Both the Atlantic and Coastal behemoths square-off on Saturday in what is essentially a semi-finals weekend for the conference, while 5 other ACC programs reflect on life during their bye week.
ACC Power Rankings
1. Clemson Tigers (7-1, 5-1 ACC) (Last Week: 1)
Last week: vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-3) - W 24-10
Next week: at #20 North Carolina State Wolfpack (6-2)
Everyone wanted to see how Clemson responded to their loss at Syracuse, but because of the Tigers bye week, we had to wait 2 weeks to find out. Dabo Swinney put any doubts to rest, dominating Georgia Tech from the opening kick; the game was pretty much over before halftime when a Travis Etienne touchdown run put Clemson up 21-3. Kelly Bryant returned from ankle and concussion issues to toss 2 touchdowns and the Tigers held a GT rushing offense averaging nearly 400 yards on the ground to under 200 yards. Clemson heads to Raleigh next week in what is essentially a play-in game for the ACC Championship.
2. Miami Hurricanes (7-0, 5-0 ACC) (Last Week: 2)
Last week: at North Carolina Tar Heels (1-8) - W 24-19
Next week: vs. #13 Virginia Tech Hokies (7-1)
The Canes just don’t know how to play an easy game: their fourth consecutive one possession game ended with yet another nail-biting win. Malik Rosier had a career high 356 yards, but was inconsistent all game and completed only 16 of his 38 attempts in what was an uneven day for the first year starter. Miami’s defense brought out the Turnover Chain 4 times, however, the offense was unable to get any points off those takeaways. Is this a team that just knows how to win games or are they vastly overrated inside the top 10? We’ll find out for sure next weekend against Virginia Tech.
3. Virginia Tech Hokies (7-1, 3-1 ACC) (Last Week: 4)
Last week: vs. Duke Blue Devils (4-5) - W 24-3
Next week: at #9 Miami Hurricanes (7-0)
Justin Fuente and Co. took care of the damaged Blue Devils to set up a monumental showdown with the Hurricanes this weekend. VT held Duke to under 200 yards of total offense as Bud Foster’s unit really seems to be hitting its stride, while Deshawn McClease accounted for 15 carries and 75 yards with a TD. The Hokies have a shot to end Miami’s undefeated season on Saturday and take the Coastal division lead in the process.
4. N.C. State Wolfpack (6-2, 4-0 ACC) (Last Week: 3)
Last Week: at #9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1) - L 14-35
Next Week: vs. #6 Clemson Tigers (7-1)
The Wolfpack were definitively handled by Notre Dame’s resurgent squad. Ryan Finley threw his first pick of the season and the N.C. State offense had trouble getting untracked all day. A bit of a sobering loss for N.C. State and a reminder that, while they’ve come far as a program, they’re not yet Playoff material. Those early wins against Florida State and Louisville are looking less and less impressive by the week. There’s still plenty to play for though: the Wolfpack are still undefeated in the conference and a win next week against Clemson would all but assure an ACC Championship appearance.
5. Boston College Eagles (5-4, 3-3 ACC) (Last Week: 9)
Last week: vs. Florida State Seminoles (2-5) - W 35-3
Next week: BYE
The new juggernaut that is the Boston College offense kept on rolling versus FSU. BC has now scored over 30+ points in the past 3 games after not reaching the mark in any of their first six. On the back of A.J. Dillon, who has 508 rushing yards in the last 3 games, the Eagles have now won three straight ACC games for the first time since 2013. Due to the middle of the ACC struggling and BC’s newfound offense, the Eagles have made an incredible move from last in these rankings to fifth in 3 weeks time. Will they be able to handle their position as a feared team within the conference?
6. Syracuse Orange (4-4, 2-2 ACC) (Last Week: 8)
Last week: BYE
Next week: at Florida State Seminoles (2-5)
Syracuse was resting up on bye last week, but moves up due to the rest of the ACC being so inconsistent, plus the strength of their win over Clemson. Eric Dungey and the Orange will try and put the final nail in the coffin of FSU’s bowl hopes while simultaneously bolstering their own prospects.
7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-3, 3-2 ACC) (Last Week: 6)
Last week: at #7 Clemson Tigers (7-1) - L 10-24
Next week: at Virginia Cavaliers (5-3)
Georgia Tech routinely struggles with overly athletic and speedy defensive fronts, so it was no surprise to see Clemson handle their triple-option attack very easily. TaQuon Marshall was bottled up, getting sacked 4 times and accounting for only 55 total yards, although KirVonte Benson had a nice game with 16 carries for 129 yards. Barring a miracle, Georgia Tech is all but out of the ACC Coastal race with this loss. They’ll play for pride and a decent bowl game starting next week at UVA.
8. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-3, 2-3 ACC) (Last Week: 11)
Last week: vs. Louisville Cardinals (5-4) - W 42-32
Next week: at #5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1)
John Wolford accounted for six total touchdowns, with 4 of them on passes to Greg Dortch, and the Demon Deacons broke free for over 600 yards of total offense in their win over the surprisingly bad Louisville Cardinals. Wolford outplayed Lamar Jackson to help break Wake out of its 3 game slump, while Dortch’s four touchdown catches were a school record. Wake will look to ruin Notre Dame’s season next week when they travel to South Bend.
9. Louisville Cardinals (5-4, 2-4 ACC) (Last Week: 5)
Last week: at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-3) - L 32-42
Next week: BYE
Lamar Jackson accounted for 4 touchdowns and over 500 yards of total offense, but it’s not his fault the Cardinals’ defense is in complete shambles right now. Louisville is #93 in the country, allowing 30.8 points per game, which is next to last in the ACC. Bobby Petrino will hope to work out some kinks defensively over the bye next week, but overall, the Cardinals have pretty much squandered their time with a transcendent talent such as Jackson.
10. Florida State Seminoles (2-5, 2-4 ACC) (Last Week: 7)
Last week: at Boston College Eagles (5-4) - L 3-35
This week: vs. Syracuse Orange (4-4)
It looks as if the Seminoles have hit rock bottom. If you watched their Friday night blowout loss to the Eagles, then you already know: it’s pretty clear these FSU players have quit on this coaching staff. Nyquan Murray stood out with 3 catches for 102 yards, however, that was about it for this team. Some real changes are going to be made in Tallahassee over the off-season, but it’s fair to ask if Jimbo Fisher will ever recapture the magic of his 2013 National Championship season.
11. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-5, 2-3 ACC) (Last Week: 12)
Last week: vs. Virginia Cavaliers (5-3) - W 31-14
Next week: BYE
Pitt rode Darrin Hall yet again, and Hall came through with his second striaght triple-digit rushing performance to help deliver the Panther’s second consecutive upset victory. With Hall helping to establish the run game, Pitt has found their identity on offense, which has helped take some pressure off a questionable defense, and Pitt now looks like a different team from the beginning of the year. Pat Narduzzi has probably done enough to save his job, and it would be quite an accomplishment to take this team to a bowl.
12. Virginia Cavaliers (5-3, 2-2 ACC) (Last Week: 10)
Last week: at Pittsburgh Panthers (4-5) - L 14-31
Next week: vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-3)
What’s going on with Virginia? Right when people start to take them seriously, they lose to BC and Pitt. Sigh. I guess UVA operated better when they were a team that everyone overlooked, but now Bronco Mendenhall will have to find a way to get the mojo back before the Cavaliers dream season ends with a thud. What seemed like a certain bowl season when UVA started 5-1 is in jeopardy now at 5-3 and their last 4 games being against quality competition.
13. Duke Blue Devils (4-5, 1-5 ACC) (Last Week: 13)
Last week: at #13 Virginia Tech Hokies (7-1) - L 3-24
Next week: BYE
The reeling Duke Blue Devils can’t seem to figure out any solutions on offense or defense, as David Cutcliffe’s squad lost its fifth straight game. Perhaps most troubling is that QB Daniel Jones has appeared to regress in his second season as the starter; he was held to just 82 yards passing and 3.4 yards per attempt in the loss to VT. It’s back to the drawing board during the bye this week.
14. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-8, 0-6 ACC) (Last Week: 14)
Last week: vs. #8 Miami Hurricanes (7-0) - L 19-24
Next week: BYE
North Carolina may have played their best game of the season at home against a top 10 Miami team. The Tar Heels actually outgained the Canes with 428 yards of total offense and ran 92 plays. QB Chazz Surratt left the game early with an injury, and while he could have returned, Larry Fedora seemed to get comfortable with 3rd stringer Nathan Elliott, who made plays through the air and on the ground to keep UNC in the game. However, 4 turnovers were the difference in the contest, and a late fumble by Jordon Brown ended any hope of a comeback. North Carolina hopes to heal up their depleted roster a bit with a bye this week.