1. Florida State (last week: 58-13 W vs North Alabama)
FSU fell behind 13-0 after the first quarter, but that’s not the big story here. QB Jordan Travis broke his leg on a 16-yard run towards the end of that quarter, an injury that completely changes the trajectory of the Seminoles season. FSU hasn’t looked as good as Michigan, Ohio State, or Georgia, but they have looked like the best team in the ACC and needed - well, still need - just two more wins to clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Noles will need QB Tate Rodemaker to step up in a huge way against Florida this week and then again the following week in the ACC title game against...
2. Louisville (last week: 38-31 W @ Miami)
The Cardinals trailed heading into the 4th quarter against the Hurricanes, but put together back-to-back TD drives that covered 164 yards to give them the lead. Miami had their chances, but Louisville stopped a 4th & goal at the 3 and then stopped Miami four yards short of the endzone on the final Hail Mary. It was a good game all around and Louisville withstood Miami’s best shot, so kudos to them there. The Cards host rival Kentucky this week, then head to Charlotte.
3. NC State (last week: 35-28 W @ Virginia Tech)
State picked a good time to produce their best performance of the year as they used a 21-point second quarter to silence the crowd in Blacksburg and produce a fairly worry-free victory. A little more foot-on-the-gas in the fourth quarter could have made for some extra breathing room, but the Wolfpack defense was able to force the Virginia Tech offense to churn extra time for yards and grind out the clock. Brennan Armstrong and K.C. Concepcion led the offense, while the State defense bottled up Kyron Drones, forcing him to beat the Pack with his arm. Next up is a home game against rival UNC on Saturday night.
4. Clemson (last week: 31-20 W vs North Carolina)
The Tigers avoided what would have been their first losing ACC record since 1998 by methodically dispatching the Tar Heels in Death Valley. Will Shipley tallied 183 yards of offense on 20 touches and scored on a 33-yard run through lazy UNC arm tackles. Cade Klubnik was again efficient and took care of the ball as Clemson posted their highest yardage total of the year against FBS opponents. The Tigers defense registered 4 sacks and 10 pass deflections in the contest. Clemson will wrap up the regular season at South Carolina.
5. Miami (last week: 31-38 L vs Louisville)
A valiant effort for the Hurricanes comes up just short and they fall to 6-5 on the year with a tilt at Boston College remaining before their bowl game. If the Hurricanes - and Tyler Van Dyke in particular, who had his best game in over a month - puts up that same effort next week, they’ll wipe the floor with BC. That’s no consolation for the Hurricanes, though, who will end up with a losing ACC record the second year in a row.
6. Virginia (last week: 30-27 W vs Duke)
One of the best efforts of the season for the Wahoos, despite 12 penalties, resulted in a win over Duke and will ensure the team doesn’t hit double-digit losses for the third time since 2013. Freshman QB Anthony Colandrea continues to impress and is a godsend for Tony Elliott’s program. WR Malik Washington has quietly put together an All-ACC campaign in his one and only year in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers host Virginia Tech this week in their season finale.
7. Georgia Tech (last week: 31-22 W vs Syracuse)
The Yellow Jackets secured bowl eligibility and a winning ACC record with their win over ‘Cuse. Brent Key is now 10-9 atop the Georgia Tech program, and regardless of what happens in their regular season finale against Georgia, it’ll be the best 20-game stretch for the program since Paul Johnson retired at the end of the 2018 season. Haynes King has put together a nice year, even if he’s thrown a bit too many picks, showcasing a running ability that wasn’t part of his game at Texas A&M (*cough*JimboFisher*cough*).
8. Virginia Tech (last week: 28-35 L vs NC State)
If not for two touchdowns over a three-play span in the middle of the game, this one would have been ugly. Virginia Tech was forced out of their offensive comfort zone as NC State restricted Kyron Drones ability to use his legs, and the Hokies defense surrendered five consecutive Wolfpack touchdown drives over the second and third quarters. VT made it a game late, but ran out of time. It’s been a remarkable midseason turnaround for the Hokies, but they will have to beat rival Virginia to earn bowl eligibility.
9. Duke (last week: 27-30 L @ Virginia)
Blue Devils fans really have to wonder what could have been this year if not for the injury to QB Riley Leonard. Each of the last two weeks go differently with Leonard under center, and the game against FSU - one which Duke was leading when Leonard went out - may well have well resulted in a different outcome, too. Even so, this has still been an impressive performance for the program in the second year under Mike Elko. With a winnable game against Pitt remaining, Duke can secure back-to-back .500 or better ACC records for the first time since 2014-2015. Then it’s next challenge will be holding on to Elko.
10. North Carolina (last week: 20-31 L @ Clemson)
UNC is just 1-3 over their last four games against FBS competition. They’ve surrendered over 38 points/game during that run, an obvious reason for the losing record. Drake Maye has posted two of his four lowest Passer Rating efforts over the last two games, including his worst of the season against Clemson. The Tigers pestered Maye all game, batting down passes and clogging up passing lanes. Omarion Hampton is the real deal at running back for the Tar Heels, as he’s now over 1,400 yards on the season with 15 TDs. UNC’s offense is best when it’s focused around Hampton, and he’s single-handedly carried them to three wins, but that’s not the narrative you’ll hear even if it’s the truth.
11. Pittsburgh (last week: 24-16 W vs Boston College)
This Pitt defense might not be up to normal standards for Pat Narduzzi, but they can still suffocate an opponent. The Panthers registered six sacks on the day and held Boston College QB Thomas Castellanos to a season low in rushing yards as Pitt secured just their third win of the season. RB Rodney Hammond went for 145 yards and a TD while the Pitt offense played a clean game (0 turnovers). Pitt finishes up at Duke on Saturday.
12. Boston College (last week: 16-24 L @ Pittsburgh)
Despite holding a nine and a half minute edge in time of possession and securing 21 first downs, BC managed just 325 yards of offense in the loss. The main culprit was a pair of turnovers, including a pick on the last-ditch effort drive to end the game, but also eight penalties in the game cost BC big time. Similar to Virginia Tech, the Eagles had an impressive midseason turnaround, reeling off five consecutive wins to reach bowl eligibility, but they’ve lost their last two in a row and finish up with a Miami team that was impressive a week ago.
13. Syracuse (last week: 22-31 L @ Georgia Tech)
Dino Babers got canned the day after the game, ending his 8-year run atop the program. Syracuse is a tough job and the program is a far cry from what it was from the late 1980’s through the early 2000’s. Assuming he doesn’t transfer, whoever takes over the Orange program will have Lequint Allen to ease the transition. Allen has been a bright spot for ‘Cuse, and needs 82 yards in their season finale to top 1,000 for the season. That finale game is against...
14. Wake Forest (last week: 7-45 L @ Notre Dame)
A seven year bowl streak is snapped for Wake Forest as the Deacs drop their seventh game over the last eight tries. Dave Clawson is a dang good coach, so he’s likely to figure this out, but what started out looking like a year when the team might not miss a beat after Sam Hartman’s transfer to Notre Dame (sidenote: Hartman tossed 4 TDs against Wake, so... double ouch in Winston-Salem), ended up being a big step back. Whether Wake’s 2023 season ends up being more like their 2020 (went 19-8 over the next two years) or 2010 (went 11-14 over the next two years) is the question.