After 10 straight weeks of one team ruling the roost in the ACC, we have crowned a new top dog in the conference. Elsewhere, two more teams locked up bowl bids, bringing the ACC’s total to seven, with six more programs hoping to join the party. And our conference championship game is now officially set after the events of this weekend.
ACC Power Rankings
1. Miami Hurricanes (9-0, 6-0 ACC) (Last Week: 2)
Last week: vs. #3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-2) - W 41-8
Next week: vs. Virginia Cavaliers (6-4)
There was no way we could keep the Hurricanes out of the #1 spot this week. I really wanted the Canes to show me something after struggles against some truly mediocre teams, and they’ve done that and more. Notre Dame didn’t even look like they belonged on the same field with Miami and UM’s fast and aggressive defense gave the vaunted ND O-Line fits all night. What’s been the most surprising development for me these past two weeks, though? The evolution of a power running game. After some really anemic performances running the ball earlier in the year, the Hurricanes seem to have figured out their identity on the ground, paving good Virginia Tech and Notre Dame defenses for a combined 447 yards and five touchdowns. The newfound ground game has allowed Miami to coast these past two weeks when they got up early, helping to neatly sew up the wins against the Hokies and Irish. Also, the emergence of DeeJay Dallas as a number 2 option to Travis Homer has breathed new life into the offense overall. With Virginia’s loss to Louisville, Miami will officially be the Coastal division representative in the ACC Championship Game.
2. Clemson Tigers (9-1, 7-1 ACC) (Last Week: 1)
Last week: vs. Florida State Seminoles (3-6) - W 31-14
Next week: vs. Citadel Bulldogs (5-5)
The Tigers finally get bumped down from the top spot, but it wasn’t because of anything they did in their win over Florida State; it was more about how Miami now has a comparable resume to Clemson after the Canes’ win over ND, and without the terrible loss to Syracuse, so it was an easy call. The Tigers’ actually locked up the Atlantic Division and a berth in the ACC title game with their win over FSU this week, even though they didn’t make it look easy. This was a 3 point game deep in the fourth quarter with the Seminoles driving, before a James Blackman INT. Travis Etienne and Adam Choice then punched in late TD’s to send the Noles back to Tallahassee. Clemson has a clear path to the Playoffs: win out, and they’re in.
3. N.C. State Wolfpack (7-3, 5-1 ACC) (Last Week: 3)
Last Week: at Boston College Eagles (5-5) - W 17-14
Next Week: at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-4)
The Wolfpack rebounded after back-to-back tough losses to Notre Dame and Clemson by knocking off the upstart Boston College Eagles. N.C. State actually trailed in this game midway through the fourth quarter, but Nyheim Hines broke off a 50 yard TD run to seal BC’s fate. However, Clemson’s win over Florida State this week officially ended N.C. State’s pursuit of an Atlantic division title. Now, the goal for Dave Doeren’s team is to win 7 games in the ACC, which would be a first in program history. They can start on that next week at Wake.
4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-4, 4-3 ACC) (Last Week: 7)
Last week: vs. #17 Virginia Tech Hokies (7-3) - W 28-22
Next week: at Duke Blue Devils (4-6)
In the battle of the Techs, it was Georgia that came out on top over Virginia. Ricky Jeune and Brad Stewart caught the only completed passes of the day from TaQuon Marshall, but they both made them count: Jeune’s was an 80 yard touchdown and Stewart’s was a 60 yard touchdown. Running back Nathan Cotrell’s 69 (nice) yard scamper to set up the Yellow Jackets’ first score gave GT a third 60+ yard play of the day. GT isn’t likely to lose their newfound perch in these rankings with a tilt against Duke on tap.
5. Virginia Tech Hokies (7-3, 3-3 ACC) (Last Week: 4)
Last week: at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-4) - L 22-28
Next week: vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-6)
The Hokies looked sluggish in their first game since being eliminated from conference championship game contention. Georgia Tech is not a team you want to have a hangover for, and VT was outgained 401-258 on the day in an uninspiring performance. The one thing you can’t give up against the Yellow Jackets is the long ball and that’s what sunk the Hokies in this game; Georgia Tech had passing touchdowns of 60 and 80 yards on broken coverages by VT. Look for Justin Fuente’s squad to get their “stuff” together against Pitt next week.
6. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-4, 3-3 ACC) (Last Week: 9)
Last week: at Syracuse Orange (4-6) - W 64-43
Next week: vs. #25 North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-3)
The offense has completely gone bonkers, putting up a combined 101 points (on the dot) the past two weeks. John Wolford is the ACC’s most efficient passer by a mile, with a 162.8 rating. This from a 4th year starter that had more interceptions than touchdown passes coming into this season. What a transformation by Wolford, who is also getting it done on the ground with 60 yards rushing per game and 10 running TD’s, and you have to give so much credit to Dave Clawson and his staff for getting the most possible out of him.
7. Boston College Eagles (5-5, 3-4 ACC) (Last Week: 5)
Last week: vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-3) - L 14-17
Next week: at Connecticut Huskies (3-7)
The Eagles’ newfound offense was finally shutdown, as the North Carolina State defense came ready to play and reminded BC of their true place in the ACC. Jokes aside, this was a very close game in the fourth quarter and AJ Dillon had his way all game, racking up 196 yards on the ground, with a 66 yard touchdown. The difference was BC’s passing game, which was unable to move the ball when the Eagles absolutely had to throw, and it didn’t help when starting QB Anthony Brown left with a knee injury. Boston College can still reach a bowl and finish .500 in the conference, starting next week against UCONN.
8. Louisville Cardinals (6-4, 3-4 ACC) (Last Week: 10)
Last week: vs. Virginia Cavaliers (6-4) - W 38-21
Next week: vs. Syracuse Orange (4-6)
Lamar Jackson was all over the field, scoring four touchdowns and gaining 342 total yards on Virginia, while becoming the first FBS player to have two seasons with 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing. Yes, all that, and the Cardinals are still 6-4. Congrats rest of Louisville, really. You took 3 seasons of one of the best players college football has ever seen and turned it into zero ACC Championship appearances or even a New Years Six bowl game. Shots all around!
9. Virginia Cavaliers (6-4, 3-3 ACC) (Last Week: 6)
Last week: at Louisville Cardinals (6-4) - L 21-38
Next week: at #2 Miami Hurricanes (9-0)
While they had slim hopes to still win the Coastal, those dreams for UVA were dashed when they ran into the one-man wrecking machine that is Lamar Jackson. Still, the Cavaliers only trailed 17-14 at halftime; the offense would stall in the second half, though, while the defense watched the Cardinals score three straight touchdowns to put the game out of reach. Kurt Benkert tossed for 214 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception in the loss.
10. Florida State Seminoles (3-6, 3-5 ACC) (Last Week: 11)
Last week: at #4 Clemson Tigers (9-1) - L 14-31
This week: vs. Delaware State Hornets (2-8)
FSU moves up a spot despite losing to Clemson. They played the Tigers very closely, while Syracuse has completely collapsed these past 3 games. Still, Florida State’s offense is just awful. The Noles are 119th out of 128 teams in the FBS in yards per game with 324.6 and even worse when it comes to actually putting points on the board; they’re 121st out of 128 in scoring offense with 18.1 points per game. That includes ZERO games hitting the 30 point threshold. No matter who is playing quarterback, there’s no excuse for FSU to play that poorly with all the skill talent they’ve recruited on offense. At 3-6, FSU has to win out just to make a bottom of the barrel bowl game. Sad, sad times in Tallahassee.
11. Syracuse Orange (4-6, 2-4 ACC) (Last Week: 8)
Last week: vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-4) - L 43-64
Next week: at Louisville Cardinals (6-4)
I’ll admit, I was wrong about Syracuse. They were my sleeper team this year and I wanted them to succeed, but after their win over Clemson, they’ve since lost 3 straight and can no longer be ranked highly in this league. You can talk about how Eric Dungey didn’t play in the loss to Wake last week, but the offense wasn’t the problem. It doesn’t matter who plays QB when your defense gives up 64 points. The Orange ended 2016 on a 4 game losing streak to finish 4-8; could 2017 be more of the same for Dino Babers?
12. Duke Blue Devils (4-6, 1-5 ACC) (Last Week: 13)
Last week: at Army Black Knights (8-2) - L 16-21
Next week: vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-4)
That makes 6 straight losses for the Blue Devils. I don’t know what else to say about Duke that I haven’t already said: they aren’t very good, but at least they lost to a respectable team in Army this week. The only reason they move up is because of the Pitt-iful showing by the Panthers last week, who lost to 2-8 UNC. Duke, Pitt, UNC... wow, the bottom of the Coastal is garbage.
13. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-6, 2-4 ACC) (Last Week: 12)
Last week: vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (2-8) - L 31-34
Next week: at Virginia Tech Hokies (7-3)
Even though Duke is on a 6 game losing streak, Pitt has to move down after losing to a horrid North Carolina team. I mean... my goodness that’s a bad loss, at home no less. Darrin Hall had his 3rd straight 100 yard game and did everything he could, scoring all 4 Panthers’ touchdowns, but the Pitt defense and special teams could not contain UNC’s Anthony Ratliff-Williams. Head coach Pat Narduzzi will be on the hot seat if the Panthers miss a bowl, which is all but a certainty with Pitt needing to win out against VT and Miami.
14. North Carolina Tar Heels (2-8, 1-6 ACC) (Last Week: 14)
Last week: at Pittsburgh Panthers (4-6) - W 34-31
Next week: vs. Western Carolina Catamounts (7-4)
UNC finally won! The Tar Heels broke their six game losing streak in a three point win over the Pitt Panthers on Friday night. Anthony Ratliff-Williams single-handily won this game for UNC, and he scored in a variety of manners (kick return, passing, receiving). In what has been a lost season for the Tar Heels, Ratliff-Williams should get his own wing in the UNC hall of fame... or at least the biggest shower stall in the North Carolina locker room. UNC may not be going to a bowl, but a silver-lining could be that they may have found their QB of the future in sophomore Nathan Elliott, the third QB to start a game for UNC this year. Elliott threw for 235 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions while completing 64.5 % of his passes against Pitt. Could North Carolina do the unthinkable and start a winning streak with FCS Western Carolina coming to Chapel Hill?