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Week 9 ACC Power Rankings

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Clemson beat Syracuse despite a completely inept offense, Miami embarrassed Virginia Tech in Lane Stadium, and UNC got a sneaky good win.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Elite

1. Florida State: 7-0 (4-0)
Last Week:
Bye
This Week: at Louisville (Thursday)
Previous Ranking: 1

The Seminoles rested on their undefeated record this week. With Ole Miss finally going down the playoff picture is beginning to clear up. My bet? FSU, Oregon, Mississippi State, and my sleeper team, Georgia. Florida State travels to PJ Cardinal Stadium on a Thursday. The world will be cheering for the good guys in red, but if they can't knock off the 'Noles, we'll really need to start pulling for FSU to keep that Orange Bowl slot open for us.

Solid

2. Clemson: 6-2 (5-1)
Last Week: W 16-6 vs. Syracuse
Next Week: Bye
Previous Ranking: 2

What looked like a less-than-ideal schedule (with UGA and FSU early and a trap game vs. UNC) has turned out to be a blessing. We caught FSU without Winston and got BC, Syracuse, a bye week, and Wake Forest while our star QB recovers from his injury sustained against Louisville. It's truly an amazing testament to the defense that we beat UL with this offense missing so may key pieces and struggling so much.

I recall some Clemson fans saying the drop off from Boyd to Stoudt would be small or even non-existent, but that sentiment now seems laughable. Stoudt was 24/35 with one TD, two interceptions, and a fumble. He struggled to hit anything much beyond the line of scrimmage. He left one pass that should have been around 20 yards a good five yards short. The lack of confidence in his ability to attack the defense downfield was highlighted by Morris's decision to rely heavily on screen plays - which boosted his completion percentage. That said, at the start of the fourth quarter he put one on the money to Stanton Seckinger for a 19-yard TD that extended the lead to 10.

The offensive line isn't exactly putting Stoudt in a great position to succeed either. They struggled yet again, and it didn't help that Isiah Battle was suspended. The line actually looked the best once Ryan Norton left with an injury and Reid Webster shifted to center. We are not cheering his injury, let's make that clear. I'm not certain that Syracuse was faking injuries like UGA did last year, but I'm pretty confident that their offensive player that went down late in the game wasn't faking.

Previously it was their coach who cursed at ours, their coach who make the Twitter gaffe, their players trash talking, their basketball coaching dogging on Clemson, their bloggers making up derogatory awards, and their fans saying Clemson couldn't handle the Carrier Dome humidity. We shouldn't get in the mud. It's not good press. The NCAA does need to do something to quell fake injuries, and it's not that complicated, but we should stop booing - even if we loathe Syracuse and even if they did fake some of the injuries.

But back to business, kudos to Reid Webster for sliding over to center for what turned into Clemson's best drive running the ball. If Jay Guillermo isn't back for the Wake Forest game, I wouldn't be opposed to starting Webster at center. Norton had another high snap and cost the offense at least three points (I saw at least because Lakip has been automatic lately). He's not a strong enough blocker to merit continued playing time at center if he can't consistently make good snaps.

Wayne Gallman had 28 of Clemson RB's 38 carries on the night and looked the best of the bunch. Howard only had one carry (8 yards). Davidson had the brutal fumble, but otherwise looked good. Gallman's 101 yard day was the first 100 yard performance for a Clemson rusher since Boyd did it in the Orange Bowl. He picked up much of it on the final drive that burned up the clock and ended the game with a kneel in the red zone.

Without reviewing the film, my offensive MVPs are Reid Webster and Wayne Gallman. I'm looking forward to seeing how Kraken and Matt Goldin grade them out. The Clemson defense was dominant in holding Syracuse without a touchdown. Stephone Anthony wrecked havoc and Robert Smith had one of his best games.

The bye comes at a good time as they need to mend some injuries. Wake Forest is no better than a Sun Belt team so even on a Thursday on the road, that should be an easy win before we travel to Atlanta for GT.

Highlights

3. Louisville: 6-2 (4-2)
Last Week: Bye
This Week: Florida State (Thursday)
Previous Ranking: 3

Louisville has made a smooth and respectful transition to the ACC. They've been competitive in football and we fully expect the same in basketball and baseball. Their fans traveled well for our matchup and were great to be around. They even had nice things to say about us.

That said, they haven't notched a quality win since Labor Day when they clobbered Miami. Wins over Syracuse, Wake Forest, and NC State don't make a quality resume. Louisville has three big games left: FSU, Notre Dame, and Kentucky. Will they wait for the season's final week to make a statement or are they ready to start making waves?

They'll start Michael Dyer at RB this weekend when they try for the upset against FSU.

4. Duke 6-1 (2-1)
Last Week: Bye
This Week: at Pittsburgh
Previous Ranking: 4

Duke rested while the rest of the Coastal continued to be wild and crazy. Duke owns tie-breakers over GT and UVA, but Miami's impressive win over Virginia Tech keeps their hopes alive. Miami remains Duke's only loss.

Pittsburgh can get back into it with a win over Duke this week. I don't think Pittsburgh is very good, but in the Coastal you never know, even UNC is crawling back into the race. Duke controls their own destiny, but they won't go 11-1.

Muddled Mess of Mediocrity

5. Georgia Tech: 6-2 (3-2)
Last Week: W 56-28 at Pittsburgh
This Week: Virginia
Previous Ranking: 6

Georgia Tech recovered from back-to-back losses to North Carolina basketball schools with a resounding four touchdown win over the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Pittsburgh lost four fumbles and GT had four touchdowns less than six minutes into the game. The best came at the end of a long run from James Conner. DJ White stripped James Conner from behind on the two-yard line causing the ball to bounce out the side of the end zone for a turnover and a touchback. The Jackets need Pittsburgh to beat Duke and throw the Coastal into big ugly tie, but even still they'd have to beat Virginia and Clemson.

Highlights

6. Miami: 5-3 (2-2)
Last Week: W 30-6 at Virginia Tech (Thursday)
This Week: North Carolina
Previous Ranking: 7

Freshman Brad Kaaya has been looked better with each passing week and became the first true freshman to beat VT since 2006. He now has 17 TDs and 9 INTs. For reference, Cole Stoudt has 2 TDs and 4 INTs and Anthony Boone has 9 TDs and 3 INTs.

RB Duke Johnson reminded us how spectacular he is when healthy and we can only hope he goes pro prior to Clemson's visit to Coral Gables next season. Most surprisingly though, Miami's defense looked solid as senior LB Denzel Perryman looked as spectacular and dominant as what we're accustomed to in watching Stephone Anthony.

Miami still has UNC, FSU, @UVA, and Pitt remaining. It's quite possible they lose two of those games, finish at 7-5 and strongly consider bringing in a new coaching staff, but for now they'll enjoy their big win.

Highlights

7. North Carolina: 4-4 (2-2)
Last Week: W 28-27 at Virginia
This Week: at Miami
Previous Ranking: 10

In their 119th meeting, UNC was connecting on explosive play after explosive play just to stick around. Late in the game with a chance to take the lead, UNC QB Marquise Williams was sacked and lost his helmet, meaning backup QB Mitch Trubisky had to sub in for one play. Trubisky came in and with his only pass of the day threw a 16-yard go-ahead TD. At that point, with about four minutes to go and a one-point lead, Larry Fedora went for the on-side kick to keep his atrocious defense off the field. It worked and the Heels milked the clock and secured the win.

UNC is starting to find ways to overcome their defense and soon we'll hear about how they're hot and then next year we'll surely read how their hot finish means they'll do big things in 2015.

Of course, the future of their program is under the dark cloud of some really morally reprehensible things they've been doing for about 20 years to deprive their student athletes of a quality education. We can move away from saying things like "it appears" and say fairly definitively that they cheated 3,100 students out of a real education. Will the NCAA step up and punish them (vacate three NCAAM national championships) for the type of violations that should actually matter or continue to focus their eye on players who sell their own jerseys and coaches who turn on smoke machines while recruits run on the field?

Highlights

8. Virginia: 4-4 (2-2)
Last Week: L 27-28 vs. North Carolina
This Week: at Georgia Tech
Previous Ranking: 5

I was surprised to see UVA lose at home to UNC, a bad loss to be sure. They've outgained their opponents in all four of their losses this season. The setback puts them in a precarious position with road games against GT, FSU, and VT along with a home game against Miami remaining. They may miss out on a bowl game due to this loss. It's amazing to think they were on top of the Coastal two weeks ago and now we're talking about them missing a bowl game.

9. Pittsburgh: 4-4 (2-2)
Last Week: L 28-56 vs. Georgia Tech
This Week: Duke
Previous Ranking: 8

Pittsburgh threw this one away, but they've been competitive in the Coastal and get their shot at the Coastal Division leading Blue Devils next week. They'll need to beat one of Duke, UNC, and Miami and take care of 'Cuse to make a bowl.

10. Boston College: 5-3 (2-3)
Last Week: W 23-17 at Wake Forest
This Week: at Virginia Tech
Previous Ranking: 9

BC struggled in the second half and nearly choked it away in Winston-Salem, but they managed to hang on for their fifth win of the season. Next they go to Blacksburg, which used to be daunting, but they'll have a good chance to win and become bowl eligible.

Highlights

11. Virginia Tech: 4-4 (1-3)
Last Week: L 6-30 Miami (Thursday)
This Week: Boston College
Previous Ranking: 11

I wasn't totally surprised to see VT lose a Thursday night home game to Miami, but it was stunning to see them get completely dominated by a fairly pedestrian Miami team. Last week we asked what was the most regular season games a Frank Beamer coached Hokie team would win from 2014 onward. 53% said eight or fewer. He is their Bobby Bowden, so they can't simply push him out, but I feel bad for Bud Foster who has been the coach in waiting for ages.

Those Awful Clumps That Form When Milk Spoils

12. Syracuse: 3-5 (1-3)
Last Week: L 6-16 at Clemson
This Week: NC State
Previous Ranking: 12

Syracuse took a 6-3 lead into halftime at Death Valley, but failed to score in the second half a lost by 10. With both offenses decimated by injury, the defenses owned the day. After the game, Coach Shafer apologized to Syracuse fans for yet another loss saying "were going to get this thing right and we're going to beat these teams eventually." That's a promise he may never fulfill.

A home loss to NC State next week would mean Syracuse will have to beat Duke and then win at Pitt and at BC to make a bowl. There's almost no shot that happens, so they need to win this week.

13. NC State 4-4 (1-3)
Last Week:
Bye
This Week: at Syracuse
Previous Ranking: 15

NC State was on a bye this past weekend, and now head into one of the two winnable games left on their schedule (the other being vs. Wake Forest). NC State travels to the hustle and bustle of Syracuse, New York which has a massive population of 147,306. Their basketball coach says they even have Denny's and all sorts of other great restaurants where the Wolfpack players could get distracted. Of course, in reality it will be rainy and in the 40s so nobody will go outside, not to mention Raleigh is a bigger and more happening place. This will be a battle to see who belongs in the "Those Awful Clumps That Form When Milk Spoils." One team will jump a tier, the other will likely miss a bowl.

14. Wake Forest: 2-6 (0-4)
Last Week: L 17-23 vs. Boston College
This Week: Bye
Last ranking: 14

Wake Forest battled back and made it close, but Wolford threw his 13th pick of the season to end the comeback. They are fourth in the nation in interceptions and average a yard per carry on the ground. They had 19 rushing yards in this one.

They take a bye and prepare as Clemson comes to town not this Thursday, but the next. In that game, we'll see the worst offensive line in the FBS go up against the best defensive line in the FBS. The Clemson D vs. the Wake O may be the most lopsided battle the ACC sees all year. Unfortunately, the Clemson O vs. the Wake D should actually be fairly even.

Notre Dame has been removed from the rankings. Listings for Week 8 rankings have been adjusted to remove Notre Dame, therefore you'll see Clemson remains unchanged from last week at 2nd.