1. Clemson (Last Week: 59-10 W @ Florida State)
Previous Rankings: 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1
Clemson continued doing Clemson things and obliterated Florida State in Tallahassee, doubling up the Seminoles in both total yards and yards/play. The game was tied 0-0 entering the 2nd quarter, but was 52-3 by the time the 3rd quarter came to a close. Ouch. Clemson, I’m told, is fairly good at this footballing thing. Trevor Lawrence threw for 304 yards and 4 TDs while Amari Rodgers hauled in 6 passes for 156 yards and 2 TDs. The Tigers ground game was kept relatively in check for the 2nd straight game, though, averaging 3.6 yards/carry on 33 carries. The Tigers have now won their last three games by a combined score of 163-20.
2. Virginia (Last Week: 31-21 W vs North Carolina)
Previous Rankings: 7 / 8 / 9 / 5 / 8 / 7 / 5 / 3
Virginia, that program with only one winning season (2011) in that last decade, is now your Coastal Division favorite. Pretty cool stuff (no, I’m actually being serious - the conference as a whole may be down this year, but the coaching depth is undeniable, and Bronco Mendenhall is doing an incredible job in Charlottesville). The Wahoos allowed UNC-CH to stick around in the game more than they should have, but the game never really felt in doubt in the second half. Bryce Perkins threw for 217 yards and 3 TDs (1 INT) and also ran for 112 yards and another TD. Olamide Zaccheaus had 108 yards receiving and 30 yards rushing. Also, Tight End Evan Butts rounded out the Virginia scoring with a cheeky touchdown catch.
3. Boston College (Last Week: 27-14 W vs Miami)
Previous Rankings: 3 / 3 / 2 / 7 / 7 / 6 / 6 / 5
Boston College played extremely well against Miami, and had they been better at capitalizing on their scoring opportunities (3.86 points/opportunity on 7 opps) this thing could have been a real blow out. BC enjoyed a nice 14-yard advantage in average starting field position in this game. That helps! AJ Dillon (as you probably guessed) powered the BC offense on the evening, running for 149 yards and TD on 32 carries (he also caught 2 passes for 18 yards). The Fightin’ Dudes are the last challenger to Clemson in the ACC Atlantic Division.
4. Syracuse (Last Week: 51-41 W vs NC State)
Previous Rankings: 13 / 10 / 8 / 6 / 4 / 10 / 8 / 6
The ‘Cuse jumped out to an early 17-point lead, saw that almost completely evaporate, but then came through in the clutch at the end to pull out the win over NC State. Eric Dungey abused a horrid NC State pass defense completing 71.1% of his passes for 411 yards and 3 TDs. Four different Syracuse receivers had 80+ yards in the game. The defense is still what the defense is for this Orange team: the weakest link. NC State averaged 7.41 yards/play and the ‘Cuse defense had probably their worst performance of the season, although they were able to generate enough pressure on NC State QB Ryan Finley to force some errant throws.
5. Miami (Last Week: 14-27 L @ Boston College)
Previous Rankings: 9 / 7 / 8 / 4 / 2 / 2 / 7 / 4
Boston’s a lot colder than Miami, and those Hurricanes players showed it on Friday night looking like the colder, slower team. Miami’s offense still doesn’t have a QB (Malik Rosier got his turn and was a big ol’ pile of ‘meh’ - although he did rush for 90 sack-adjusted yards at 8.2 yards/carry), and the running game (aside from Rosier) struggled against a solid BC defense. No shame in the Miami defense being unable to stop AJ Dillon (nobody does), but that offense will hold them back from realizing their true potential this year. The offense needs to center around RBs Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas (tip your waitresses!), but their effectiveness will be diminished without a QB that can keep the back half of a defense honest.
6. NC State (Last Week: 41-51 L @ Syracuse)
Previous Rankings: 6 / 5 / 4 / 3 / 3 / 3 / 2 / 2
It’s really hard to win when you fall behind 17 points in the first quarter. The pass defense is basically non-existent, and it’s completely ruining some unbelievable individual performances from Wolfpack players, including the 3’s... Kelvin Harmon had 11 receptions for 247 yards and 2 TDs and Germaine Pratt racked up 16 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Those dudes are beasts, but they can only do so much and you can’t expect that level of production every week. The Wolfpack will be favored in their final four games of the season, but unless things get better quickly, any of those four could end up just like this one did.
7. Georgia Tech (Last Week: 49-28 W @ Virginia Tech)
Previous Rankings: 5 / 9 / 12 / 10 / 10 / 8 / 9 / 10
Man, Georgia Tech is just all over the place. The offense is inefficient (but it can absolutely murder a team when it’s clicking) and the defense is... well... the offense can be really good! It’s hard to get a feel for this GT team. It wouldn’t surprise to see them lose out or win out. Freshman backup “QB” Tobias Oliver got the playing time in the win over Virginia Tech, and he responded by running the ball 40 times for 215 yards and 3 TDs all while not completing a pass. Jordan Mason and Jerry Howard combined for 24 carries, 158 yards, and 4 TDs for the Yellow Jackets.
8. Virginia Tech (Last Week: 28-49 L vs Georgia Tech)
Previous Rankings: 2 / 2 / 3 / 13 / 5 / 4 / 4 / 7
Despite getting run over by Georgia Tech, the Hokies Coastal Division title chances are still alive if they win out. Surprisingly (considering the offense lost it’s starting QB early in the year), the defense has been the weak link of this team, ranking 91st in S&P+ Defense. Granted, if you look at what all the defense has lost from last year, it’s not really as big of a surprise. We’ve all just become accustomed to Bud Foster’s MacGyver ability to put together world-beater defenses out of flimsy lunch pails and extra practice jerseys. The Hokies offense actually played pretty well in this one, out-gaining GT in yards/play and points/scoring opportunity. Ryan Willis has played better than anyone probably could have expected for a guy that transferred from the Kansas football program.
9. Pittsburgh (Last Week: 54-45 W vs Duke)
Previous Rankings: 8 / 13 / 10 / 12 / JV-NR / 9 / 13 / 12
Yeah, just, I don’t know what to think about Pitt now. They’re just 4-4 overall, but still completely in control of their own destiny in the Coastal Division with a 3-1 record and games remaining against all the other teams still with a shot at the division (Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami). Pitt’s offense went apeshit in this one, putting up 54 points on a Duke defense that was giving up 19.1 points/game (24.3 points/game in ACC play) coming in. Qadree Ollison continues to be Pitt’s best offensive weapon and he went for 149 yards and TD on 18 carries in this one, while freshman V’Lique Carter played for the first time this year and only went for 137 yards and 2 TDs on just 7 carries. Good thing Carter started off his career with a modest effort; you know, something to build on.
10. Duke (Last Week: 45-54 L @ Pittsburgh)
Previous Rankings: 4 / 4 / 5 / 2 / 6 / 5 / 3 / 8
Duke is officially on a skid, having lost three of four with the lone win being a victory over Georgia Tech in the week following the Blue Devils’ bye. The offense that’s been struggling the past few weeks did their job, but the defense decided it was time to take a rest and put up by far their worst effort of the season allowing 8.93 yards/play to Pittsburgh (Pitt’s previous season high vs D1-A/FBS competition was 6.20 yards/play), including allowing 9.30 yards/carry. Daniel Jones led Duke with a 27-of-42, 396 yard, 4 TD passing effort while Deon Jackson ran 10 times for 162 yards.
11. Florida State (Last Week: 10-59 L vs Clemson)
Previous Rankings: 10 / 12 / JV-1 / 9 / 11 / 11 / 10 / 9
Welp, that probably stung a bit. Clemson handed FSU their worst home loss in program history. Good thing ol’ Bandit didn’t live to see this day... Deondre Francois had probably the worst passing day of his career (17-of-36, 180 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 8.6 QBR) and then got banged up in the 4th quarter and had to leave (and he’s questionable for this week’s game at NC State). The FSU offensive line again struggled in this game, failing both to open lanes for the running game (sack-adjusted: 30 carries for 17 yards) and to protect the QB (5 sacks for -38 yards). The Seminoles are struggling and running out of time and opportunities to reach bowl eligibility.
12. North Carolina (Last Week: 21-31 L @ Virginia)
Previous Rankings: 14 / JV-NR / JV-NR / 11 / JV-1 / JV-1 / 12 / 11
The Tarheels lost again, and that’s always hilarious and enjoyable, but the offense played their best overall game of the year and Nathan Elliott is actually beginning to look like a functioning QB. In the six games since their opener (when he completed less than 40% of his passes and tossed 4 INTs), Elliott has completed 63.8% of his passes for 1,375 yards, 7 TDs, and 0 INTs. He’s still not a good enough player to be the focal point of the offense, but Larry Fedora apparently doesn’t realize that you’re supposed to use your best offensive weapons to try and win games and handed the ball off to Michael Carter and Antonio Williams just a combined 15 times (which went for 63 yards and a TD) in the loss to UVa. It’s pretty hilarious how terrible he is at coaching football. Also, UNC has a 38% chance of ending the season with 1-2 total wins.
13. Wake Forest (Last Week: 56-35 W @ Louisville)
Previous Rankings: 12 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 12 / 11 / 13
In a battle of the only ACC teams without a conference win, Wake destroyed Louisville (as they well should have), racking up 8.21 yards/play and scoring a TD anytime they even remotely sniffed the end zone (7.0 points/opportunity on 7 scoring opportunities). Matt Colburn ran the ball like he was angry (he rightfully was), going for 243 yards and 3 TDs on just 20 carries. Sam Hartman completed 16-of-24 passes for 223 yards and 2 TDs while also running for 46 yards and another TD. Greg Dortch had 135 yards receiving, and Cade Carney ran for 83 yards and a TD.
14. Louisville (Last Week: 35-56 L vs Wake Forest)
Previous Rankings: 11 / 11 / 12 / 14 / 12 / JV-2 / 14 / 14
The offense looked pretty good (it was playing Wake, so it absolutely should have), but...