ACC power rankings: Wake Forest one step from major showdown with Clemson; Miami moves up

Scott Keepfer


Published 2: 47 PM EST Nov 4, 2019

The pecking order in the Atlantic Coast Conference has become a bit more defined – namely, there are three teams at the top, three teams at the bottom and eight teams in what might be best described as, well, the “Mediocre Middle.”

At the top, unbeaten Clemson remains the class of the league, but an interesting Atlantic Division showdown could be in the offing. If Wake Forest can win at Virginia Tech this week, the Demon Deacons will head to Clemson on Nov. 16 at 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the ACC with a legitimate shot at unseating the Tigers.

At the bottom, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State continue to flounder, although Syracuse — on the strength of a decisive defeat at Boston College — has displaced Tech at the bottom of the rankings.

In the middle are eight teams clustered so tightly that it’ll take a late-season streak or swoon to create some separation.

1. Clemson (9-0, 7-0 ACC)

Last week: No. 1

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says his team has entered the “championship phase” of its season. Funny, but it seems as though the Tigers have been in championship phase for about five years now. A victory at North Carolina State on Saturday will push Clemson another step closer to a fifth consecutive Atlantic Division title.

Up next:  Saturday at North Carolina State, 7: 30 p.m. ET, ABC.

2. Wake Forest (7-1, 3-1 ACC)

Last week: No. 2

Wake Forest has beaten only one team with a winning record this season, but the Demon Deacons could be bound for an Orange Bowl berth if they continue to post victories. Wake should get a good test this week – on the road at Virginia Tech – then will get a chance to prove its worth at Clemson.

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Up next:  Saturday at Virginia Tech, 3: 30 p.m. ET, ACC Network.

3. Virginia (6-3, 4-2 ACC)

Last week: No. 4

The Cavaliers moved up a spot after winning at North Carolina, a victory that has given them the inside track to the Coastal Division title. If they can accomplish that, they’ll become the seventh different Coastal Division champion in as many years.

Up next:  Saturday vs. Georgia Tech, 12: 30 p.m. ET, ACC Network.

4. Louisville (5-3, 3-2 ACC)

Last week: No. 3

Louisville has gained no small measure of respect by defeating Wake Forest and Virginia and can put another feather in its cap with a victory at Miami (Fla.) this week. After winning only two games a year ago, the Cardinals’ rebuilding effort is way ahead of schedule.

Up next:  Saturday at Miami (Fla.), 3: 30 p.m. ET, ESPN2.

5. Virginia Tech (5-3, 2-2 ACC)

Last week: No. 6

The Hokies deserved to move up in the rankings despite losing last week. That’s what happens when you push Notre Dame to the limit in South Bend before losing by a point in the final minute. Virginia Tech has been mercurial throughout the season but can make another statement by knocking off Wake Forest.

Up next:  Saturday vs. Wake Forest, 3: 30 p.m. ET, ACC Network.

6. Miami (5-4, 3-3 ACC)

Last week: No. 9

Given up for dead following a home loss to Georgia Tech a few weeks ago, Miami has righted the ship in a big way. “I think we’re starting to find ourselves,” coach Manny Diaz said following the Hurricanes’ 27-10 win at Florida State. That would appear to be the case. Miami’s defense had 16 tackles for loss, including nine sacks, against the Seminoles, and it only gets easier from here with Louisville, Florida International and Duke remaining on the schedule.

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Up next:  Saturday vs. Louisville, 3: 30 p.m. ET, ESPN2.

7. North Carolina (4-5, 3-3 ACC)

Last week: No. 5

The hard-luck Heels lost their fifth game by a touchdown last week against Virginia, but Mack Brown’s return to Chapel Hill still appears to be a resounding success. North Carolina has found its quarterback in Sam Howell, and the Tar Heels should be in line for a bowl berth by late November.

Up next: Nov. 14 at Pittsburgh.

8. Pittsburgh (6-3, 3-2 ACC)

Last week: No. 8

Pittsburgh is the defending Coastal Division champion and remains in the hunt again. The Panthers have won five of six games since a close defeat at Penn State in mid-December and are capable of playing anyone close. They’ll get a bye this week, then return to action with a Thursday night game against North Carolina.

Up next: Nov. 14 vs. North Carolina.

9. Boston College (5-4, 3-3 ACC)

Last week: No. 10

A.J. Dillon is a beast – a fact he underscored Saturday by rushing for 242 yards in the Eagles’ romp against Syracuse. The Boston College running game is hitting its stride, which is good news for the team’s bowl hopes.

Up next: Saturday vs. Florida State, noon ET, ACC Network.

10. Florida State (4-5, 3-4 ACC)

Last week: No. 7

Florida State fired Willie Taggart on Sunday, one day after a lackluster effort in a 27-10 loss to in-state rival Miami. The parting of ways came as no surprise as Taggart was 9-12 since his arrival in Tallahassee with nary a signature victory to be found.

Up next:  Saturday at Boston College, noon ET, ACC Network.

11. Duke (4-4, 2-3 ACC)

Last week: No. 11

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Duke had a bye week Saturday, which was probably a good thing following a final-play defeat at the hands of North Carolina the week before. Things don’t get any easier for the Blue Devils, who will attempt to get back on track against Notre Dame.

Up next: vs. Notre Dame, 7: 30 p.m. (ET), Saturday on ACC Network

12. North Carolina State (4-4, 1-3 ACC)

Last week: No. 12

North Carolina State is riddled with injuries, and 11 starters were sidelined when the Wolfpack kicked off against Wake Forest last Saturday. Things got worse from there as the Demon Deacons rolled past the Pack for a third straight season, 44-10. State’s five-year bowl streak is in serious jeopardy.

Up next:  Saturday vs. Clemson, 7: 30 p.m. ET, ABC.

13. Georgia Tech (2-6, 1-4 ACC)

Last week: No. 14

So how does Georgia Tech escape the ACC cellar despite losing to Pittsburgh last week? By watching Syracuse get crushed by Boston College, leaving the Orange as the only winless team in league play.

Up next: Saturday at Virginia, 12: 30 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra

14. Syracuse (3-6, 0-5 ACC)

Last week: No. 13

Sure, Syracuse has three victories. But they came against Liberty, Western Michigan and Holy Cross, with the most recent triumph coming in September. The Orange have lost four consecutive games since and upcoming contests against Duke, Louisville and Wake Forest don’t exactly foster excitement for an abrupt turnaround. Coach Dino Babers fired defensive coordinator Brian Ward on Sunday, but more of an overhaul may be required before Syracuse resembles the 10-win season of a year ago.

Up next:  Nov. 16 at Duke.

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