As has been the case in recent weeks, Week 10 of the college football season did not bring any change to the top of these Power Rankings. For the most part, the conference leaders took care of business against lower-tier opponents. The middle and bottom of the standings are another story. This week, one team snapped a month-long losing streak in impressive fashion, an unexpected team reached bowl eligibility, and a familiar team returned to their home at the bottom of the standings. Here is this week’s edition of the ACC Power Rankings.
Tier 1: National Contenders
1 - Clemson Tigers (9-0, 6-0) LW: 1
The Tigers looked every bit of a National Championship contender in easily dispatching Syracuse. They did face a brief scare, as QB Deshaun Watson left the game in the first half with a right shoulder injury. Watson and head coach Dabo Swinney both are confident that the star will be able to play this weekend as Clemson tries to officially clinch a berth in the ACC Championship game.
Last week: defeated Syracuse 54-0
This week: Saturday, 3:30 pm vs Pittsburgh
2 - Louisville Cardinals (8-1, 6-1) LW: 2
Lamar Jackson continued his Heisman coronation tour while leading Louisville to a huge win over Boston College. The star quarterback had his third game this season with seven or more touchdowns, while also going over 1,000 yards rushing on the season. There really isn’t anything more to say about Jackson at this point. He’s an absolute stud and is putting up one of the all-time great college football seasons. The Cardinals will wrap up ACC play this weekend hosting Wake Forest.
Last week: defeated Boston College 52-7
This week: Saturday, 7:00 pm vs Wake Forest
Tier 2: Conference Contenders (plus FSU)
3 - Virginia Tech Hokies (7-2, 5-1) LW: 3
Virginia Tech again struggled on the road against a bottom tier ACC opponent but found a way to come away with a win. The Hokies channeled their old “Beamer Ball” special teams magic, blocking a field goal and returning it for a touchdown in the second quarter. Virginia Tech still controls their destiny in the Coastal and can clinch with wins at home against Georgia Tech and Virginia.
Last week: defeated Duke 24-21
This week: Saturday, 3:30 pm vs Georgia Tech
4 - North Carolina Tar Heels (7-2, 5-1) LW: 4
The Tar Heels came out of their bye week and put up one of their best offensive performances of the season, dominating Georgia Tech’s porous defense. RB Elijah Hood had his best game of the season, rushing for 168 yards and 3 touchdowns on only 12 carries. Tar Heel fans will now jump on the Yellow Jacket bandwagon as they need help from Tech to get to the ACC Championship Game.
Last week: defeated Georgia Tech 48-20
This week: Thursday, 7:30 pm at Duke
5 - Florida State Seminoles (6-3, 3-3) LW: 5
The Seminoles escaped Carter-Finley with a win and bowl eligibility, downing the Wolfpack on a late touchdown pass from Deondre Francois to Travis Rudolph. Florida State trailed the vast majority of the game and had trouble containing NC State’s offense but their freshman quarterback came through in the clutch. The ‘Noles received some bad news today, as they learned that senior wide receiver Jesus “Bobo” Wilson would miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his foot.
Last week: defeated NC State 24-20
This week: Friday, 7:30 pm vs Boston College
Tier 3: Bowl Contenders
6 - Miami Hurricanes (5-4, 2-3) LW: 8
Miami took advantage of a weak Pittsburgh secondary to snap a 4 game losing streak. QB Brad Kaaya was a star on Saturday, passing for 356 yards and 4 touchdowns on a career-high 32 completions. More importantly for the Hurricanes going forward, Pitt’s fierce pass rush was only able to get to Kaaya once, a week after he was sacked eight times by Virginia Tech. Miami should lock up bowl eligibility this weekend after a trip to Charlottesville.
Last week: defeated Pittsburgh 51-28
This week: Saturday, 2:00 pm at Virginia
7 - Pittsburgh Panthers (5-4, 2-3) LW: 6
It’s nothing that hasn’t been said over and over again, but the Pittsburgh secondary is a big problem. They were torched yet again against Miami, letting Kaaya complete his first 13 passes on the day. Unfortunately for the Panthers, their normally stout run defense also struggled, giving up nearly 9 yards per carry to Mark Walton. Pitt has been pretty disappointing this season and has their toughest test on the horizon: a trip to Death Valley.
Last week: lost to Miami 28-51
This week: Saturday, 3:30 pm at Clemson
8 - Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-3 3-2) LW: 11
Wake Forest clinched bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011 by downing Virginia 27-20. The Deacons leaned heavily on their rushing attack and defense to pick up their sixth win. QB John Wolford had one of his best games of the season, leading Wake on the ground with 94 yards and a touchdown while going 9 for 10 through the air. The defense sealed the game in the 4th quarter with a pair of interceptions, including one returned for the winning score.
Last week: defeated Virginia 27-20
This week: Saturday, 7:00 pm at Louisville
9 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-4, 2-4) LW: 7
Saturday was an out-and-out disaster for Georgia Tech. The defense did nothing to slow down North Carolina’s attack while the offense shot themselves in the foot time and time again. A return to a bowl game is still squarely in the Yellow Jackets’ sights but the road does not get easier as they travel to Lane Stadium this week.
Last week: lost to North Carolina 20-48
This week: Saturday, 3:30 pm at Virginia Tech
Tier 4: The Basement
10 - North Carolina State Wolfpack (4-5, 1-4) LW: 10
NC State is a hard team to figure out this season. A lot of advanced statistics like the Wolfpack (S&P+ has them ranked at 45th nationally, 8th in the conference but much closer to Pitt at 7th than Georgia Tech at 9th) but they can’t seem to translate that into tangible, on-field results. On Saturday, they limited Dalvin Cook as well as anyone has all season but still couldn’t steal a win from the Seminoles. I kind of feel like NC State belongs in Tier 3, but it is starting to seem more likely than not that they miss out on a bowl game.
Last week: lost to Florida State 20-24
This week: Saturday, 12:30 pm at Syracuse
11 - Duke Blue Devils (3-6, 0-5) LW: 14
For the third consecutive game, Duke came this close to pulling an upset and picking up their first conference win. The Blue Devils did a fairly good job of limiting Virginia Tech’s offense and freshman QB Daniel Jones had a good day on the ground (99 yards and 2 touchdowns) but couldn’t come through at the end of the game. Duke’s next chance at an upset comes in primetime Thursday night in Chapel Hill. There would be little better for Blue Devil fans than picking up their first conference win and ending their arch rival’s chance of winning the Coastal all at once.
Last week: lost to Virginia Tech 21-24
This week: Thursday, 7:30 pm vs North Carolina
12 - Syracuse Orange (4-5, 2-3) LW: 9
I might have gotten a little bit over excited in ranking Syracuse 9th last week. The Orange’s explosive offense failed against a dominate Clemson defense and was shut out. Syracuse’s fate was sealed early in the game when starting quarterback Eric Dungey was knocked out by a Clemson linebacker. Dungey has been excellent in his first season running Dino Babers’s system and losing him could spell the end to Syracuse’s already faint bowl hopes.
Last week: lost to Clemson 0-54
This week: Saturday, 12:30 pm vs NC State
13 - Virginia Cavaliers (2-7, 1-4) LW: 13
Virginia’s defeat at the hands of Wake Forest made the Cavaliers the first team in the ACC to “clinch” a losing season. There were not a lot of expectations in Charlottesville this season, but that is still disappointing for the ‘Hoos. That’s not to say they haven’t been competitive; Virginia has stayed in most of their conference games but they haven’t been able to come away with wins.
Last week: lost to Wake Forest 20-27
This week: Saturday, 2:00 pm vs Miami
14 - Boston College Eagles (4-5, 1-5) LW: 12
It was only a brief respite from the bottom of these Power Rankings for Boston College as they followed up their first conference win in almost two years with an annihilation at the hands of Louisville. The Eagles’ offense was once again anemic, putting up just a hair over 200 total yards and 1.5 yards per carry on the ground. Boston College is technically still alive for a bowl berth and may have a better chance than Syracuse, but it does not look promising in Chestnut Hill.
Last week: lost to Louisville 7-52
This week: Friday, 7:30 pm at Florida State