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ACC Power Rankings: Week 9

Clemson gets back on track, NC State balks at a signature victory and don’t look now, but the Coastal is clearly the more dominant division. All this, and more in this weeks ACC Power Rankings.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to week 9 of the ACC Power Rankings presented by Shakin the Southland. If anyone is willing to explain to me what the heck just happened this week in a wet and wild week of ACC football, I'd really appreciate it. Clemson looks to be back on track with a 24-10 demolition of Georgia Tech, Boston College just can’t seem to stop scoring as they dismantle the free falling Seminoles, and who would have thought that the ACC Coastal Division would be far and away the more superior of the two conferences after 9 weeks of football? Be sure to sound off in the comments below with what you think, and as always, enjoy.

#1 Clemson (7-1) (5-1) – Last Week – W, 24-10 vs. Georgia Tech

Movement from Last Week (No Change)

There is no doubt about it, the Tigers were under the microscope this week. Not only were they coming off their first loss of the season a couple of weeks ago when they were upset by the Syracuse Orange, they were coming off of a Bye week in which the health of Quarterback Kelly Bryant was heavily monitored and questions swirled around about the effectiveness of the Tiger defense. Clemson answered all of those questions on a rain soaked Saturday night in Death Valley by jumping out to a commanding 24-3 lead against the Yellow Jackets, and never looking back. Although still a little gimpy from the effects of his ankle injury, Bryant lead the team in both passing (207 yards and two touchdowns) as well as rushing (67 yards on 12 carries) and the defense returned to its dominant form. The defense held Georgia Tech to only 198 yards on the ground (almost 200 below their season average) and sacked the Tech Quarterback four times on the afternoon. The Tigers are now squarely back in the driver’s seat of the ACC Atlantic which what looks to be a Championship Game type feel on the road against NC State on Saturday.

#2 Virginia Tech (7-1) (3-1) – Last Week – W, 24-3 vs. Duke

Movement from Last Week (+1)

If there was one consistent element in the ACC this week, it was the poor weather. That, and that alone seemed to be the only reason that Virginia Tech didn’t win this game against the Dukies by 40 or more on Saturday. The Hokies didn’t put themselves in a great position as they failed to convert on two fourth and short situations, but Duke was just no match for the Hokie defense, which allowed only 183 yards on the rain soaked day. Virginia Tech will continue to ride Freshman Josh Jackson who has now thrown 17 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions, and he will have to keep controlling the ball as Virginia Tech heads to Miami and finish the season with three of its four remaining games on the road.

#3 Miami (7-0) (5-0) – Last Week – W, 24-19 @ North Carolina

Movement from Last Week (-1)

I know that I am more than likely going to get some heat for dropping the undefeated Hurricanes down a spot to #3 in this week’s rankings, but I’m starting to sell on the Hurricanes after looking at their overall strength of schedule. Their best win continues to be their miracle victory over Georgia Tech, and with their victory over Florida State now meaning next to nothing, it looks like Syracuse and Toledo are the next best wins for the Hurricanes. We all know how my predictions tend to go, but I’m going to go ahead and say it anyway, I don’t see the Hurricanes coming out on top in their upcoming game against ACC rival Virginia Tech nor their upcoming contest against Notre Dame later in the month. New Year, same message. Beat somebody.

#4 North Carolina State (6-2) (4-0) – Last Week – L, 35-14 @ #9 Notre Dame

Movement from Last Week (No Change)

NC State finally turned the ball over for the first time since their opening game of the season (their only other loss to South Carolina) and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that it came in the Wolfpack’s second loss of the season. The turnover was a Julian Love pick six for 69 yards (Quarterback Ryan Finley’s first interception of the season) which put the Irish up by two scores and sucked the life out of the Wolfpack who were looking to tie the score at 21. Although Notre Dame is clearly a superior opponent, the loss does have me questioning the Wolfpack. With wins against Florida State and Louisville not meaning much, their best win to this point, seems to be against Syracuse. However, this could all be a moot point as the Wolfpack host Clemson this weekend and could all but clinch the ACC Atlantic title and a trip to the ACC Championship Game with a victory.

#5 Georgia Tech (4-3) (3-2) – Last Week – L, 24-10 @ #7 Clemson

Movement from Last Week (No Change)

In a series that has been so tightly contested over the past decade, since Brent Venables took the helm at Clemson, Georgia Tech just has no luck going up against Clemson. In fact, the Georgia Tech triple-option offense has rushed for only 364 yards total in the past three contests against the Tigers, all Clemson victories. I guess you can just call Venables the bee keeper. I’m certainly not going to move Georgia Tech down after this loss, and if you look at their three losses this season (Tennessee, Miami and Clemson) the Yellow Jackets are a couple of bounces (and a ridiculous juggled catch) away from being a top 15 team. But that is what could have been. With Virginia Tech and #1 Georgia left on their schedule, Tech still has their chance for that elusive signature victory.

#6 Syracuse (4-4) (2-2) – Last Week – Idle

Movement from Last Week (+1)

It sure does seem like a lifetime ago that Middle Tennessee came into the Carrier Dome and waltzed out with a 30-23 upset over Syracuse, doesn’t it? And while that is certainly inexcusable, what would you think if I told you that the Orange’s other three losses on the year came to teams ranked in the top 20 of the initial College Football Playoff rankings? Syracuse will use this Bye week to make sure that Quarterback Eric Dungey is fully healthy after taking a beating the last couple of weeks, but unfortunately, they have lost defensive backs Antwan Cordy and Jordan Martin for the remainder of the season. Syracuse has 4 winnable ACC games remaining and could make a serious jump into the top of the power rankings with a strong finish.

#7 – Boston College (5-4) (3-3) – Last Week – W, 35-3 vs. Florida State

Movement from Last Week (+2)

I might as well give up on picking any other ACC games this season…At the beginning of the season, if you told me that Boston College would win three straight ACC games in a stretch that included both Florida State and Louisville, I would have told you to put the drink down. But AJ Dillon has the Eagles soaring as he rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown in a complete thrashing of the Seminoles. To put the recent Boston College win streak into perspective, here is an interesting fact that will blow your mind. The four-year seniors at Boston College just celebrated their first home conference win as student athletes at Boston College. Their VERY FIRST. Say what you want about the head coach and the quarterback, but this Boston College run is something special, so enjoy it.

#8 Wake Forest (5-3) (2-3) – Last Week – W, 42-32 vs. Louisville

Movement from Last Week (+2)

I’m sorry, was that Greg Dortch or Jerry Rice on the field on Saturday? Dortch hauled in four touchdown catches for 167 yards on the day, and nearly had a fifth as he fumbled the ball into the end zone while stretching for the pilon. Despite the heroic efforts of Wolford (471 passing yards) Dortch (4 touchdown catches) and Matt Colburn (season high 134 yards in rushing) Wake Forest still almost let this one get away despite a 35-10 lead. Louisville scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to cut the lead to 10 before Wolford found Chuck Wade from 44-yards out to put the game away for good. I wasn’t sure that Wake would put up another victory before their season ending game against the Blue Devils…and I’m going to stay with that prediction. That is, of course, unless Dortch puts in another Rice like performance.

#9 Louisville (5-4) (2-4) – Last Week – L, 42-32 @ Wake Forest

Movement from Last Week (-2)

Lamar Jackson this, Lamar Jackson that…One man is one man and not even Johnny Unitas could have stepped onto the field for Louisville on Saturday and saved that pitiful excuse for a defense. Wake Forest is by no means a high-powered offense, and the Cardinals managed to give up 625 yards in offense to the Demon Deacons. I could insert a Wakeyleaks pun here, but that performance just didn’t deserve it. Luckily for Louisville, they get a chance to rebound against the struggling Cavaliers this week before ending the season against upstart Syracuse and a road contest against rival Kentucky.

#10 Florida State (2-5) (2-4) – Last Week – L, 35-3 @ Boston College

Movement from Last Week (-2)

Oh, the horrible statistics that we get to pull up for Florida State are just getting uglier by the week. This week we get to throw out that Florida State is now 3-games under .500 for the first time since 1976, they failed to score a touchdown for the first time since 2008, and are in SERIOUS danger of missing a bowl game for the first time since 1981. I didn’t think that the loss of Deondre Francois would derail the Seminoles as much as it has due to the strength of their defense, which is still the reason I believe that Florida State opened up the season #3 in the AP Poll, but head coach Jimbo Fischer has now clearly lost the entire team. Kicker Ricky Aguayo summed it up pretty well when he stated that “I just feel like we’re scared to lose now”. To sum it up the Seminole season even further, we are now looking to the kicker for post-game quotes in the Florida State locker room.

#11 Pittsburgh (4-5) (2-3) – Last Week – W, 31-14 vs. Virginia

Movement from Last Week (+1)

They may have an above average chance of winning their third game in a row next week as they take on the 1-8 Tar Heels, but there still aren’t many nice things to say about the Pitt Panthers after an ugly 31-14 win against Virginia on Saturday. The positive for the Panthers at this point is that Darrin Hall seems to have taken a strangle hold of the running back job that was in such jeopardy all season long. In the past two weeks, Hall has rushed for 365 yards on 49 carries and tallied four touchdowns. With both Virginia Tech and Miami still left on the schedule, it looks like Pitts 10+ year bowl game streak will come to an end.

#12 Virginia (5-3) (2-2) – Last Week – L,31-14 @ Pittsburgh

Movement from Last Week (-1)

This was a sure thing for Virginia…after a two-win season, they were going to snap their recent two game losing streak and clinch a berth in a bowl game. Not only did it not happen, but Virginia reverted back to last year’s offense in a woeful performance against the Panthers. What could make it worse for the Cavaliers? That may have been their last chance to become bowl eligible this season. With the remainder of their schedule against Georgia Tech, at Louisville, at Miami and against rival Virginia Tech, Virginia may be looking square in the face of a six-game losing streak to end the season and a massive collapse.

#13 Duke (4-5) (1-5) – Last Week – L, 24-3 @ #13 Virginia Tech

Movement from Last Week (No Change)

This one was hard to watch, and it wasn’t because of the sloppy weather in Blacksburg Virginia this weekend. The Blue Devils dropped their fifth straight on Saturday and we are officially putting out an APB for Quarterback Daniel Jones. Jones has thrown only three touchdown passes in the past five games and Saturday marked his second consecutive game with a completion percentage under 50%. Duke finds themselves in the same position as Virginia as they will struggle to make a bowl game and will need two wins with a 6-2 Army team, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest remaining on their schedule. We’ll keep an eye on which collapse is more monumental between the Blue Devils and Cavaliers.

#14 North Carolina (1-8) (0-6) – Last Week – L, 24-19 vs. #8 Miami

Movement from Last Week (No Change)

I get that head coach Larry Fedora was trying to light a spark under his last place Tar Heels by inserting Nathan Elliott into the lineup for the remainder of the game, but despite his guts, Elliott just isn’t an ACC caliber Quarterback. Elliott threw for a touchdown and three interceptions, and despite his subpar performance, the Tar Heels had a chance to go down and win this game in the fourth quarter. A Jordan Brown fumble with just over two minutes remaining sealed the Tar Heels fate as their quest for a winless ACC season continues.