It’s not etched in stone just yet, but all signs point to a Clemson-Miami ACC title game, as the Tigers and Canes won crucial division showdowns Saturday. Both teams have big games coming up this week, too, so the celebration will be short-lived, but if the Canes and Tigers keep winning, a playoff berth awaits the eventual league champion.
Clemson has now beaten six Power 5 teams with winning records and three ranked teams on the road, and is one win away from securing its third consecutive Atlantic Division title.
Virginia’s win over Georgia Tech means the Hurricanes aren’t officially the Coastal champs. But Miami’s long drought without a division title in the ACC appears to be all but over, after Travis Homer & Co. thumped Virginia Tech in their most impressive showing of the season.
The Wolfpack might be the best three-loss team in the country, but they’re still a three-loss team. The defeat against Clemson, in a game they controlled for the entire first half, was particularly frustrating. This week will be a big test to see whether Dave Doeren can rally his team to a victory over Boston College after two crushing losses.
The Hokies picked off Malik Rosier three times but didn’t do much with the opportunities, leaving the door open for the Canes. The lack of a run game and too many big plays allowed by the defense proved too much to overcome.
Bronco Mendenhall has his team bowl-eligible, which seems like a minor miracle. In fact, before the season, QB Kurt Benkert and some teammates made plans to get celebratory tattoos if they made it to a bowl. Mendenhall suggested he’d consider the idea, too. This really needs to happen.
Georgia Tech has to be kicking itself for the games it has let get away. The Jackets had fourth-quarter leads against Tennessee, Miami and Virginia, but it was never enough. This is still a good team, but getting to six wins isn’t a lock with Virginia Tech, Duke and Georgia still on the slate.
Banged up and missing three of their best players, the Deacons fought valiantly at Notre Dame. Still, it wasn’t enough to upend the Irish. John Wolford's strong season continues, though. The senior quarterback threw for 331 yards, ran for 59 more and totaled three touchdowns.
BC had the week off to prep for NC State, a team the Eagles beat last season. Another victory over the Wolfpack would be huge, as it would lock up a bowl bid and put the Eagles in prime position to win out in the regular season.
Lamar Jackson had the week off, too, but his Heisman odds might have improved a bit as several of the players ahead of him in the race had rough outings. Of course, if the Cardinals can’t find a way to win their final three, the discussion is probably moot anyway.
The good news is FSU won against Syracuse. With victories over Delaware State and Florida in the season’s final weeks, the Noles will be bowl-eligible, too. But here’s the bad news: FSU still hasn’t topped 28 points in a game, the defense still has just six takeaways (fewest in the Power 5) and the Noles allowed nine third- or fourth-down conversions when Syracuse needed 6 yards or more for a first.
11. Syracuse Orange
Eric Dungey might be the toughest player in the ACC, but all his effort hasn’t been able to get Syracuse over the hump in a number of close games, including Saturday’s frustrating loss to Florida State. Syracuse needs to win two of its final three to become bowl-eligible.
Pitt was off in Week 10, but after back-to-back wins, there’s some actual enthusiasm that with an upset in the final weeks, the Panthers could find their way into a bowl.
13. Duke Blue Devils
Duke was also off, and David Cutcliffe had plenty of work to do during the bye week. Duke has dropped five straight, and the offense has been a mess since Week 4.
Breaking news: UNC suffered no season-ending injuries during the bye week. That’s a big success.