1. Clemson (Last Week: 56-35 W vs South Carolina)
Previous Rankings: 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 1
The Dabo Death Detail & Christmas Gift Shop continued their season-long destruction of all opposing teams, this time taking out their in-state arch rival. Probably the biggest item of this game was that the Tigers S&P+ top ranked defense surrendered 510 yards and 5 TDs passing to South Carolina’s Jake Bentley, while allowing an opponent to cross the 30 point threshold for the first time this year. Oh, and Dabo dropped this dime during the ACC Championship Game Coaches teleconference Sunday.
2. Syracuse (Last Week: 42-21 W @ Boston College)
Previous Rankings: 13 / 10 / 8 / 6 / 4 / 10 / 8 / 6 / 4 / 2 / 2 / 3
Eric Dungey had himself one heck of a game in his penultimate collegiate game as he threw for 362 yards and 3 TDs while rushing for 34 yards and 3 more TDs. Dontae Strickland helped keep the BC defense honest, rushing for 129 yards on 20 carries. Aside from the early season win against Florida State, this was probably the best effort by the Syracuse defense all season. Cuse fans have to feel really good about the direction of their program right now under Dino Babers.
3. NC State (Last Week: 34-28 W @ North Carolina)
Previous Rankings: 6 / 5 / 4 / 3 / 3 / 3 / 2 / 2 / 6 / 3 / 10 / 7
Beating UNC-CH is always delightful. While the game was closer than a lot of State fans would have liked, the overtime win just added to the misery of Tarheel fans, so that’s just another lovely bonus. Someone start a collection for Reggie Gallaspy so he doesn’t go broke this Christmas buying gifts for all those UNC players who now call him “Daddy”.
4. Miami (Last Week: 24-3 W vs Pittsburgh)
Previous Rankings: 9 / 7 / 8 / 4 / 2 / 2 / 7 / 4 / 5 / 9 / 8 / 6
Travis Homer ran 8 times for 168 yards and a TD to lead to the Hurricanes offense, but this game really keyed on the Manny Diaz’s Miami defense holding the Pitt offense to just three total points on three scoring opportunities. That defense (9th in S&P+) is the key to the Hurricane success this year since the offense (68th in S&P+) can hardly chew gum and walk at the same time. Miami still doesn’t have a QB; N’Kosi Perry finished 6-of-24 for 52 yards... but at least he didn’t turn the ball over? Interesting fact: After starting his Miami coaching tenure 10-0, Mark Richt is just 7-8 since.
5. Wake Forest (Last Week: 59-7 W @ Duke)
Previous Rankings: 12 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 12 / 11 / 13 / 13 / 13 / 9 / 10
Wake has been completely schizophrenic the last few weeks: a fantastic effort against NC State, a complete egg laid against Pitt, and then a curb-stomping of Duke. Who knows what you’re going to get from this team in any given week. They are bowl eligible, though, and Dave Clawson deserves credit for that (he really has done a great job since arriving in Winston-Salem), especially given the injuries his team has had to endure this year. Cade Carney ran for 223 yards and 2 TDs, Jamie Newman threw for 177 yards and 4 TDs (to four different WRs) with Greg Dortch accounting for 124 of those yards and one of the TDs. The Wake defense put the clamps on Duke’s offense, holding them to their worst performance of the year (yes, even worse than what Clemson did to Duke), which promptly got interim DC Lyle Hemphill promoted to the full-time gig.
6. Boston College (Last Week: 21-42 L vs Syracuse)
Previous Rankings: 3 / 3 / 2 / 7 / 7 / 6 / 6 / 5 / 3 / 4 / 4 / 8
Boston College OC Scot Loeffler (no relation to the dudes from Chevelle) was just hired as the new head coach at Bowling Green, so the Eagles will have someone new calling the offensive shots soon. Not sure that’s a great hire as Loeffler has been around a long time at a lot of places and has never really been thought that highly of as an OC (over 7 seasons as a P5 OC (Auburn, Virginia Tech, Boston College), his units have averaged a ranking of 93rd in S&P+ Offense), but hey, sometimes guys make better head coaches than assistants (but this is probably addition by subtraction for BC).
7. Pittsburgh (Last Week: 3-24 L @ Miami)
Previous Rankings: 8 / 13 / 10 / 12 / JV-NR / 9 / 13 / 12 / 9 / 5 / 3 / 2
Pitt fans have to be feeling really good about their team heading into the ACC Championship Game showdown with Clemson, right? A similar performance Saturday against the Tigers might result in the most lopsided ACC title game ever (Clemson is already favored by 27.5). Maybe the Pitt players decided to go ahead and get in their own celebration in Miami...
8. Georgia Tech (Last Week: 21-45 L @ Georgia)
Previous Rankings: 5 / 9 / 12 / 10 / 10 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 7 / 6 / 7 / 4
Getting beaten soundly by Georgia, a College Football Playoff caliber team, is nothing to be ashamed of... but it does sting a little worse when it’s your rival. The game was over by halftime. Paul Johnson might have gotten an early start on that retirement... The man will always be a treasure, though. Now begins the interesting process of turning GT back into a modern day football playing school.
9. Virginia Tech (Last Week: 34-31 W vs Virginia)
Previous Rankings: 2 / 2 / 3 / 13 / 5 / 4 / 4 / 7 / 8 / 10 / 12 / 13
The Hokies pulled out an improbable win in OT against their rivals to keep bowl hopes alive for Justin Fuente’s squad. Virginia Tech has a game with Marshall this weekend to try to reach that six-win threshold for bowl eligibility. Funny story about that: Virginia Tech is playing Marshall due to their earlier game with East Carolina getting cancelled due to Hurricane Florence. VT got their panties in a wad when ECU cancelled that game before the hurricane even hit, but then got their panties even further up in there when ECU scheduled a 12th game with NC State instead of with VT, which left VT scrambling to find a 12th game and ultimately ended up with Marshall (not an easy win, by the way; The Herd are currently 37th in S&P+). VT is so pissed off with ECU about all this that they’re going all teenage girl level and threatening to cancel all future games with ECU. This is petty and pretty hilarious.
10. Virginia (Last Week: 31-34 L @ Virginia Tech)
Previous Rankings: 7 / 8 / 9 / 5 / 8 / 7 / 5 / 3 / 2 / 7 / 5 / 5
Last week I said about Virginia: “Virginia fans are really going to look back at this season and the missed opportunities against Indiana, Pittsburgh, and Georgia Tech and think, “what might have been”...” Welp, go on and add Virginia Tech to that list. What could have been a really special season just continues to slip from UVa’s grasp. The future of the Wahoos program is bright, though, especially with Bryce Perkins (a poor man’s Cam Newton) back for another year.
11. Duke (Last Week: 7-59 L vs Wake Forest)
Previous Rankings: 4 / 4 / 5 / 2 / 6 / 5 / 3 / 8 / 10 / 8 / 6 / 9
Man, has the Duke defense fallen apart over the latter part of the season. In four of the last five games, the Blue Devils have surrendered 35+ points. Meanwhile, the offense has dropped off a cliff, too, being held to single-digits for the second game in a row. After starting the season 5-1, Duke has limped to a 2-4 finish. Daniel Jones completed just 17-of-36 passes for 145 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT, while garnering a lowly QB Rating of 12.2 for the game. Jones was a trendy pick earlier in the year to be a high NFL draft pick this year, but one has to wonder how much the last few weeks have hurt his stock and might sway him to return to Duke for his senior year.
12. North Carolina (Last Week: 28-34 L vs NC State)
Previous Rankings: 14 / JV-NR / JV-NR / 11 / JV-1 / JV-1 / 12 / 11 / 12 / 11 / 11 / 12
Larry Fedora up and got shitcanned after the loss to NC State - his third straight loss to the Wolfpack. Returning to the UNC sidelines (for some reason) will be 1990’s retread Mack Brown (and hopefully his swanky 1990’s Starter attire). FR Cade Fortin made his first career start at QB for UNC in the game and looked like an actual viable QB once he settled in. Fedora’s questionable QB decisions may be one enduring legacy item of his (taking a backseat to his off-the-field comments, of course).
13. Florida State (Last Week: 14-41 L vs Florida)
Previous Rankings: 10 / 12 / JV-1 / 9 / 11 / 11 / 10 / 9 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 11
For the first time since 1982, Florida State will not be playing in a bowl game. If it wasn’t already dead, the honeymoon phase for Willie Taggart is officially over. His name is sure to be on the “hot seat” reports you’ll hear starting next year. He’s already in “reshaping the coaching staff” territory. In all honesty, though (and maybe this is because it is FLORIDA STATE), this season just felt so much worse than a 5-7 (3-5) record.
14. Louisville (Last Week: 10-56 L vs Kentucky)
Previous Rankings: 11 / 11 / 12 / 14 / 12 / JV-2 / 14 / 14 / 14 / 14 / 14 / 14
The season ended like it started for the Cardinals, with a drubbing at the hands of an SEC opponent. It’s finally, mercifully over for Louisville fans. At least they can drown their sorrows in some delicious bourbon, though. That’s a great consolation prize. Now the Cardinals need to focus on not botching the hiring of their next head coach while also trying to minimize the potential mass exodus of the roster via transfer as has been reported.