After 12 weeks and 11 games, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the ACC is a two team conference. Miami and Clemson are legitimate playoff contenders and standout head and shoulders above the rest of the conference. The middle class is deep - it really feels like any other team can beat any other team if they get caught on the right day - but there’s no other really good team in the bunch. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because it makes almost every game interesting but it does make the conference tough to figure out week to week. Heading into the final week of the regular season, here’s how the conference ranks in the FTRS Power Rankings.
1 - Miami Hurricanes (10-0, 7-0) LW: 1
Twice Virginia had a 14 point lead and twice they the Hurricanes erased it. After racing out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Wahoos let Miami claw back and tie the game at 14 early in the second quarter. Early in the third quarter, UVA took a 28-14 lead. From that point on, Miami outscored the Cavaliers 30-0. As has been the case all season, it was turnovers that turned the tide of the game. The Canes grabbed 3 on the day, including a pick six in the third quarter. As vulnerable as Miami has looked at times, they keep finding ways to win. A weekday noon game at Pitt may seem like a trap game but, at this point, I’m done doubting Miami.
Last Week: defeated UVA 44-28
This Week: Friday, 12:00 pm at Pittsburgh (ABC)
2 - Clemson Tigers (10-1, 7-1) LW: 2
The Tigers took care of business early and let everyone get some playing time during their pre-rivalry week tune up. Kelly Bryant led Clemson to a 28-0 lead before exiting the game late in the second quarter to let backups Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson have a turn at the reigns. True freshman WR Tee Higgins had a monster day, going for 178 yards and 2 TDs. Higgins had only played sparingly before Saturday but he has all the tools to be the next great Clemson wideout.
Last Week: defeated The Citadel 61-3
This Week: Saturday, 7:30 pm at South Carolina (ESPN)
3 - Virginia Tech Hokies (8-3, 4-3) LW: 5
It took a goal line stand but the Hokies were able to get back into the win column Saturday with a win over Pitt. The Panthers had four shots on the Virginia Tech one yard line but couldn’t push into the endzone for the winning score. VT’s offense hasn’t looked great the last few weeks, mainly due to inefficient play from QB Josh Jackson. Against Pitt, Jackson was just 17/37 for 218 yards. Even with their recent struggles, VT should probably beat UVA this week but keep an eye on the Commonwealth Cup Friday night.
Last Week: defeated Pittsburgh 20-14
This Week: Friday, 8:00 pm at Virginia (ESPN)
4 - Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-4, 4-3) LW: 6
We might need to talk about Wake Forest QB John Wolford as a dark horse ACC Player of the Year Candidate.
Here’s the list of players in the last decade with 3100+ yards, 33 TD & 4 or fewer turnovers through 11 games:— Crooked Halery (@DavidHaleESPN) November 19, 2017
John Wolford, Wake
That’s it. That’s the list.
The senior signal-caller has been incredible this season, putting up big numbers both through the air and on the ground while piloting Wake to a 7-3 record in his starts (he missed the game at Clemson). Louisville’s Lamar Jackson will probably win ACC PotY but I’d have a hard time faulting anyone that votes for Wolford.
Last Week: defeated NC State 30-24
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 pm vs Duke (ACCN)
5 - NC State Wolfpack (7-4, 5-2) LW: 3
Saturday’s game will probably haunt NC State fans for some time. The Pack outgained Wake Forest 502-334, held the ball for over 40 minutes, and went 14-23 on third down...and lost. After tying the game at 21 early in the third quarter NC State went three and out, three and out, fumble, 19 play-76 yard drive that only resulted in a FG, fumble, and interception. Three poorly timed turnovers and a monster drive that they couldn’t finish. It was a tough loss that really puts a sour note on what had looked like a break through season for NC State.
Last Week: lost to Wake Forest 24-30
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 pm vs North Carolina (ESPNU)
6 - Louisville Cardinals (7-4, 4-4) LW: 7
For maybe the first time all season, Lamar Jackson got some help. The Louisville QB had another big day (381 total yards, 4 total touchdowns) but RB Malik Williams (9 carries, 180 yards, 2 touchdowns) and the Cardinal defense stepped up in big ways to compliment the Heisman winner. Louisville forced 4 turnovers and shut down Syracuse’s explosive passing game in the defense’s best performance of the season. As disappointing as the 2017 season was for Louisville, they still have a pretty good shot at a 9 win season.
Last Week: defeated Syracuse 56-10
This Week: Saturday, 12:00 pm at Kentucky (SECN)
7 - Boston College Eagles (6-5, 3-4) LW: 8
Boston College had two players rush for over 100 yards on the way to a commanding 39-16 win over UConn in Fenway Park. Freshman AJ Dillon had his second 200 yard game of the season while senior Jon Hilliman added another 107 yards on just 10 carries. The BC defense had one of their best games of the season too, holding UConn to just 3 points until halfway through the fourth quarter.
Last Week: defeated Connecticut 39-16
This Week: Saturday, 12:20 pm at Syracuse (ACCN)
8 - Virginia Cavaliers (6-5, 3-4) LW: 9
For two quarters and change, Virginia gave Miami their best shot. QB Kurt Benkert was slinging the ball up and down the field but a back-breaking pick six in the third quarter gave the momentum to Miami for good. Benkert still had one of his best games of the season, throwing for 384 yards and 4 TDs. Unfortunately, the Wahoos couldn’t get anything going on the ground and ultimately sputtered late in the game. This week, they’ll try and snap a 13 game losing streak against arch-rival Virginia Tech. At home and in primetime, this might be the best opportunity they’ve had in a while.
Last Week: lost to Miami 28-44
This Week: Friday, 8:00 pm vs Virginia Tech (ESPN)
9 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-5, 4-4) LW: 4
Last week I asked “...why not Georgia Tech at #4?” Saturday, the Yellow Jackets showed us why they don’t belong at four. This Tech team is a hard one to figure out, mostly because they play like a different team when they’re at home in the friendly confines of Bobby Dodd Stadium. Home cooking probably won’t be enough to pull off the miracle this weekend though. Not with a defense that just gave up 319 yards on the ground to Duke.
Last Week: lost to Duke 20-43
This Week: Saturday, 12:00 pm vs Georgia (ABC)
10 - Florida State Seminoles (4-6, 3-5) LW: 10
The Seminoles let out a season’s worth of frustration on one of the worst teams in the FCS, beating Delaware State by 71. The Noles got two defensive touchdowns to go along with a pretty efficient day on offense. QB James Blackman was 11/15 for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns. On the ground, Florida State put up 7.7 yards per carry. This week, they’ll travel down to Gainesville to take on Florida in the Eligi-Bowl.
Last Week: defeated Delaware State 77-6
This Week: Saturday, 12:00 pm at Florida (ESPN)
11 - Duke Blue Devils (5-6, 2-5) LW: 14
The Duke team that took the field Saturday against Georgia Tech looked less like the team the rest of the ACC saw and more like the team that destroyed Northwestern back in September. The Blue Devils took to the ground, putting up 319 yards on 6.3 yards per carry, and shutting GT out in the second half. Senior RB Shaun Wilson got most of the attention on the broadcast but it was freshman RB Brittain Brown that led the team with 116 yards rushing. Brown and QB Daniel Jones will make an imposing duo over the next couple of seasons.
Last Week: defeated Georgia Tech 43-20
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 pm at Wake Forest (ACCN)
12 - Pittsburgh Panthers (4-7, 2-5) LW: 12
Four chances at the one yard line with a chance to pull an upset and keep bowl eligibility alive but Pitt couldn’t get the job done. With VT’s defense shutting down Pitt’s RB, Pat Narduzzi benched starting QB Ben Dinucci, a dual threat, in favor of Kenny Pickett. The freshman played fairly well (15/23 242 yards) but had a costly interception that set up VT’s winning score. With bowl hopes essentially dashed, all Pitt can do is look to play spoiler against CFP contender Miami.
Last Week: lost to Virginia Tech 14-20
This Week: Friday, 12:00 pm vs Miami (ABC)
13 - Syracuse Orange (4-7, 2-5) LW: 11
Once again without their star QB Eric Dungey, Syracuse struggled to get anything done against Louisville’s defense. Backup QB Zack Mahoney and freshman QB Rex Culpepper both got plenty of playing time but neither was effective, both completing less than half their passes and throwing two interceptions. If Dungey doesn’t play, it’s hard to imagine the Orange beating a resurgent Boston College team, even with the game in the Carrier Dome.
Last Week: lost to Louisville 10-56
This Week: Saturday, 12:20 pm vs Boston College (ACCN)
14 - North Carolina Tar Heels (3-8, 1-6) LW: 13
In a lost season like UNC is mired in, any win is a good win. The Heels destroyed Western Carolina, moving the ball at will and putting up over 600 yards of offense. QB Nathan Elliott made just his second start but threw 4 first half TD passes, setting the tone for the route. Don’t look now, but North Carolina is on a winning streak and could really put a damper on NC State’s season this weekend.
Last Week: defeated Western Carolina 65-10
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 pm at NC State (ESPNU)