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ACC Power Rankings: Florida State and Miami Come Tumbling Down

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In week 8, Miami was dominated by Clemson, Florida State was upset by the much maligned Yellow Jackets, Pittsburgh escaped a close call in Syracuse, and Duke pulled out a 4OT win over Virginia Tech.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Elite
1.  Clemson (Beat Miami / Previous: 1)

Very Good
2.  Notre Dame (Bye / Previous: 3)
3.  Florida State (Lost to Georgia Tech / Previous: 2)

Respectable
4.  Duke (Beat Virginia Tech / Previous: 6)
5.  North Carolina (Beat Virginia / Previous: 5)
6.  Pittsburgh (Beat Syracuse / Previous: 4)
7.  Louisville (Beat Boston College / Previous: 7)

The Dumpster Fire Tier
8.  Georgia Tech (Beat Florida State / Previous: 11)
9.  Virginia Tech (Lost to Duke / Previous: 9)
10.  NC State (Beat Wake Forest / Previous: 12)
11.  Virginia
(Lost to North Carolina / Previous: 10)
12.  Miami (Lost to Clemson / Previous: 8)
13.  Syracuse (Lost to Pittsburgh / Previous: 15)
14.  Boston College (Lost to Louisville / Previous: 14)
15.  Wake Forest (Lost to North Carolina State / Previous: 13)

Clemson Commentary

A little pregame research revealed that Miami's offense has struggled to establish the run against quality defenses. Additionally, it was clear that their run defense is not good. They were allowing 4.90 YPC (5.30 YPC now). That gave me confidence that if things got tough, the Tigers would be able to control the game with some war daddy style football and gut out a win. Still, nobody expected quite possibly the most dominant ACC performance in Clemson Tiger history.

On Halloween of 1981, the eventual national champion Tigers throttled Wake Forest by the score of 82-24, a 58-point margin of victory, in Death Valley. This Saturday, Dabo Swinney's Tigers were a missed PAT away from eclipsing that margin as they went on the road and earned a shutout 58-0 win over the Miami Hurricanes (who I assume are far more talented than that '81 Deacon team).

Miami totally rolled over, but we'll get to that later. Clemson looked outstanding for just about the entire game. The debate we had in the comment sections and Q&As about who the best QB in the ACC was a bit too heated for my taste. Kaaya is a very good QB, probably the next best in the conference, but a head-to-head matchup made it clear that Watson is #1. Watson had 241 total yards with a rushing TD, a passing TD, no turnovers, and a QBR of 98.6. Kaaya left early with a possible concussion while Watson left early with a 45 point lead so we didn't get to see them go against each other as much as expected, but Kaaya's 19.4 QBR left no room for debate, even if the defenses were quite uneven.

One of the most impressive things about this victory was how dominant Clemson was at the line of scrimmage. According to ESPN, Clemson had 21 runs where the ball carrier was not even touched until they had gained five yards. Clemson's lines pushed around the opposition. Our 416 rushing yards were the most we've tallied since 2000 while the Hurricanes averaged only 1.8 YPC. That's total domination of the best sort.

I enjoyed seeing a lot of the second and third team guys get significant snaps and it was nice to see D.J. Reader make a play. It seems that Kelly Bryant is the second best QB on the team. Nick Schuessler really struggled going just 1/5. I'm not sure if Bryant could start and play an entire game yet because it seems he isn't just a run-first QB, but also run-second and run-third too. Still, he was the more impressive of the back-ups.

I was also very encouraged by Clemson's focus. They came out to a sleepy noon game in front of a sparse crowd with energy and purpose. Miami players seemed determined to start a fight, but Clemson's only retaliation was to score more points. Clemson went up 35-0 and Miami responded with a personal foul. The Tigers stayed on the field at halftime and Dabo lectured them about winning with class despite Miami's antics.

I also really loved what a commenter shared about our team's culture. When Kelly Bryant scored a garbage time TD, he points out the reaction from his teammates:

One of them was Jayron Kearse, a safety playing at an All-American level right now. He played a very good game and you might expect him to cheer comfortably from his seat on the sidelines...instead, he sprinted down the field and celebrated with the 2nd/3rd teamers because he cares about them. He wants what's best for this team, not just what's best for himself. That's great to see.

The other player is Deon Cain. For whatever reason, Cain was suspended for today's game. After having two great appearances against BC & GT, Cain did something wrong and didn't get to play in this game. He could have sat there and sulked and thought about how this affected him, but instead he still showed tons of passion & energy up 45 in the fourth, and sprinted downfield and celebrated with his teammates. That tells me that while he made a mistake, his head is still in the right place. He's going to have a great future with us. - tmac9wr

Don't get too worried with the polls, the seeding, and who could get left out. We will be fine if we take care of business. Utah went down this week, which all but ensures that. Ohio State, Michigan State, and Iowa are all in the same conference and will clash if they remain undefeated. Additionally, Baylor and TCU play (though Baylor may be in big trouble with the QB getting hurt). Right now, I'd rank the top teams like so:

  1. Ohio State (They take a 22-game win streak into their bye week and could close the season win consecutive wins over MSU, UM, and Iowa.)
  2. Baylor (They've been dominant and I won't punish them for an injury until they are impacted by it. We hope Seth Russell is ok.)
  3. Clemson Our triumphs over Louisville, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, and Miami give us a premiere resume.)
  4. LSU (I'm not sure they beat Bama, or even finish 11-1, but based on resume they earned this spot to this point.)
  5. TCU (They haven't registered the most impressive wins, but they may have the best QB and are likely to run the table if Seth Russell doesn't return.)

Last week we caught some flak in the comments for having FSU and Clemson in totally separate tiers. This week I say, I stand firm.

Around the ACC

Miami finally hit rock bottom. The stadium was far from full at the start and fans were leaving by halftime. Players were undisciplined and immature. It looked like there was quite a bit of jawing from a team that had no fight in the actual game of football. After the touchdown that put Clemson up 35-0, a personal foul penalty gave Clemson strong field position for the kickoff. It seemed Miami gave up on the game and instead focused on talking smack. It makes me think back to their 1991 Cotton Bowl win over Texas. They won 46-2 despite 202 penalty yards, a large chunk of which came on personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties (9 such penalties). When you're dominant, it's still ridiculous but people will can look the other way. Now they're undisciplined and bad. It was literally the worst loss in Miami history. It appears that Golden lost the team and it was announced Sunday night that he will be replaced. Jump over to our article about his dismissal to hear about the candidates and discuss.

On a brighter note, Georgia Tech may have shown that they're not as bad as their record indicates. Yes, they're 3-5, but they've played the top six teams in these power rankings. Now they will get UVA, VT, and Miami before UGA. Could they win three and make a bowl? It's not totally unthinkable.

Duke took four overtimes to beat VT, but they got a win in Lane Stadium. It goes to show that the difference between 4th and 9th in the Power Rankings isn't huge, even if there is an imaginary tier separating them. It's likely the most impressive win of the group in the "Respectable Tier" so they move up to #4. UNC held serve and moved up a spot as Pitt barely won at Syracuse. It's a tough debate between those two, but a surprisingly interesting UNC at Pitt Thursday night matchup this week will sort that out for us.

NC State got their first win in Winston-Salem since 2001. I guess good for them...

Finally, Louisville continues to add defensive wins to their resume. Houston looks better than expected, so maybe their worst loss is to Auburn. They should be able to reach 6-4 before road trips to Pittsburgh and Kentucky to close the year.

This was a fun week in the ACC, I hope you enjoyed it!