1. Florida State (last week: 24-7 W @ Pittsburgh)
It was a lot closer game for a lot longer than without access to the Pitt locker room believed it would be, but FSU pulled away in the 3rd quarter and then just played out the string in a three-score victory. The surprising thing here was the Seminoles allowing 333 yards on the day to a Pitt team that generally struggles to hit the 250 mark. Miami comes to Tallahassee this weekend.
2. Louisville (last week: 34-3 W vs Virginia Tech)
NC State is the only other team who can claim as good a run as Louisville over the last two weeks. During that span, the Cardinals have taken out the two teams they were tied for second place in the ACC standings while outscoring Duke and VT by a combined score of 57-3. Without that second half meltdown at Pitt, the Cardinals would be undefeated. The Cardinals host Virginia on Thursday night.
3. NC State (last week: 20-6 W vs Miami)
The offense is still an issue, but the defense is getting it done. It had been almost a full calendar year since Miami failed to score a TD in a game (Nov 5, 2022, loss vs FSU), but the Wolfpack forced four turnovers and came up with a key 4th down stop in the 4th quarter at their own 3 yard line to make it happen. The Wolfpack offense took that turnover on downs and crafted a 4:44, 97-yard drive for a touchdown that gave State the breathing room it needed to win. Beating Clemson and Miami in back-to-back games is one heck of a feat. State heads to Wake Forest next Saturday.
4. Clemson (last week: 31-23 W vs Notre Dame)
After a tumultuous week following their loss at NC State, Clemson responded with their best effort of the year in the victory over Notre Dame. Cade Klubnik struggled again as he continues his regression over the second half of the season, but Phil Mafah was there to carry the Tigers offense to victory. Sam Hartman will finish his career 0-5 against Clemson. This Saturday, the Tigers host...
5. Georgia Tech (last week: 45-17 W @ Virginia)
The Yellow Jackets finally broke their alternating wins/losses streak by throttling the Wahoos. Jamal Haynes King combined to run for 202 yards and three TDs, while Dontae Smith added 78 yards and another pair of scores. GT racked up 514 yards of offense and played turnover free. Sitting at 5-4, the Jackets finish up with Clemson, Syracuse, and Georgia. That game against Syracuse is likely going to be what determines whether or not Brent Key’s first full season at the helm in Atlanta finishes off with a bowl game.
6. Duke (last week: 24-21 W vs Wake Forest)
Duke played their second worst game of the year, getting outgained by Wake 400-to-267 in the process, but still found a way to win and reach bowl eligibility for the second straight year. Mike Elko should be in line for an extension and raise - or, quite possibly, a higher profile gig elsewhere. With Riley Leonard and Henry Belin both sidelined, the Blue Devils turned to true freshman Grayson Loftis to man the QB position. Loftis wasn’t great, but he did complete a pair of 20+ yard passes, and the team won, so he did what they needed him to do. Duke is a completely different team without Leonard, whom they will likely be without for at least this weekend’s trip to Chapel Hill.
7. Miami (last week: 6-20 L @ NC State)
For the fifth straight week, Miami struggled. For the third time in that span, they lost. Mario Cristobal is looking more like the FIU version of himself than the Oregon version, and the Hurricanes are just 11-10 under his guidance. Mark Fletcher Jr. was the highlight of the Miami offense as he joined Jordan Waters (Duke), Audric Estime (Notre Dame), Jawhar Jordan (Louisville), and Jordan Travis (FSU) as the only players over the last two years to hit the century mark rushing against NC State. The schedule doesn’t let up with FSU and Louisville next up for the Canes.
8. Wake Forest (last week: 21-24 L @ Duke)
Wake only had five penalties in the game, but really hurt themselves with a pair of those, surrendering 15-yard penalties on Duke’s last two scoring drives, turning a 21-14 lead into a 24-21 loss. The good news in the game for Wake was the play of QB Mitch Giffis, who went 16-of-19 for 241 yards passing while rushing for 55 yards and a pair of TDs. That was a huge turnaround from his prior two games, in which he went a combined 14-of-33 passing for 143 yards while rushing for just 18 yards. The Deacs defense detained Duke to 267 yards of offense, but again, had a couple killer penalties. Wake hosts NC State next before facing off with former QB Sam Hartman in South Bend.
9. Virginia Tech (last week: 3-34 L @ Louisville)
You know, you try and give a team a little bit of credit and then they go and ride a struggle bus to a 140-yard, 3-point effort. VT’s defense allowed Louisville to score on 4 of their first 6 possessions of the game, with a 31-yard missed FG being the only reason that wasn’t 5-of-6. The Hokies had looked much better over the previous four games, but reverted back to the early season version of themselves that had me questioning if Brent Pry would even be there come New Years (he will now, of course). Hopefully VT rolls out this version of themselves in two weeks when they host NC State, but between now and then is a road game against...
10. Boston College (last week: 17-10 W @ Syracuse)
In what was easily the worst ACC game of the week, Boston College pillow fought their way to a victory over Syracuse. If you missed the game, consider yourself blessed and maybe go buy a lotto ticket or something. If you, like me, watched it, maybe go buy yourself a drink or say a few extra Hail Mary’s... maybe both. The Eagles are now bowl eligible, which is absolutely crazy if you watched them over the first four weeks of the season (again, self-harm is not okay; please stop watching BC football - there are people who love you). This is the third time in four years under Jeff Hafley that BC is bowl eligible, but they have yet to actually play in a bowl game in that time due to opting out of the 2020 bowl season due to covid concerns and then having to last-minute cancel their 2021 bowl game against East Carolina due to a covid outbreak among the BC team.
11. North Carolina (last week: 59-7 W vs Campbell)
The Tar Heels may have whipped up on FCS division opponent Campbell, but... come on. It’s November and you’re playing an FCS team whose best win this year is over a 4-5 Monmouth team? Listen, I get it. Virtually every FBS team schedules FCS opponents early in the year while they’re working out the early season wrinkles, but this late in the year, that’s garbage. Nobody gives Alabama credit for beating up on FCS teams in November, and North Carolina will earn no credit for this one either. UNC hosts Duke on Saturday night.
12. Virginia (last week: 17-45 L vs Georgia Tech)
The fifth play of the game for Virginia resulted in an interception and QB Tony Muskett being lost for the rest of the game. Anthony Colandrea led the Cavaliers to a TD on his first drive, then into field goal range on the second (the kick missed), but the next three drives went fumble, punt, punt, so the UVa field goal to end the first half was just window dressing on the way to a lopsided loss. The Wahoos are officially postseason eliminated with the loss (they join the next team on this list in that group), but can nonetheless instill some havoc in the ACC this coming week as they head to Louisville.
13. Pittsburgh (last week: 7-24 L vs Florida State)
For the seventh time in eight games against FBS opponents this year, Pitt failed to top 21 points. For the third time in those games, it failed to reach double digit points. Pitt was a woeful 0-for-11 on 3rd downs in the game (but they did convert 1-of-2 4th down attempts!), and turned the ball over three times; not a recipe for success. Surprisingly, they actually led 7-0 midway through the second quarter... and then the massive boulder they were pushing uphill rolled backwards and over them. The Panthers still have Boston College on the schedule, but the best chance for Pitt to avoid a 10-loss season will be this week against...
14. Syracuse (last week: 10-17 L vs Boston College)
The Orange are very not good at football. Garrett Shrader was forced to miss the game due to injury, and the offense simply doesn’t go without him. RB LeQuint Allen (18 carries, 142 yards, 2 TD) had himself a heck of a game, but Carlos Del Rio-Wilson (7-of-17, 37 yards, 4 INT) is not an ACC caliber QB (he would make a great TE, but that’s another discussion). The Orange have now lost five in a row and have failed to register more than two scores in any of those games. They finish up with Pitt, GT, and Wake. If Syracuse can’t find a solution to their offensive woes over that span, they’ll be finding a new coach come December.