1. Florida State: 7-0 (4-0)
Last Week: W 31-27 vs. Notre Dame
This Week: Bye
Previous Ranking: 1
FSU is most likely playoff bound after what I would call their first hard fought, well deserved, quality win of the season. They travel to Louisville on the Thursday after their bye week, which could be tricky, but after that Virginia, Miami, and Boston College don't pose much of a threat. As long as Clemson holds to just two losses, the Orange Bowl (likely versus Notre Dame) will be in their future so long as Florida State leaves the slot open to participate in the inaugural College Football Playoff. If the 'Noles get by Louisville (and thus there's no real chance they would lose twice), we'll be awkwardly forced to cheer for FSU.
2. Notre Dame: 6-1 (2-1)*
Last Week: L 27-31 at Florida State
This Week: Bye
Previous Ranking: 2
Despite losing, I was very impressed with Notre Dame. They went toe-to-toe with the defending national champions and beat them before a flag was thrown. Everett Golson looked like a star and the Irish defense stepped up with a late stop that gave them a chance to win the game.
They've now played three of their four ACC games (Louisville remains and they begin playing five per season next year), and the outlook is positive enough that they are likely headed to the Orange Bowl and not taking a slot in the ACC bowl lineup. It is fitting then that this is their last week in our ACC power rankings. They proved to be elite, but not better than the rest of the ACC.
3. Clemson: 5-2 (4-1)
Last Week: W 17-13 at Boston College
Next Week: Syracuse
Previous Ranking: 3
Clemson was very fortunate to escape Chestnut Hill with a victory. They ran 22 more plays than BC and finished with 135 more total yards, but had BC capitalized on a few more opportunities it could have looked much different.
BC receivers dropped two crucial passes that could have been explosive touchdowns. Cole Stoudt under-threw Stanton Seckinger and Mike Williams, but narrowly avoided getting picked both times. With about 13 and a half minutes left in the game, a poorly placed ball was temporarily intercepted before Artavis Scott slapped it out of the BC defenders hand - a heads up play from the freshman receiver that mimicked his effort on a bad pass in the SC State game.
BC also missed a PAT late that would have put them up four. After Clemson countered with a CJ Davidson touchdown, the missed PAT came back to bite the eagles as the go-ahead touchdown pass was dropped by Tyler Rouse and then, down four instead of three, they were forced to play for the TD and Murphy was unable to slip it between two defenders into the tiny window.
I'm not complaining though. As a Clemson fan, I've witnessed far to many breaks go against us to feel anything but joy when they fall our way as they have the past two games. Hats off to Venables venerable defense which again won the day. BC didn't convert a third down in the first half and was held under 300 yards in the game. Grady Jarrett looked outstanding stuffing the inside run. Once he even pushed a Boston College lineman into the running back to get a stop.
Cole Stoudt was awarded the O'Rourke-McFadden MVP Leather Helmet, and I couldn't be happier for him, even if I thought Mike Williams who finished with 8 receptions and 128 yards was the standout player on offense. If this team had last year's running game Stoudt would be in a much more advantageous position for a "game manager" type QB, but the offensive line just doesn't get enough push to have any sort of consistency in the ground game. As a result, Stoudt had to throw it 45 times and finished 29/45 with 285 yards. It's also worth noting that his shoulder is still far from 100% and he deserves a hat tip for the gutsy effort playing through pain.
I punished myself by watching the Syracuse at Wake Forest game at noon and although I had low expectations I was amazed at how bad Wake Forest was. Their defense is adequate, but their offensive line makes ours look like the Atlanta Falcons. I've pointed to some of Wake's freshman quarterback's ugly stats in past Power Rankings articles, but after watching their line, it's amazing he
is was even healthy. He got drilled from behind and did not return against 'Cuse. They do not believe he has a concussion and he should be fine, but he seems to rush throws even when he does have time (and who can blame him).
Syracuse didn't look amazing, Wake Forest was just that bad. Georgia Tech also looked awful as their defense was absolutely gashed in Chapel Hill. After seeing their performance I'm confident we can win in Atlanta, even if we have to do it without Deshaun Watson. We just need Stoudt to get healthy, and the coaches allow him to throw more than screen passes. We escaped the past two games which probably should have been losses and now we should resume tearing through the ACC and improving for the Palmetto Bowl. Until the offense shows more punch Clemson belongs in the same tier as Louisville and the soon to be Coastal Division Champs.
4. Louisville: 6-2 (4-2)
Last Week: W 30-18 vs. NC State
This Week: Bye
Previous Ranking: 5
Although they won by 12, NCSU actually pulled within five before an onside kick failed and Michael Dyer broke free to a game sealing touchdown for Louisville. Louisville's defense remains one of the best in the conference, but their offense gives me a lot of doubt about their chances of beating FSU or Notre Dame.
5. Duke 6-1 (2-1)
Last Week: W 20-13 vs. Virginia
This Week: Bye
Previous Ranking: 6
Who would have dreamed Virginia at Duke would be the Clemson at Florida State of the Coastal Division. Not as interesting of a matchup, huh? Duke has now won six of seven against UVA and has taken command of the Coastal Division. Another Duke vs. FSU ACCCG looks likely. Is that best for the ACC?
6. Virginia: 4-3 (2-1)
Last Week: L 13-20 at Duke
This Week: North Carolina
Previous Ranking: 4
Virginia battled Duke and kept it close, but their offense was just too incompetent to take control of the Coastal. Matt Johns got the naps at QB and threw for 306 yards. Virginia out-gained Duke by 131, but didn't turn enough of them into points and as we know, you cannot do that on the road and expect to win. They now need Duke to lose twice unless they beat Florida State, in which case they need Duke to lose just one.
Muddled Mess of Mediocrity
7. Georgia Tech: 5-2 (2-2)
Last Week: L 43-48 at North Carolina
This Week: at Pittsburgh
Previous Ranking: 7
Remember when GT was ranked and we weren't? Their defense is very bad and now it's cost them two games in a row. They punched in what should have been the winning touchdown in Chapel Hill, but allowed the Heels to move down the field and score with just seconds remaining. I was worried about facing GT without Watson, but their defense may be the worst left on our schedule outside of GSU.
I originally had the Yellow Jackets as a 6-6 borderline bowl team. A hot start made me look silly, but with @Pittsburgh, Virginia, @NCSU, Clemson, and @Georgia still left I shouldn't be too far off. Paul Johnson's contract runs through 2016, I'd like to see Tech win enough to keep him in town for another year.
8. Miami: 4-3 (1-2)
Last Week: Bye
This Week: at Virginia Tech (Thursday)
Previous Ranking: 8
Miami was idle this past weekend, but their back in action on Thursday against the Hokies. The Hokies offense is totally incompetent as is Miami defense, but when the Hurricanes have the ball there should be some good weekday football. A loss will put Al Golden squarely on the hot seat. The 'Canes still have to play FSU, so a loss on Thursday dooms them to a 6-win ceiling.
9. Pittsburgh: 5-3 (3-1)
Last Week: W 21-16 vs. Virginia Tech (Thursday)
This Week: Georgia Tech
Previous Ranking: 13
It's hard to get a feel for Pittsburgh. They beat Boston College and Virginia Tech, which would lead one to believes they taken a baby step forward since last year, but they also lost to Iowa and Akron.
This week they shut down the anemic Hokies offense and regained their success running the ball. QB Chad Voytik rushed for a career-high 118 yards in the win.
I believe Pittsburgh will be the second best of the three new ACC members. Louisville looks poised to be a strong team for the years ahead, while Syracuse was clearly a pure basketball and NYC market addition. Pittsburgh though is dangerous and can be solid, but given their location in a pro sports city and in a NFL stadium, I don't see them breaking into the top tier often if ever.
10. Boston College: 4-3 (1-3)
Last Week: L 13-17 vs. Clemson
This Week: at Wake Forest
Previous Ranking: 10
Boston College fought Clemson hard and if not for some silly mistakes would have knocked them off to earn their season's signature win. They travel to Winston-Salem this Saturday for what should be a "W."
11. North Carolina: 3-4 (1-2)
Last Week: W 48-43 vs. Georgia Tech
This Week: at Virginia
Previous Ranking: 11
Marquise Williams refrained from being sloppy and was able to overcome the Heels wobbly defense. As we knew, their defense is awful and their offense is dangerous. They snuck by Georgia Tech with a late TD drive, but they're still just 3-4 and I'm not sure that they'll make a bowl this season.
12. Virginia Tech: 4-4 (1-3)
Last Week: L 16-21 at Pittsburgh (Thursday)
This Week: Miami (Thursday)
Previous Ranking: 9
New quarterback, same story... the VT offense moves about as smoothly as a turkey! Their defense didn't look all that great either and allowed a QB to run for 118 yards. With two losses within the division, their hopes of winning the weak and wacky Coastal are slim.
What has happened to this program? It was just 2011 when they went 11-3 (their non-conference schedule was laughable, but nevertheless) with their only losses coming to Clemson, Clemson again, and Michigan on a questionable call in OT at the Superdome.
Where does the Virginia Tech program go now? They still have one of the better stadiums and more passionate fan bases in the ACC, so it's hard to think they'll flounder in the bottom third for too long, but maybe the Beamer era will go the way of the Bobby Bowden era, coasting into irrelevance for a few years before a new regime can bring them back. They're already at the irrelevant part.
13. Syracuse: 3-4 (1-2)
Last Week: 30-7 at Wake Forest
This Week: at Clemson
Previous Ranking: 12
Coming a blowout road win, Syracuse will make their first ever trip to Death Valley. If they follow the same line of thinking as Bobby Petrino, they may be surprised how loud it can be. Ever since joining the conference, Syracuse has taken a very different approach than Louisville (who constantly praises the conference, is happy to be here, and is hoping to build friendly rivalries). Don't forget the antics of last year and get ready to yell for the defense.
Wake made them look good last weekend, but I believe both Louisville and Boston College (Clemson last two wins) are better and being at home with an ax to grind against the other team (occasionally) in Orange should be enough for Clemson to get a more comfortable victory.
This Is What Happens When You Leave Milk in Cereal Too Long
14. NC State 4-4 (1-3)
Last Week: L 18-30 at Louisville
This Week: Bye
Previous Ranking: 15
Their most impressive games have been losses to FSU and Louisville. There is a lot of brutal football played in North Carolina.
15. Wake Forest: 2-5 (0-3)
Last Week: L 7-30 vs. Syracuse
This Week: Boston College
Last ranking: 14
Wake Forest's offensive line is so bad their skill position players are irrelevant. I want some help from our blog community. When was the last time an ACC team had an offense this bad? They have 7 passing TDs to 12 interceptions (Watson had 6 passing touchdowns against UNC). They have 1 rushing TD on the season and are averaging 1.2 YPC. That's 8 TDs on the season from the offense. So think back and tell us when there was a conference team with less punch.
* denotes Notre Dame's records vs. ACC opponents. Record vs. Notre Dame is not included in ACC record for full members.