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ACC Power Rankings: Week 9

The only spot to rank with no hesitation is 14.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With North Carolina no longer bowl-eligible, its nice to take a step back and smile at where the league sits as opposed to, say, five years ago. There are thirteen teams whom one could look at this year and say they could probably finish at least .500 in any conference.*

*(For those who want to @ me, that conference is the Big Ten, and the division is the West).

That is commendable. Bronco Mendenhall has overcome massive fit weirdness in year two and has Virginia on the cusp of bowl eligibility. Syracuse has top-15 wins in back-to-back years. Miami and Virginia Tech are “back.” Boston College has put up 86 points in the last two weeks.

Maybe its not just Carolina bottoming out this year, maybe the ACC is better.**

**(I hope Carolina has bottomed out).

  1. Clemson Tigers 6-1 (4-1)— With a much-needed bye week to lick their wounds and get Kelly Bryant healthy, the Tigers still control their destiny in the ACC and in the national picture. For about the ninth time in the past three years, we’ll get the full “Death Valley night game entrance” lead-in on TV as they host Georgia Tech. Left to play for: a third straight ACC title and playoff appearance, though they have no margin for error with the latter.
  2. Virginia Tech Hokies 6-1 (2-1)— Though the offense didn’t get its usual numbers in their 59-7 pasting of UNC, the defense and special teams were awesome. At this point, their trip to Miami next week is the Coastal championship game. Left to play for: a second straight Coastal championship and an outside shot at the playoffs as November begins to take the souls of top-10 teams.
  3. N.C. State Wolfpack 6-1 (4-0)— Off a well-timed bye, the Pack visits #9 Notre Dame in a HUGE nonconference matchup. They have the efficient, workmanlike offense to frustrate the Irish on D, and the defense to slow down their running game which nobody outside of Georgia has done. (Blogger note: “Go Irish!” /vomits) Left to play for: an 11-1 regular season with a season-opening loss to a bad South Carolina team. With only one FCS opponent, that could play better with the playoff committee than last time we saw that exact resume.
  4. Miami Hurricanes 6-0 (4-0)— It kinda feels like they’re playing with fire at this point, after three straight extremely close wins. Let’s hope that, if they win again this week, the trend continues. Left to play for: possibly the ACC’s best shot at a playoff team, as they can afford to take an L to Notre Dame, beat Virginia Tech, and slide into the 4 spot at 11-1, with some outside help.
  5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 4-2 (3-1)— Their two losses are by a combined two points, and both were games they should’ve won. This is Paul Johnson’s best defense this decade, and the offense is more efficient and less glitchy under Ta’Quon Marshall than any in recent memory. Left to play for: Win out and they need only a Miami loss to be in the ACC Championship game. If they did that, their resume would include wins over Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Georgia, and an NY6 bowl is in play.
  6. Florida State Seminoles 2-4 (2-3)— At this point, this ranking is a complete hedge on their talent advantage over their remaining schedule (save Clemson). They are falling into disarray, but SHOULD beat BC and Syracuse in the next two weeks. Left to play for: their rivalry game against Florida should determine who is going to be bowl-eligible, and who stays we all predicted.
  7. Boston College Eagles 4-4 (2-3)— Since you’ve definitely missed it, their quarterback’s name is Anthony Brown, and their top rusher’s name is A.J. Dillon. They’ve spearheaded an offense that scored more points in two weeks (86) than, according to some quick and unverified research, two different six-game stretches of Steve Addazio offenses over the past five years. Left to play for: a third win in four chances against N.C. State would be a welcome spoiler status, and a home win over Florida State on Saturday night is possible.
  8. Syracuse Orange 4-4 (2-2)— More impressive than the weird Friday night upset over Clemson was keeping the Miami game— their largest defeat of the season, mind you— close in the aftermath of said Clemson win. They’re officially good to bust one skull and ride around Lake Ontario with it on a pike per season, and get a bye week before the dangerous (for Florida State) lazy, quiet noon game in Tallahassee. Left to play for: a bowl bid this early in Dino Babers’ tenure solidifies Dino Babers’ status as a damn fine coach.
  9. Louisville Cardinals 5-3 (2-3)Lamar Jackson is still awesome. Left to play for: the world’s quietest nine-win season. They’re completely off the national radar and finish with Wake, Virginia, Syracuse, and Kentucky.
  10. Wake Forest Demon Deacons 4-3 (1-3)— They looked like a vintage Jim Grobe team in hanging with Georgia Tech on Saturday night, and have been competitive in three straight losses to the league’s upper crust. A home win against Louisville on Saturday would be huge. Their defense is still in the top 25 in yards per play, surprising given the loss of Mike Elko to Notre Dame. Left to play for: could play spoiler for Notre Dame or N.C. State. Failing that, wins over Syracuse and Duke get the Clawfense to its second-straight bowl game.
  11. Virginia Cavaliers 5-2 (2-1)— This ranking feels EXTREMELY dubious coming off a 41-10 defeat at the hands of BC, but they’ve got a chance to finish 3-0 vs. the teams below them with a win at Pitt this week. Left to play for: their second bowl appearance in the last nine years. That win at Pitt? They’d better get it. November finishes with Georgia Tech, at Louisville, at Miami, Virginia Tech.
  12. Pitt Panthers 3-5 (1-3)— Hello, Derrin Hall, of 254 rushing yards and 3 TD’s in a win at Duke. Left to play for: wins over Virginia and UNC would give them a prayer at bowl-eligibility, but...I don’t see Virginia Tech or Miami allowing that.
  13. Duke Blue Devils 4-4 (1-4)— Their home loss to Pitt feels like a long con in which David Cutcliffe would rather relish that Carolina is now the only winless team in ACC play. The joke’s on him, as Duke will now need to find two wins against Virginia Tech, a (very good!) Army team, Georgia Tech, and Wake, with only Georgia Tech at home. Left to play for: a bowl-clinching win against Georgia Tech and an on-field “Everytime We Touch” celebration.
  14. North Carolina Tar Heels 1-7 (0-5)— Sigh. Left to play for: survive the season.