Both ACC playoff candidates did exactly what they needed to do in advance of the next College Football Playoff rankings release. Clemson and Louisville combined to beat their Saturday opponents 106-7.
1. Clemson. It would be a surprise to see Alabama drop from the top spot, but Clemson showed it is worthy of the No. 1 ranking. The defense shut out a challenging Syracuse offense, and the Tigers offense rolled the Orange even after Deshaun Watson left. Watson iced his shoulder after the win but said he wasn’t feeling any pain.
2. Louisville. The Cardinals must have felt a little disrespected when they learned of their No. 7 ranking, and they took their frustrations out on Boston College. If the selection committee wants to see Louisville dominate inferior competition, that is exactly what happened Saturday.
3. Virginia Tech. Road games have posed problems for the Hokies, but they’re done visiting ACC opponents. Virginia Tech escaped Duke with a close win, but it didn’t come without a cost. Cornerback Greg Stroman was injured, and safety Terrell Edmunds will miss the first half next week with a targeting penalty.
4. North Carolina. What might have been if the Tar Heels didn’t have to play their most important game of the season in a hurricane? The offense continues to click with Mitch Trubisky and Elijah Hood, and the defense has emerged as a solid unit. Teams are averaging just 15.6 points against North Carolina in its last three games.
5. Florida State. Saturday's comeback win prevents the Seminoles from having a losing record in their last eight conference games. Once again the team showed the necessary fourth-quarter resolve, but it was hardly a clean effort. Florida State continues to confound its fans with inconsistent performances.
6. Miami. A tough October took its toll on Miami, which lacks depth in Mark Richt’s first season, but the Hurricanes were able to emerge from their funk. Pitt’s defense was the perfect cure for Miami’s offensive malaise. Miami won four straight, then lost four straight, and now it can end with four straight wins again.
7. Pittsburgh. There’s no easy fix with this Panthers defense, which allowed at least 31 points to every Power 5 opponent. They gave up a season-high 51 points to Miami, and next they travel to Clemson.
8. Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are going bowling, and if that doesn’t sound like a big deal, then just watch this. Wake Forest is going to bask in this win the rest of the weekend.
9. Georgia Tech. Paul Johnson’s offense didn’t do much in the second half against one of the league's worst rush defenses, as the Yellow Jackets scored only 3 points after the break. They are back to being a seven- or eight-win team.
10. Duke. Brighter days are ahead for Duke, but it is suffering some tough losses in the meantime. The Blue Devils are winless in the ACC, but they could have won each of their last three games. They could have beat a ranked Louisville and ranked Virginia Tech.
11. Syracuse. Dino Babers knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but it was a bit of a surprise to see his offense shut out. The Orange, for the most part, have been an entertaining team to watch under their new coach, and they’ll keep getting better.
12. NC State. That loss to Florida State has been NC State’s trademark the last few seasons. The Wolfpack cannot get over the hump. They get close but fail to make the necessary play at the critical juncture. This time it was a dropped interception in the end zone.
13. Virginia. Were there any sad Virginia fan shots this weekend? It was another brutal loss for the Cavaliers. They’re improving, but the wins might not come for another year or two.
14. Boston College. The Eagles will not go winless in the ACC. Hopefully that brings some solace to the rebuilding program, with a trip to Florida State on a short week coming on the heels of a 52-7 loss to Louisville. Steve Addazio believes they’ll be better soon.