1. Clemson (Beat Georgia Tech / Previous: 1)
2. Notre Dame (Beat Navy / Previous: 3)
3. Florida State (Beat Miami / Previous: 2)
4. Duke (Beat Army / Previous: 4)
5. Louisville (Bye / Previous: 5)
6. North Carolina (Bye / Previous: 6)
7. Pittsburgh (Beat Virginia / Previous: 7)
8. Virginia Tech (Beat NC State / Previous: 12)
9. Miami (Lost to Florida State / Previous: 8)
10. Georgia Tech (Lost to Clemson / Previous: 9)
11. NC State (Lost to Virginia Tech / Previous: 10)
12. Syracuse (Lost to South Florida / Previous: 13)
13. Wake Forest (Beat Boston College / Previous: 15)
14. Boston College (Lost to Wake Forest / Previous: 11)
15. Virginia (Lost to Pittsburgh / Previous: 14)
We now live in a world where Alabama comes out flat and mentally unprepared following a big win (at Georgia), while Clemson follows up an even bigger win (vs. Notre Dame) with a dominating performance against a rival. In fact, it was a rival that has given the Tigers fits (they're now 19-18-1 vs. GT since 1974). Clemson is one of the most consistent winners in college football. This week, they earned their 33rd straight win over an unranked opponent (Bama is on their 57th) and their 13th straight at home (ties school record).
Kraken and QT did the Tigers justice in their recap for this week's win over Georgia Tech, so I'll keep the Georgia Tech discussion brief and then talk big picture.
I am quite pleased with the work ScElliott (Scott/Elliott) is doing. The drives early in games against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech have been impressive. I love the dedication to the run. The Tigers ran the ball 41 times and passed it 33 times against Georgia Tech. Wayne Gallman looked great and set the tone with an early 66-yard touchdown run and then later added a short yardage TD that put the Tigers up 17-3. I don't see this team failing in those short yardage situations as they did last season.
Jordan Leggett is coming up big for the Tigers right now, something we knew we would need when Mike Williams went down. He tallied two touchdown catches against the Jackets. Watson was back to form, though the interception was ugly, and Deon Cain is really beginning to emerge. Cain led the team with five catches for 96 yards. A passing attack that heavily features him, Scott, and Leggett can be part of a playoff team.
The defensive line stuffed the Yellow Jackets' dive play and stymied their offense. Their 71 rushing yards is the worst output of the Paul Johnson era. What a statement.
Jayron Kearse is establishing himself as a premier safety, and while Mackensie Alexander is shutting down his assignment, Cordea Tankersley is feasting on opposing quarterbacks, snagging another pick against Georgia Tech. This is a statement win and highlights the exceptional focus of this team. Credit to the coaching staff.
Now let's look at the big picture. If you read our season preview, you may remember we got together nine bloggers from five different ACC SB Nation blogs and asked them to assess the Tigers chances to win each game. You can look back and review below.
2015 Season Projections from August
|at Louisville (TH)||54%||60%||52%||55%||50%||55%||60%||50%||50%||54%|
|at NC State||85%||80%||80%||70%||64%||80%||90%||80%||60%||77%|
|at South Carolina||70%||63.17%||75%||70%||73%||65%||60%||65%||60%||67%|
A little quick arithmetic shows that on aggregate, this group gave Clemson just a 18% chance to reach 5-0. I was even a few ticks below that. Even Alex Craft, the most optimistic blogger of the bunch, gave us less than a one-in-four shot at it. Clemson has cleared the toughest stretch of the schedule (54% chance to beat UL, 57% chance to beat ND, and 59% chance to beat GT).
The short week win at Louisville is impressive. Knocking off Notre Dame in the driving rain is a true program victory. Demonstrating the poise to come back home and dismantle a desperate and tricky Georgia Tech squad smacks of "elite." With that stretch done, how does the rest of the season stack up?
Boston College is up next. Losing Darius Wade at QB is proving to be too big a blow for the Eagles, who couldn't score against Wake Forest. Miami is talented, but they don't win big games. NC State has finished in the top 15 of the AP Poll exactly twice in school history. After their poor play against VT, I'm finally done pretending they're going to become a solid program. We'll make it 11/12 in the Textile Bowl. Then there's FSU. After that, Syracuse and Wake Forest close out the ACC schedule - low hurdles for a healthy Tiger team. South Carolina looks hapless and will be added to Clemson's long list of consecutively defeated unranked opponents.
The two big obstacles in my view are the reigning ACC Champion Seminoles and bad luck with injuries. The 'Noles have been unimpressive so far this season, but they are immensely talented and are riding a 27 game ACC win streak. That game will be a huge challenge and a loss could lead to a season with no division crown, no conference title, and no playoff berth. Although Clemson has looked better all season, I'm sure my stomach will be in knots walking into that game, at least if FSU can dispatch Louisville and enter the battle undefeated.
As for the injuries, I'll have an article coming out shortly discussing how Clemson is a true playoff contender, but is relying heavily on a handful of players they certainly can't lose. While there are always going to be players that a team cannot afford to lose, it feels especially the case with this team (although the defensive line moving on without D.J. Reader says otherwise).
Around the ACC
"This team is evolving." - Jimbo Fisher
Florida State remains undefeated after a close shave against a mediocre Miami team. Nebraska and Cincinnati had bigger offensive outputs against the 'Canes than did the Seminoles. Still, a win is a win, and Florida State continues to pile them up. If they can hold serve next week against Louisville, they'll likely come into Clemson as a top 10 team with the winner most likely winning the conference. Jimbo Fisher says they're still evolving, and they'll need to do plenty more evolving to be the best team in the conference. Unfortunately, they have plenty of time to round into form.
Notre Dame had a little bit of a hangover after losing in Clemson, but pulled away for a win against Navy. Duke dismantled Army like a good team should. Pittsburgh beat Virginia, though not in the most impressive fashion.
NC State took an early lead during their Friday night game at Lane Stadium, but quickly faded and are now 0-2 in the conference after four meaningless wins over cupcakes. They're not good. If Virginia Tech can survive next week in Miami, they'll be a factor in the Coastal race. Brenden Motley is not an accurate passer, so getting Michael Brewer back at QB as soon as possible will be key for them.
Wake Forest was the only team in the ACC's bottom tier to collect a win in Week 6. They held Boston College scoreless and pulled out a 3-0 victory. BC has been unable to run an effective offense since they lost QB Darius Wade. Virginia lost to Pittsburgh, and finally Syracuse lost to USF by three touchdowns. Ouch!