stunning the #2 team in the country and taking down Clemson. Eric Dungey was superb at the controls of Dino Babers’ offense, recording 278 yards passing, 61 yards rushing, 3 TD’s, and zero interceptions, while Ervin Phillips and Steve Ishmael combined for 10 catches and 167 yards with two of those touchdowns. We’ll see how Babers’ squad handles success, and the Orange hope to continue their giant-killing ways, this time on the road at Miami. The air-raid offense of ‘Cuse profiles as a very bad matchup for the weakest link on the Canes’ team: their secondary.
10. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-2, 1-2 ACC) (Last Week: 9)
Last week: BYE
Next week: at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-2)
Starting QB John Wolford healed up from his shoulder injury during the bye week, and will be good to go against Georgia Tech this weekend after missing Wake’s last game.
11. Duke Blue Devils (4-3, 1-3 ACC) (Last Week: 10)
Last week: vs. Florida State Seminoles (2-3) - L 10-17
Next week: vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (2-5)
The Blue Devils have lost 3 straight games, and a once-promising season appears to be unraveling for Duke. David Cutcliffe’s outfit actually played pretty poorly, but they still had a chance to tie it in the final minute, when QB Daniel Jones moved them to the FSU 30 yard line. But the Noles ended Duke’s hopes by breaking up Jones' final pass to T.J. Rahming in the end zone. Jones threw for 204 yards, and Rahming had over half of that, going for 8 catches and 111 yards. Duke is hoping usual slump-buster Pitt is in prime form next week.
12. Boston College Eagles (3-4, 1-3 ACC) (Last Week: 14)
Last week: at Louisville Cardinals (4-3) - W 45-42
Next week: at Virginia Cavaliers (5-1)
I have to apologize and eat some crow, after saying last week BC had no chance to beat Louisville. I was wrong. I underestimated two things: one, how much of a monster Eagles true freshman RB AJ Dillon is. And, two, how bad Louisville’s defense is. Seriously though, Dillon is very, very good; he posted 279 yards, 4 TD’s, and one “Get off me” moment against the Cardinals. I’m still not 100% sold on BC, especially if Anthony Brown is still the QB, but they’ll have another chance to move up the rankings playing at UVA this week.
13. Pittsburgh Panthers (2-5, 0-3 ACC) (Last Week: 12)
Last week: vs. #20 North Carolina State Wolfpack (6-1) - L 17-35
Next week: at Duke Blue Devils (4-3)
Pitt hung tough for awhile against a great N.C. State team, and had the ball with the chance to tie early in the fourth quarter, down 21-14. They just couldn’t make the plays when they needed to, and Wolfpack H-Back Jaylen Samuels put them away with 2 late TD runs. Max Browne is out for the season with a shoulder injury, but the Panthers kept on with their 2 QB system, with Kenny Pickett now joining Ben DiNucci on the rollercoaster that is the Pitt passing attack. Neither did particularly well against the Wolfpack and 2-way RB/DB Jordan Whitehead was shutdown for 18 yards on 8 carries. Pitt will need to greatly improve and show things they haven’t all season just to make a bowl game. It’s fair to question the future of head coach Pat Narduzzi after such a plummet in his 3rd season, a year in which some picked the Panthers to win the Coastal.
14. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-6, 0-4 ACC) (Last Week: 13)
Last week: vs. Virginia Cavaliers (5-1) - L 14-20
Next week: at #14 Virginia Tech Hokies (5-1)
I can’t really tell you with any certainty what UNC is doing at QB. Absent any unspoken disciplinary reasons, there is absolutely no reason why, at 1-6, Brandon Harris, a grad transfer senior that’s been awful, should be playing over Chazz Surratt, a redshirt freshman that has previously showed some promise. Harris was a terrible 7-18 against Virginia, for an even more terrible 46 yards and 3 picks, as North Carolina seemed to completely bottom out in their loss to UVA. With Boston College’s huge win over Louisville, UNC is officially the worst team in the ACC this season and will not be going bowling. That’s pretty crazy to say considering this program was in the ACC championship just 2 seasons ago. It’s been a nightmare season in Chapel Hill.