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ACC Power Rankings - Week 8

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Four or five teams are starting to separate from the pack

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to believe but we’re already roughly 2/3rds of the way through the 2017 college football regular season. Eight weeks are in the books. As we look around the college football landscape, we’re starting to see the handful of teams with real playoff shots emerge. In the ACC it looks like there are four or five teams that have elevated themselves above the rest of the conference while one has sunk like a rock to the bottom. The other 8 or 9 teams? It’s a cloudy mess and the correct way to rank them is anyone’s guess.

1a - Clemson Tigers (6-1, 4-1) LW: 1a

I’m still doing the whole 1a/1b thing because I can’t find definitive news about Kelly Bryant’s status. The most recent practice report I can find said he was out last Wednesday recovering from his concussion. As I said last week, if Bryant comes back fully recovered from both his concussion and his sprained ankle, Clemson is still the ACC favorite. If the Tigers have to turn to Zerrick Cooper, I think I would bump them down to number 2. Clemson will face a Georgia Tech team they’ve dominated during the last two meetings in prime-time this weekend.

Last Week - Bye
This Week - Saturday, 8:00 pm vs Georgia Tech (ABC/ESPN2)

1b - Miami Hurricanes (6-0, 4-0) LW: 1b

They’re not blowing anyone out, but Miami keeps finding ways to win games. The Hurricane defense tortured Syracuse QB Eric Dungey, picking him off 4 times and holding him to a 32% completion percentage but had some problems stopping the Orange’s ground game. On the other side of the ball, star WR Ahmmon Richards returned from a hamstring injury to have a big, 6 catch, 99 yard day. UNC shouldn’t be much of a test for Miami.

Last Week - defeated Syracuse 27-19
This Week - Saturday, 12:00 pm at North Carolina (ESPN2)

3 - NC State Wolfpack (6-1, 4-0) LW: 3

NC State heads up to South Bend to take on Notre Dame in one of the biggest games of the weekend. The Irish will be a big test for the Wolfpack’s run defense, which ranks 6th nationally, giving up just 91 yards per game, though NC State hasn’t faced a rushing attack of Notre Dame’s caliber.

Last Week - Bye
This Week - Saturday, 3:30 pm at Notre Dame (NBC)

4 - Virginia Tech Hokies (6-1, 2-1) LW: 4

Saturday felt a little bit like the peak Beamer Ball days in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech scored 2 defensive touchdowns and 1 special teams touchdown in the first half to race out to a 35-0 halftime lead and never looked back. North Carolina is obviously in a rough place but this was a very impressive all around game by the Hokies.

Last Week - defeated North Carolina 59-7
This Week - Saturday, 7:20 pm vs Duke (ACC Network)

5 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-2, 3-1) LW: 5

The Yellow Jackets outscored Wake Forest 25-3 in the second half to finally close out a competitive game. After a very rough first half on both sides of the ball, Tech came out of the locker room and played one of their best halves all season. For the fourth time this season QB TaQuon Marshall and BB KirVonte Benson both topped 100 yards on the ground. On the day, GT converted 60% of their third downs, while holding Wake to 36% of theirs.

Last Week - defeated Wake Forest 38-24
This Week - Saturday, 8:00 pm at Clemson (ABC/ESPN2)

6 - Louisville Cardinals (5-3, 2-3) LW: 10

Louisville is just yo-yoing up and down the middle of the ACC standings. I’m putting them at the top of the mess because, as bad as their defense is, Lamar Jackson is the best thing any team in the middle of the ACC has going for them. Against the ‘Noles Jackson put up 334 total yards and 2 touchdowns. I don’t know if they’re going to stay at the top of the pack for long. Duke Ejiofor and Wake’s defense might pose a problem for Jackson this weekend.

Last Week - defeated Florida State 31-28
This Week - Saturday, 12:20 pm at Wake Forest (ACC Network)

7 - Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-3, 1-3) LW: 8

Moving up a spot after a loss? Partially the ACC is kind of a mess after the top five, partially I think Wake is still decent to good. They did a great job of bottling Tech up in the first half before the Yellow Jackets focused on the run and broke off some big plays to run away with the game late. Maybe a bit bold, but I think Wake upsets either Louisville this weekend or NC State in November and returns to a bowl game.

Last Week - lost to Georgia Tech 24-38
This Week - Saturday, 12:20 pm vs Louisville (ACC Network)

8 - Syracuse Orange (4-4, 2-2) LW: 9

Another team moving up after a loss? Yep, Syracuse couldn’t quite pull off another upset on the road against Miami but that was a gutty performance from the Orange. Eric Dungey shook off a terrible first half and nearly brought his team back in the fourth quarter. They’ll get a week to rest up before taking another trip down to the Sunshine State.

Last Week - lost to Miami 19-27
This Week - Bye (Next game at Florida State on 11/4)

9 - Florida State Seminoles (2-4, 2-3) LW: 6

I think at this point it’s safe to say that even if Deondre Francois was healthy, Florida State wouldn’t be the National Title Contender everyone thought they’d be at the start of the season. Yes, they’d almost assuredly have a better record with Francois. Maybe even be 5-1. But the defense has been good-not-great and the offensive line still has some of the same issues as last season. They’d be ranked higher but would be a team ripe for an upset. But Francois is hurt and instead the Noles will have to scrap for bowl eligibility.

Last Week - lost to Louisville 28-31
This Week - Friday, 8:00 pm at Boston College (ESPN)

10 - Boston College Eagles (4-4, 2-3) LW: 12

Soooo I guess Boston College is an offensive juggernaut now? The Eagles rolled in to Charlottesville and just systematically destroyed a Virginia team looking to lock up bowl eligibility. Boston College scored on two 76-yard touchdowns in the first quarter to jump out to a big lead, put together two extended third quarter scoring drives to extend the lead, and iced the game with a fourth quarter pick six. This was, by far, the best game of QB Anthony Smith’s career. The freshman went 19/24 for 275 yards and 3 TDs. I don’t know if BC will be able to move the ball quite as well against Florida State, but Friday night’s game is a little more intriguing now.

Last Week - defeated Virginia 41-10
This Week - Friday, 8:00 pm vs Florida State (ESPN)

11 - Virginia Cavaliers (5-2, 2-1) LW: 7

Virginia might not be bad but it was a bit premature to say that they might be good. A 31-point drubbing at home against Boston College is a really bad look. Not much went right for UVA and the less said about their efforts in this game, the better. They’ll get a second crack at that sixth win on the road against a vulnerable Pittsburgh team. Can the Wahoos shake off a bad loss?

Last Week - lost to Boston College 10-41
This Week - Saturday, 12:30 pm at Pittsburgh (RSN Affiliates)

12 - Pittsburgh Panthers (3-5, 1-3) LW: 13

Pitt may have found itself a new running back. Junior Darrin Hall came into the game listed as a co-starter with Qadree Ollison. He finished the game with 25 carries, 254 yards, and 3 touchdowns - 2 of which were runs of over 75 yards. Hall led the way for Pitt, who had to claw their way out of a 17-7 third quarter deficit to escape Durham with their first conference win. Bowl eligibity, which once looked like a pipe dream, suddenly isn’t so crazy. Their next two games are at home against UVA and UNC.

Last Week - defeated Duke 24-17
This Week - Saturday, 12:30 pm vs Virginia (RSN Affiliates)

13 - Duke Blue Devils (4-4, 1-4) LW: 11

It’s probably time for me to admit I was wrong about Duke. I thought they would be solid preseason and through the first month I felt pretty good about that call. They were destroying teams they should destroy and their run defense was playing really, really well. Since then, just about everything has fallen apart. The run defense that did so well early on has surrendered big days on the ground to FSU and Pitt in back to back weeks. On the other side of the ball, it’s been a while since QB Daniel Jones has had a good game (he was 15/33 for 272, 2 TDs, 1 INT vs Pitt). I think this team still has a reasonably bright future it’s building towards but the present is not great.

Last Week - lost to Pittsburgh 17-24
This Week - Saturday, 7:20 pm at Virginia Tech (ACC Network)

14 - North Carolina Tar Heels (1-7, 0-5) LW: 14

Rough game for UNC. In other games it’s been possible to find a bright spot or two for the Tar Heels but there’s really nothing to be found here. Three QBs took snaps and none of them looked good. RBs Jordon Brown and Michael Carter have had some big games but were shut down by the Hokie defense. Unfortunately, things aren’t likely to get any better this weekend against Miami.

Last Week - lost to Virginia Tech 7-59
This Week - Saturday, 12:00 pm vs Miami (ESPN2)