1. Clemson (Beat Florida State / Previous: 1)
2. Notre Dame (Beat Pittsburgh / Previous: 2)
3. Florida State (Lost to Clemson / Previous: 3)
4. North Carolina (Beat Duke / Previous: 4)
5. Miami (Beat Virginia / Previous: 5)
6. Louisville (Beat Syracuse / Previous: 9)
7. Pittsburgh (Lost to Notre Dame / Previous: 6)
8. Duke (Lost to North Carolina / Previous: 7)
9. Virginia Tech (Bye / Previous: 8)
10. NC State (Beat Boston College / Previous: 10)
11. Virginia (Lost to Miami / Previous: 11)
12. Georgia Tech (Bye / Previous: 12)
13. Boston College (Lost to NC State / Previous: 13)
14. Syracuse (Lost to Louisville / Previous: 14)
15. Wake Forest (Bye / Previous: 15)
"It was our night. It was our freaking time." - Dabo Swinney
Florida State looked nothing like the team that lost to Georgia Tech. The came out and immediately punched Clemson in the nose with a quick 75-yard TD by Dalvin Cook. Shortly after, Cook would break out another long run and it felt like Clemson had no answer. Would this be an opportunity missed? No ACC Atlantic Title? No ACC Championship? No Playoff?
The defensive coaches made adjustments and after 150 yards in the first half (most of which game on his first two runs), held Dalvin Cook to 44 in the second. The offense was also much more potent in the second half as Watson really dialed in. For all the coach speak we hear from Dabo, I believe he is a great communicator with his players. In the locker room speech (below), Dabo razzed Watson about his awful first half of football before a great second half. The whole speech and trophy presentation is awesome, enjoy it for a moment:
Watson missed some throws in the first half which cost us some points, but played a great second half. He didn't run the ball on a lot of dangerous design run plays, but he improvised when his receivers were covered and picked up key first downs with his legs when needed. He finished with 107 rushing yards to go with his 297 through the air. The offense ran 85 plays and was balanced between the run and pass, which is great to see.
One thing that really stood out to me was how the offensive line really took control of the game late. Watson praised them in his post-game interview for their fourth quarter push. In particular, the drive that resulted in the go ahead FG stood out to me, because it seemed Watson had all day to throw the ball and pick apart the Seminole defense. Kudos to the hogmollies, especially with Crowder exiting the game with injury!
The defensive play of the game came on a fourth down. After failing in huge short yardage situations a year ago in Tallahassee, FSU lined up on fourth and short for a conversion they had to have. Dalvin Cook, who looks a lot like the best back in the country after Fournette got shutdown in Tuscaloosa, was handed the ball on a sweep play. Lawson was tackling him from behind, but Cook was falling forward when Ben Boulware bowled through the air and collided with him to stop the drive just inches short of the marker. Boulware is an outstanding run-stuffer.
Maybe the player of the game, BJ Goodson seemed to be in on every key play. He finished with 3.5 TFL and 2 sacks.
Ray McCloud left the game with a knee injury. QuackingTiger ("Dr. QT") has said it is sprain. Maybe a more impactful injury is Tyrone Crowder, who left with a foot injury. He is crucial to the run game so we need him back in a big way. Maverick Morris and some freshman will likely get additional snaps while he is out. Dr. QT is saying it is a turf toe, which would lead me to believe he plays again this year.
Clemson has now won 15 consecutive home games and will have one more this season, against Wake Forest. Assuming we beat the Deacs, it'll be two straight perfect season's at home. Be on the lookout for an article about why we - as fans - should never take winning the little games (like the two we have upcoming) for granted.
"Don't text and drive... keep both hands on the wheel baby, cause we're in control." - Dabo Swinney
(Videos and quotes credit ACC Digital Network)
Around the ACC
Notre Dame looked good beating up the Panthers in Pittsburgh. They won 42-30, but led 42-17 before some garbage time points tightened the gap. The Fighting Irish will face ACC bottom feeders Wake Forest and Boston College prior to their showdown at Stanford - which is looking more and more like a playoff play-in game. They need Clemson to win out, as it would be hard to justify them getting in over the Tigers (and a one-loss Tigers likely miss the playoff). As it stands, a single loss to the #1 team in the country in their house is very forgivable.
For Pittsburgh, it's the schedule finally coming around that's getting to them. They were 6-1 with their only loss coming to the only good team they faced (Iowa). Their most impressive victory came over Virginia Tech, but that 17-13 win came when Virginia Tech was without starting QB Michael Brewer. With Duke, Louisville, and Miami remaining, they could end the season on a five game losing streak, though they're likely to steal one of those contests.
It's hard to believe North Carolina is fielding a good football team, but this week feels like confirmation. They put their tar covered heels on Duke and stomped a respectable defense to the tune of 66-31. UNC's defense is still somewhat suspect as illustrated by 31 points coming from a pedestrian Blue Devil offense. With the victory, the Heels have control of the Coastal. They have a two game lead over Duke and Miami and a one game (plus tie-breaker) lead over Pittsburgh. A win next week against Miami would knock the 'Canes out of the race and give the Heels two chances to clinch (eliminate Pittsburgh) with likely wins against VT and NCSU. At this point, I'd like to see an 11-1 UNC return to Charlotte for a marque ACC Championship Game.
UNC was left out of the College Football Playoff Rankings last week, but they have earned their way into the top 25 this week. I would have them above Temple, Memphis, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and Toledo.
Back in our first power rankings article of the season, we said:
I like UNC or Virginia Tech to win the Coastal. If you had UNC's offense with Virginia Tech's defense you'd really have a legitimate team. I also like what Fedora did to bring in Gene Chizik to coach the defense, but I worry that he needs more time, and I'm still not confident about the culture there.
It seems like the culture issue that got a little exposed after last season (players not caring about winning and such) has been remedied and they're playing some great football. I also think if Brewer and Fuller stayed healthy the UNC v. VT game would decide the Coastal. Make no mistake, while Syracuse and Wake Forest may roll over, UNC should put up a fight. We don't have a free pass to the playoff.
NCSU is breaking streaks and exposing year's of Wolfpack ineptitude in the process. After winning in Winston-Salem for the first time since 2001, they won in Chestnut hill for the first time since... 1937. I know BC wasn't in the conference all those years (the ACC wasn't even around in the 30s and 40s), but still. Good for you, State... I guess...
TE/RB Jaylen Samuels had 7 receptions for the 'Pack, as they took a 24-0 lead before a garbage time TD made the final score 24-8. Interestingly, TE David Grinnage who did a lot of damage against the Tigers didn't make a peep against BC.
Louisville absolutely clobbered Syracuse, getting back on track after nearly losing to Wake Forest. I've received a lot of disagreement on this, but I still believe they're in the top half of the conference. Auburn beat TAMU this weekend, Houston won again and is 9-0, Clemson is a playoff contender, and FSU looked formidable even in their loss. I think Louisville will extend their win streak to four with a win over Virginia and have a realistic chance to win both games against Pittsburgh and Kentucky to finish with their only conference losses coming to Clemson and FSU.
The coaching carousel is going to be very interesting this offseason. Miami needs a new head coach. I'm watching the situation in Georgia to see what happens with Miami grad Mark Richt. Frank Beamer is retiring, which may finally give Bud Foster his shot to coach the Hokies. They may also look externally. Virginia could lose out and finish 3-9, which may start a coaching search in Charlottesville. We saw the level of candidates Wake Forest was able to strike an interest with (MAC coaches). It would be interesting to see who wants the UVA job. You also have Syracuse, who maybe has one more win left in them, which would put them at 4-8 at the season's end. How do you think these jobs stack up?