The calendar has turned and we are in the last month of the regular season. The cream is rising to the top, and the rest of the league is starting to sort itself out as programs can realistically start looking at bowl games.
Or, if you’re in Chapel Hill, to 2018.
The folks at the College Football Playoff have decided to weigh in, and it’s...possible...that their thoughts influenced the most powerful rankings you’ll read on this website. Also fun, let’s remind ourselves of what they have left as this regular season winds down
1) Clemson Tigers, 7-1 (5-1)
All is right in the world in Death Valley. Kelly Bryant came back with a vengeance against the Rambling Wreck, and on Tuesday night the College Football Playoff Committee awarded them the Number 4 spot, announcing to one and all that they are willing to forgive the stumble in Syracuse due to Bryant’s injury. At that spot, it’s pretty clear all they have to do is win out and they’ll be back in the playoff for a third straight year.
Games Left: 11/4 @ NC State, 11/11 vs FSU, 11/18 vs Citadel, 11/25 @ South Carolina
Outlook: The GT game was a statement, and with FSU looking suddenly mortal, this weekend’s tilt on the road in Raleigh looks to be the biggest hurdle before the ACC title game. It’s a big deal, as we’ll see in a couple of spots, but Clemson is looking solid to get back to the CFP to defend their title.
2) Virginia Tech, 7-1 (3-1)
The Hokies didn’t suffer any letdowns with their domination of Duke, and while they didn’t quite score as much as they did against Carolina, they also managed to keep the Blue Devils out of the end zone. Their wins have been impressive enough for the Committee to give them a 13th ranking, and they couldn’t be any higher headed into this weekend’s showdown against The U.
Games Left: 11/4 @ Miami, 11/11 @ GT, 11/18 vs Pitt, 11/24 vs UVa
Outlook: The Hokies low-key have a shot at the CFP themselves. Their lone loss is against a Clemson team that they likely would have a shot to beat again in Charlotte should they win out. Their resume would also include a win against a ranked Miami team, and they already have a win against a strong West Virginia team. This weekend, then, is huge.
3) Miami, 7-0, (5-0)
Yes, Miami, you may have a higher CFP rank at 10, but when you could only beat the cellar-dwelling Tar Heels by 5 when the Hokies did it by nearly 50, you have reached “show me” status with fans. The Hurricanes seem content to add more flaming balls to their juggling act, hoping that one won’t catch their hair on fire. They get credit from the CFP committee for being undefeated, but their resume needs a boost if they want any hope to land in the top 4 at the end of the year.
Games Left: 11/4 vs VT, 11/11 vs Notre Dame, 11/18 vs UVa, 11/24 @ Pitt
Outlook: All that said, with a final five that would include the Hokies, the Irish (currently number 3), and the ACC Atlantic winner, should Miami win the ACC title game, they are in. Having three of their last four at home won’t hurt, especially now that the buzz is back at The U.
4) North Carolina State University in Raleigh, 6-2, (4-0)
There’s no shame in losing to Notre Dame in South Bend, but it has to be at least a little concerning to State fans that the team never really felt in the game. It may have something to do with the 318 yards Notre Dame ran down their throat. The good news is that the Wolfpack still can represent the Atlantic in the ACC title game as both of their losses are of the non-conference variety.
Games Left: 11/4 vs Clemson, 11/11 @ BC, 11/18 @ Wake, 11/25 vs. UNC
Outlook: You have to like State’s chances of getting to Charlotte should they upset the Tigers this weekend, and fans have had that game circled since the team gagged away the upset in Clemson last year. The CFP committee has them at 20 even with two losses, and while the playoff is no longer even remotely possible, the Orange Bowl absolutely is.
5) Boston College, 5-4, (3-3)
Raise your hand if you thought at the beginning of the year the Eagles would have a win against both Louisville and Florida State.
PUT YOUR HAND DOWN, YOU ARE LYING!
I’ve mentioned before I live not far from the BC campus, and you could hear Alumni Stadium rocking on Friday night as it felt like they exorcised a lot of demons in the thorough beat down of the Seminoles. The Eagles aren’t just talking about bowl eligibility now, but maybe a Tier 1 bowl. What a season.
Games Left: 11/4 Off Week, 11/11 vs NC State, 11/18 vs UConn, 11/25 @ Syracuse
Outlook: They catch State at the perfect time, after an off week and the Wolfpack coming off two huge emotional games. Teams have had a tough time taking the Eagles seriously, and with a 2-1 finish BC has a good case to a make for Tier 1 bowl, especially if Notre Dame makes the CFP and doesn’t eat an ACC spot.
6) Syracuse, 4-4 (2-2)
They mostly jump by default as they got to savor their Clemson win for another week, and have a chance to, remarkably, make Florida State start thinking about 2018 this weekend. They still have some work left to get a bowl game, but the Orange is another team benefiting from how their schedule sets up.
Games Left: 11/4 @ FSU, 11/11 vs Wake, 11/18 @ Louisville, 11/25 vs BC
Outlook: 8-4 isn’t out of the question for New York’s College Team. FSU has shown this weekend’s game is winnable, and once you beat Clemson, you don’t really fear going against a Louisville team that, to put it mildly, has had a disappointing season. Dino Babers is getting a chance to make some noise in his second year.
7) Wake Forest, 5-3 (2-3)
The Deacs have to be kicking themselves over their narrow loss to FSU after seeing how BC handled them. Still, life is pretty rosy for Wake. They are one win away from securing a bowl game, have a chance to play spoiler against Notre Dame, and seriously deflated Lamar Jackson and Louisville with an outstanding win against them this past weekend.
Games Left: 11/4 @ Notre Dame, 11/11 @ Syracuse, 11/8 vs NCSU, 11/25 vs. Duke
Outlook: 4-0 isn’t going to happen, but everything from 3-1 to 0-4 feels possible here. A strong finish could see Wake going to a high level bowl game, but they should at least plan on making December plans with the Blue Devils on their schedule.
8) Georgia Tech, 4-3 (3-2)
It’s tough to dock the Jackets too much considering they ran into a buzz saw down in Death Valley. Dabo has always seemed to have Tech’s number, and the best thing they can do at this point is put this one behind them and continue the march to a bowl game.
Games Left: 11/4 @ UVa, 11/11 vs VT, 11/18 @ Duke, 11/25 vs Georgia
Outlook: Despite the stumble, the Jackets have a real shot to play spoiler coming up. It feels like they should be able to get to six wins, the question is if they can get any more. They’ll face the Hokies at the right time: right after an emotional game for the lead in the Coastal, and they could dropkick Georgia right out of the playoffs if the DAWGS are looking ahead to their likely SEC title game against ‘Bama.
9) Pittsburgh, 4-5 (2-3)
This won’t last for the Panthers, but let’s give them credit where credit is due: they beat a surprisingly strong UVA team going into the off week, and a bowl game is still a shot for a team that many thought would be rebuilding in 2017. They have something to play for and are motivated going into November, which is more than the teams below them
Games Left: 11/4 Off Week, 11/9 vs. UNC, 11/18 @ VT, 11/25 @ vs Miami
Outlook: That’s bad news for Carolina going into their Thursday night tilt as it’s a game Pitt has to have in order to even have a shot at playing in December. Now, do we really expect them to win against either VT or Miami? Of course not, that said, one of those two teams will know they no longer have a shot at the Coastal crown, and will be a prime suspect for an upset. If they win next week, watch out.
10) Virginia, 5-3 (2-2)
A pretty big stumble for the Cavs against the Panthers, as they fail to secure their sixth win for bowl eligibility. They’ve already done better than most expected, but you have to think Cavs fans would love to get back to a December game after several years of staying home. It’s still there for them
Games Left: 11/4 vs GT, 11/11 @ Louisville, 11/18 @ Miami, 11/24 vs VT
Outlook: 0-4 isn’t out of the question for the Cavs, as Georgia Tech will need this game on the path to a bowl, Louisville will be looking to save face, and, well, the last two won’t be easy. It’s why the Pitt loss hurts so much, because there really isn’t a gimme win for them left. At this point, they’ll be happy for an extra game
11) Louisville, 5-4 (2-4)
Just not the season that the folks in Louisville were thinking they’d have. You can do well if you have a really good player, which Lamar Jackson is, but if you ONLY have one really good player, teams will figure that out quickly. Wake sure did this weekend. A bowl game is still within reach, but it feels like a small consolation for a team that many thought would be fighting for the Atlantic crown.
Games Left: 11/4 Off Week, 11/11 vs UVa, 11/18 vs. Syracuse, 11/25 @ Kentucky
Outlook: For as rough as the season has been, a Tier 1 bowl game is still easily within reach for the Cardinals, and Lamar Jackson can finish his college career on a high note. With this slate, they have a great shot at going 3-0 and finishing strong.
12) Florida State, 2-5 (2-4)
If Louisville’s season is disappointing, then Florida State is a disaster. Who would have thought they’d actually need that cancelled game to get to 6 wins and even have a shot at a bowl? They have zero room for error if they even want to play in December. Few people saw that beat down against the Eagles coming, but maybe we should have.
Games Left: 11/4 vs. Syracuse, 11/11 @ Clemson, 11/18 vs Delaware St, 11/25 @ Florida
Outlook: That Veteran’s Day game against Clemson looms large as the game that could knock the Noles out of a bowl game, but don’t sleep on Syracuse. If Jimbo’s team decides that the season is a big enough of a waste, the Orange will have no problem taking down FSU. Again, no room for error.
13) Duke, 4-5 (1-5)
Two years in a row, it’s possible their only win in the ACC will be over the team in Chapel Hill. At any other school, Cutcliffe would be fighting for his job, but he’s just signed a two year extension to 2021 this past May, so Duke will be giving him a chance to rebuild for one more run.
Games Left: 11/4 Off Week, 11/11 @ Army, 11/18 vs Georgia Tech, 11/25 @ Wake
Outlook: They need two out of the next three, and it’s tough to see two more wins. Playing at Army on Veteran’s Day doesn’t bode well for their chances.
14) North Carolina, 1-8, (0-6)
Hey, I talked about it on Monday. They may be low on the power rankings, but they played a much more inspired game than several of the teams above them. It’s a note of optimism, but when you are the only team who is officially eliminated from a bowl, you are at the bottom of the rankings.
Games Left: 11/4 Off Week, 11/9 @ Pitt, 11/18 vs Western Carolina, 11/25 @ NCSU-R
Outlook: Playing for 2018. Taking a much needed off week and trying to end the season on a high note, as well as play spoiler to their neighbors in Raleigh.