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ACC Power Rankings: Week 8

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The ACC Coastal Starts to Shake Out...Kinda

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This was a week that was supposed to clarify a lot of things, but it only did that a little bit. The Coastal now has two top contenders and Wake Forest solidified itself as the second best team in the Atlantic.

1 - #4 Clemson Tigers (7-0, 5-0)

Trevor Lawrence threw two early interceptions against Louisville on Saturday keeping the Cardinals in the game early on. But, then Trevor Lawrence started playing well and the Tigers defense stifled Louisville’s offense. Clemson only got to put in their backups at the end of the game which isn’t as good as they normally do. Travis Etienne was insanely good with 192 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. The usual worries showed up for Clemson this game. Lawrence’s decision making and the run defense which struggled somewhat. They have nobody left on the schedule who should really challenge them. The difficulty for them is staying focused in every game. They get BC this week. They should really win that game.

Last Week: Win 45-10 at Louisville

Next Week: Saturday at 7:30 vs. Boston College

2 - Virginia Cavaliers (5-2, 3-1)

The Cavaliers had a huge week. Not only did they crush Duke and relegate them to the second tier of contenders, but North Carolina also lost leaving Virginia and Pitt as the sole one-loss Coastal teams. UVA has the head-to-head over Pitt leaving them in good position to win the division and maybe even reach the Orange Bowl. They dominated the Blue Devils in large part because they forced 5 turnovers and three turnover on downs. They had touchdown drives of 40, 34, and 21 yards plus a kickoff returned for a touchdown. In addition they had two field goals on drives they didn’t even get a first down on. Bryce Perkins was okay and the run game actually moved the ball some, but the offense didn’t perform nearly as well as their 48 points would imply. The defense was spectacular. Duke barely got 100 yards passing and Duke’s rushing was very inefficient. The Cavaliers look like the best team in the Coastal. Now they face a tough cross-division game at Louisville. They need to keep it up with a win here.

Last Week: Win 48-14 vs. Duke

Next Week: Saturday at 3:30 at Louisville

3 - #25 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-1, 2-1)

The Demon Deacons held for a close win this weekend against the Seminoles thanks in large part to a late missed 50-yard field goal by FSU. Wake Forest won this one despite missing starting quarterback Jamie Newman. The defense had an admirable effort limiting the Seminoles and forcing two turnovers. Wake did not have any turnovers. They needed to be mistake free and they largely were. Florida State focused on stuffing the run and challenging quarterback Sam Hartman. Hartman succeeded with 308 yards on 21/38 passing. The Deacons had less than 3 yards per carry. A win is a win and for Wake Forest a win over FSU is extra sweet. They get a bye next week before welcoming the Wolfpack to Winston-Salem. This could be a 9 or 10 win team this year.

Last Week: Win 22-20 vs. Florida State

Next Week: Bye

4 - Pittsburgh Panthers (5-2, 2-1)

Pitt had an okay week. They survived the deadly away mid-week game against Syracuse and North Carolina dropped a second ACC game leaving Pitt as one of just two Coastal teams with one ACC loss. Unfortunately for them the other one is Virginia who has an extra ACC win and the head-to-head victory. They would have much rather had Duke won. The Syracuse game ended a misleadingly close 27-20. Pitt was in control the whole time. Offensively Pitt was efficient with both Kenny Pickett throwing and AJ Davis running. Defensively they hammered both of Syracuse’s quarterbacks with 9 sacks and 6 hurries and they knocked both quarterbacks out of the game (although Clayton Welch was only out briefly). The main complaint was that Pitt was dominating at half up 24-6 and let Syracuse back into the game. They won, but they should have won by more. Every ACC game from now on is a must win. This week it’s Miami who is wildly inconsistent. Good luck.

Last Week: Win 27-20 at Syracuse

Next Week: Saturday at noon vs. Miami

5 - Virginia Tech Hokies (5-2, 2-2)

Three weeks ago I relegated the Hokies to the bottom portion of the power rankings. Since then they beat Miami on the road and snuck out a 6 overtime win against North Carolina. Given everyone else’s performance since then, I think this is appropriate. This was a crazy game. It went to 6 overtimes and saw the first use of the NCAA’s new overtime rules. The 5th and 6th overtimes each consisted of both teams running two point conversions. Both teams had little trouble moving the ball in regulation and then struggled in overtime. Both kickers missed two game winners in overtime. Hendon Hooker was very effective at quarterback, 8/12 for 127 yards and a touchdown, before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury. Quincy Patterson and Deshawn McClease combined for 194 yards on the ground. VT showed a lot of resilience when down for most of the game. Virginia Tech still needs two more wins to get bowl eligibility (They played two FCS teams), but with games left against Pitt and UVA they have an outside chance at the Coastal. First they have a bye to heal up before heading to South Bend to take on Notre Dame.

Last Week: Win 42-40 (6 OT) vs. UNC

Next Week: Bye

6 - North Carolina Tar Heels (3-4, 2-2)

I have no idea where to put North Carolina. Putting a scare into Clemson still looks great and that against South Carolina looks good, but they really need to win some games. A win this week against Virginia Tech was needed to keep this team at the top of the Coastal race. Now they are a game back, although they still have games against Pitt and UVA so they have a chance to make up the difference. They could also miss a bowl. The Heels offense was fine. Sam Howell was 26/49 for 348 yards (7.1 YPA) and 5 touchdowns. The running backs combined for 5.5 yards per carry. They had no turnovers. This loss was all on the defense letting the Hokies have their way. They now head to a massive rivalry game against Duke.

Last Week: Lose 42-40 (6OT) at Virginia Tech

Next Week: Saturday at 4 vs. Duke

7 - Duke Blue Devils (4-3, 2-2)

This was a bad week for the Blue Devils. They got smoked by UVA and are now a game behind the Cavliers and Panthers in the Coastal and both teams have the head-to-head against the Blue Devils. Duke needs chaos to win the division. Duke’s problem against UVA was turnovers. Quentin Harris had two picks and a fumble. Running backs Deon Jackson and Mateo Durant each lost another fumble. The offense had a few nice drives, but ultimately couldn’t move the ball much through the air or on the ground and turnovers killed them. The defense didn’t perform terribly given the circumstances, but they could have been better. A win next week at UNC would make up for this week.

Last Week: Lose 48-14 at Virginia

Next Week: Saturday at 4 at North Carolina

8 - Louisville Cardinals (4-3, 2-2)

Okay, so they lost to Clemson pretty badly. They at least put up some fight early. They forced two turnovers early on against Trevor Lawrence, but then weren’t able to keep it up. The defense was not able to stop Travis Etienne and Lawrence eventually figured it out. A week after putting up 63 points the Cardinals offense was dominated. Neither Micale Cunningham nor Evan Conley had any success passing the ball. They were able to run pretty successfully with Javian Hawkins going for 129 yards on 26 carries. This team finishes off their tough stretch with a home game against Virginia. That’s a winnable one.

Last Week: Lose 45-10 vs. Clemson

Next Week: Saturday at 3:30 vs. Virginia

9 - Boston College Eagles (4-3, 2-2)

I thought the Eagles were done for the year. They hadn’t looked very good and lost Anthony Brown for the season. Instead BC looks resurgent. They stomped NC State. New starting quarterback Dennis Grosel really wasn’t impressive. It didn’t matter because the Eagles ran for 429 yards. AJ Dillon had 223 yards on 34 carries and 3 touchdowns and David Bailey added 181 yards on 16 carries and a pair of touchdowns. They just manhandled the Wolfpack. The defense also didn’t have too much trouble with NC State which is a relief because they have not looked particularly good recently. BC heads to Clemson next week so we’ll see how this team is doing in a few weeks.

Last Week: Win 45-24 vs. NC State

Next Week: Saturday at 7:30 at Clemson

10 - Florida State Seminoles (3-4, 2-3)

I didn’t think Florida State was going to win at Wake until I heard that Jamie Newman was out. Then I thought for sure they’d pick up the victory. They had their chances, but were unable to beat the Demon Deacons playing a backup quarterback. You gotta give credit to Cam Akers. He had another huge day with 30 carries for 157 yards and a touchdown. FSU keeps feeding him the ball and giving him 30+ touches because they struggle doing anything else. That needs to be fixed. They had drives of 41, 42, 42, and 50 yards that came up empty. They needed to finish just one more drive. The defense was unable to force any turnovers or shut down Wake’s offense which they needed to do. Now FSU has a real shot at missing a bowl game although they should still make one. That starts with beating Syracuse this week.

Last week: Lose 22-20 at Wake Forest

Next Week: Saturday at 3:30 vs. Syracuse

11 - Miami Hurricanes (3-4, 1-3)

Wow. I did not expect that. In their fifth consecutive home game the Canes dropped a stinker against the Jackets. Their kickers missed three chip shots, N’Kosi Perry fumbled at the goal line, and they gave up a fake punt pass while watching for the trick play. There were so many mental errors here that contributed to the loss. They struggled to finish drives as well. Like FSU, Miami is in danger of missing a bowl in Manny Diaz’s first year. To prevent that they need to figure out how to finish a team off. They head to Pitt for their second road game of the year. They really need this win.

Last Week: Lose 28-21 (OT) vs. Georgia Tech

Next Week: Saturday at noon at Pitt

12 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-5, 1-3)

We did it! We’re out of the cellar following a road win against Miami. Player of the game goes to Pressley Harvin III for that dime on the fake punt. Like Miami we had mental mistakes and struggled to finish off drives, but we won so I’m going to tone down any complaints this week. We now get a bye to keep things improving before we get the chance to ruin more seasons starting with Pitt in early November.

Last Week: Win 28-21 (OT) at Miami

Next Week: Bye

13 - North Carolina State Wolfpack (4-3, 1-2)

North Carolina State got destroyed by Boston College with a backup quarterback. The Pack were down 31-3 at one point. The Eagles had no passing threat whatsoever (only completing six passes) and they still let BC run all over them. It was an embarrassing performance for the Pack. The lone bright spot was quarterback Devin Leary who played well late in the game. If he keeps playing well they could make a bowl game, but they need to play better defensively. They get a bye to lick their wounds before heading to Wake Forest.

Last Week: Lose 45-24 at Boston College

Next Week: Bye

14 - Syracuse Orange (3-4, 0-3)

Syracuse is still wanting for a conference win after they struggled at home against Pitt. The Orange made it close, but it was too little, too late. Tommy Devito got hurt early in the game leading to Clayton Welch playing most of the game. He played pretty well considering he was running for his life much of the game. The Orange offensive line was manhandled in this game. They gave up 9 sacks and got no push on runs. The defense wasn’t terrible, especially in the second half. This team needs three more wins to reach a bowl. Looking at their schedule it’s a tough, but doable road. It starts this week at FSU. I don’t see them winning that one.

Last Week: Lose 27-20 vs. Pitt

Next Week: Saturday at 3:30 at Florida State