A lot can change in a short amount of time. Since we last met in this spot to sort out the Atlantic Coast Conference, some things, especially on the Coastal side, have taken a turn for the strange. Others - looking at you, Clemson - went about as expected. With three weeks left in the regular season, there’s still plenty left to play for on both sides of the conference, so let’s see if we can figure out who are contenders and who are pretenders. Your FTRS Weekly Power Rankings are back!
1 - #2 Clemson Tigers (9-0, 6-0, S&P+ #2)
Four weeks ago, Clemson was coming off a dominat win over Wake Forest but only a week removed from a close call against Syracuse. Now, that close call looks better than ever and the Tigers have just built on that Wake Forest win. In wins over NC State, Florida State, and Louisville, the Tigers have outscored opponents 177-33 and have won on the arm of Trevor Lawrence (314 yards, 4 TDs vs FSU) and on the backs of the running back stable. Clemson looks every bit of the National Title contender and they’re closer to Alabama than you might think. In the S&P+’s rating system there’s a bigger gap between Clemson and #3 Michigan than Clemson and #1 Alabama. Since Trevor Lawrence took over, there’s been almost no gap between Clemson and Alabama.
With only Lawrence games,— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) November 7, 2018
1. Bama (+31.23)
2. Clemson (+31.15)
With only Ian Book games,
5. UGA (+23.84)
6. Notre Dame (+23.78) https://t.co/9xH2aEvgl8
Since Last Time: 3-0 (defeated #16 NC State 41-7, FSU 59-10, and Louisville 77-16)
This Week: Saturday at 8:00 pm at #17 Boston College (ABC)
2 - #17 Boston College Eagles (7-2, 4-1, S&P+ #38)
So help me but Boston College is sucking me back in. The Eagles got back star RB AJ Dillon and bounced back from their loss to NC State with a three game win streak, including a road win at Virginia Tech. Over the last month, Boston College has been great in the second half of games. In the first half, the Eagles are playing opponents to a draw (48-48 in the first half against Louisville, Miami, and VT) but destroying teams in the second half (48-7 against the same 3 opponets). They’ll get their biggest test of the season against Clemson this weekend. I don’t expect them to win but I think they can give the Tigers their best game since Syracuse.
Since Last Time: 3-0 (defeated Louisville 38-20, Miami 27-14, and Virginia Tech 31-21)
This Week: Saturday at 8:00 pm vs #2 Clemson (ABC)
3 - #13 Syracuse Orange (7-2, 4-2, S&P+ #58)
The Orange are in a similar position to Boston College. In the last edition of these rankings, they were coming off a couple of close losses to Clemson and Pitt but have since ripped off three wins in a row. Syracuse’s opponents in that win streak weren’t quite as strong as BC’s but getting bowl eligibility in October was a huge step for a Syracuse team finally breaking through in year three of the Dino Babers era. As always, the Syracuse offense has been hitting on all cylinders but the defense is still a sieve, which puts them in a slightly more precarious position than the Eagles. Either way, their Thanksgiving Weekend game will likely be for second in the Atlantic and should be a really fun watch.
Since Last Time: 3-0 (defeated UNC 40-37 in 2OT, #22 NC State 51-41, and Wake Forest 41-24)
This Week: Friday at 7:00 pm vs Louisville (ESPN2)
4 - #14 NC State Wolfpack (6-2, 3-2, S&P+ #40)
In contrast to Boston College and Syracuse, we have NC State. At the beginning of October, the Wolfpack looked ascendent. If anyone could compete with Clemson in the ACC it would be NC State, who might somehow be better than last year despite losing a lot on defense. Well, not so fast my friends. Clemson picked apart NC State then Syracuse rode a huge first quarter to hand the Pack a second straight loss. Luckily, the back end of the schedule is as easy as anyone’s. After beating FSU last weekend, the Pack close with Wake, Louisville, North Carolina, and East Carolina. Anything less than a 10-2 finish would be a massive dissapointment.
Since Last Time: 1-2 (defeated FSU 47-28, lost at #3 Clemson 7-41 and at Syracuse 41-51)
This Week: Thursday at 7:30 pm vs Wake Forest (ESPN)
5 - Pittsburgh Panthers (5-4, 4-1, S&P+ #71)
Oh, what to do with the Coastal. Analytic rankings tend to put Pitt at the back of the pack of Coastal contenders (everyone except UNC) and they’ve been outscored on the season but the Panthers have been playing pretty good ball recently. Since being blown out by UCF, Pitt has won three key conference games and played Notre Dame to the wire. The key during that span of games has been Pitt’s control of the ground game, both on offense and defense. They control their destiny in the division with three games to go.
Since Last Time: 2-1 (defeated Duke 54-45 and #25 UVA 23-13, lost to #5 Notre Dame 14-19)
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm vs Virginia Tech (ESPNU)
6 - Virginia Cavaliers (6-3, 4-2, S&P+ #55)
The Wahoo’s loss to Pitt last week was crushing to their chances at a division title. Virginia had been playing pretty well but now they have to win a pair of tough road games at the Techs to keep pace in the Coastal. Until the Pitt game, the Cavaliers’ run defense had been outstanding but the Panthers gashed them for 254 yards and 6.0 yards per carry. UVA will need to shore that up before heading to Atlanta in a couple weeks.
Since Last Time: 2-1 (defeated Duke 28-14 and UNC 31-21, lost to Pitt 13-23
This Week: Saturday at 3:00 pm vs Liberty (RSN)
7 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-4, 3-3, S&P+ #60)
After going nearly a season and a half without a road win, Georgia Tech has rattled off three in a row, including a gutty win in Chapel Hill after giving up a three score lead. Now they need to keep the momentum going in Bobby Dodd against Miami and UVA. The offensive line is as healthy as it’s been all season which, combined with Tobias Oliver’s emergence at QB, has given the Yellow Jackets one of the best offenses in the country according to some metrics.
Since Last Time: 2-1 (defeated Virginia Tech 49-28 and UNC 38-28, lost to Duke 14-28)
This Week: Saturday at 7:00 pm vs Miami (ESPN2)
8 - Miami Hurricanes (5-4, 2-3, S&P+ #21)
Miami’s story over the last month has been a tale of two units. The offense has been completely lost since their comeback win over Florida State. At the same time, the defense has been one of the best in the country. Unfortunately, you need to score points to win. Coach Mark Richt can’t seem to decide on a quarterback and neither have played well in recent weeks. The Canes may be in free fall but the defense probably remains the single best unit in the Coastal Division.
Since Last Time: 0-3 (lost to Virginia 13-16, Boston College 14-27, and Duke 12-20)
This Week: Saturday at 7:00 pm at Georgia Tech (ESPN2)
9 - Duke Blue Devils (6-3, 2-3, S&P+ #45)
There probably hasn’t been a more up-and-down team in the Coastal over the last month than Duke. The Blue Devils won a pair of tough-lower scoring road games in Atlanta in Miami, lost at home to Virginia, and dropped a barn burner against Pitt. Interestingly, they were outgained in all four games. The two wins were the products of the Duke defense producing timely turnovers, which may be hard to replicate consistently.
Since Last Time: 2-2 (defeated Georgia Tech 28-14 and Miami 20-12, lost to UVA 14-28 and Pitt 45-54)
This Week: Saturday at 12:20 pm vs North Carolina (Raycom)
10 - Virginia Tech Hokies (4-4, 3-2, S&P+ #61)
Virginia Tech has struggled a lot since the last edition of the Power Rankings. First, the Hokies needed a last minute score to top North Carolina. Then they dropped two home games in a row by decisive margins. The normally solid defense has struggled greatly, especially against the run while the offense will go through strange dry spells. They still have a good shot at claiming the division since they close with a pair of home games. Of course, first they need to beat Pitt this weekend.
Since Last Time: 1-2 (defeated UNC 22-19, lost to GT 28-49 and #22 BC 21-31)
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm at Pittsburgh (ESPNU)
11 - Florida State Seminoles (4-5, 2-5, S&P+ #75)
Florida State’s bowl streak is probably coming to an end. The Noles sit at 4 wins with an incredibly tough schedule down the stretch. In the past few weeks, FSU has been able to put up yards through the air, even after losing QB Deondre Francois to an injury against Clemson, but the run game is a big nothing against decent defenses and pass protection is still a problem. The problems for Florida State this season really all come back to the offensive line and that’s not something that can be fixed overnight.
Since Last Time: 1-2 (defeated Wake Forest 38-17, lost to #2 Clemson 10-59 and #21 NCST 28-47)
This Week: Saturday at 7:30 pm at #3 Notre Dame (NBC)
12 - Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-5, 1-4, S&P+ #87)
The Deacons haven’t been able to build on last year’s successes and now have another road block to face. Freshman QB Sam Hartman suffered a right leg injury late in last week’s loss to Syracuse and will now miss the remainder of the season. Hartman has had a pretty good rookie season for Wake Forest but will have to spend the last three weeks on the sideline. Even with Hartman, a bowl berth was going to be tough with NCST, Pitt, and Duke on the schedule. Without him, it may be a pipe dream.
Since Last Time: 1-2 (defeated Louisville 56-35, lost to FSU 17-38 and #19 Syracuse 24-41)
This Week: Thursday at 7:30 pm at #14 NC State (ESPN)
13 - North Carolina Tar Heels (1-7, 1-5, S&P+ #98)
It’s kind of a miracle that UNC isn’t at the bottom of the ACC Power Rankings but they are a pretty clear #13. The Tar Heels only have a win over Pitt to boast of this season but they keep coming close before throwing the game away down the stretch. North Carolina led VT in the final minute, took Syracuse to double overtime, and was tied with Georgia Tech with 3 minutes left before losing all three games. With rivalry games against Duke and NC State remaining the Heels have a chance to play spoiler but it’s looking like a lost season in Chapel Hill.
Since Last Time: 0-4 (lost to VT 19-22, Syracuse 37-40 in 2OT, UVA 21-31, and GT 28-38)
This Week: Saturday at 12:20 pm at Duke (Raycom)
14 - Louisville Cardinals (2-7, 0-6, S&P+ #104)
Louisville is flat out one of the worst power conference teams. They’re Kansas, Oregon State, Rutgers level bad. They’re able to put up some offensive numbers but the Cardinals’ defense is attrocious, especially against the run. After getting gashed by Georgia Tech, they gave up 251 rush yards to a BC team without AJ Dillon and 368 rush yards to Wake Forest. Last week, Clemson’s top 4 running backs (Etienne, Feaster, Choice, and Dixon) combined for 413 yards on just 21 carries. They finish with three games against ranked teams, so the Cards have a very good chance at finishing 2-10 and winless in conference.
Since Last Time: 0-3 (lost to BC 20-38, Wake Forest 35-56, and #2 Clemson 16-77)
This Week: Friday at 7:00 pm at #13 Syracuse