Following an insane Week 7 in the ACC, many minds are still scrambling as to who the favorites still are in the conference.
Miami escaped by the skin of their teeth again, while Boston College upset Louisville, and Syracuse pulled off the upset of the year by knocking off Clemson in the Carrier Dome. With just three teams left undefeated in conference play, the ACC is completely wide open, and plenty of teams can make a run in the last six weeks of the regular season.
- Virginia Cavaliers
The Cavaliers don’t have a signature win, and probably wont have one until the final couple weeks of the season. Their only blemish came in their second game to Indiana, which could be the deal breaker. They’ll have to win out to have a chance The easy trio of Boston College, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech should be three wins, which would likely put Virginia in the top 15-20.
These games could be slugfests, as Virginia’s defense, led by Quin Blanding (pictured), gives up just 20 points a contest. This team isn’t dynamite on offense, and it desperately needs to find a running game to take some of the pressure off Kurt Benkert (featured).
The final three games of Louisville, Miami and Virginia Tech will be the three toughest opponents the Cavaliers play this season. If they manage that and beat NC State/Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, they might be the biggest surprise in the short history of the College Football Playoff.
- Miami Hurricanes
The only remaining undefeated team in the ACC has the 4th best shot of making the Playoff? It’s not the Hurricanes fault. They’re without their best player, Mark Walton, for the rest of the season. Ahmonn Richards is also dinged up, and without Walton the rest of the way, they’ll need Richards and Braxton Berrios (above) to make plays on the outside.
The defense has been outstanding, and should continue to power this team through October. Watch out for a potential trap game at North Carolina, as Virginia Tech and Notre Dame come to town in the following weeks.
In theory, Miami might be able to afford a loss to one of those teams, but then would have to win the ACC Championship Game. Could a one-less conference champion in Miami get in to the CFP?
- North Carolina State Wolfpack
NC State is the least flashy 6-1, 16th ranked team ever. They play sound football on the offensive side, and don’t turn the football over. They don’t have any star weapons on the offense, but they have strength in numbers. Nyheim Hines (above) had a huge day on the ground against Pittsburgh last week, and could one of the biggest X-Factors in the country heading down the stretch.
The defense is led by future first round pick Bradley Chubb. This team loves to stuff the run, but is just brutal in their pass defense. They desperately need to figure it out on the back end.
This team gets a bye week before traveling to Notre Dame. Chubb vs. Mike McGlinchey will have scouts salivating, as McGlinchey might be the best tackle in the country. Then, Clemson travels to Raleigh in what could be the ACC game of the year (only because Louisville vs. Clemson was a clunker). The tough back-to-back could polish off NC State’s surprising run to the ACC Championship Game. Or it could run them straight into the Pinstripe Bowl.
- Virginia Tech Hokies-
The one thing Virginia Tech has over a couple of these teams in the mix is that they’ve already played Clemson. They have gotten their one likely loss out of the way early, giving them time to regain ground within the AP Polls.
The Hokies currently sit at #18 in the country, and while the rest of these teams beat each other up, all Virginia Tech has to do is go Miami and beat them on November 4th. Virginia isn’t thrown in the mix because they don’t have a signature win yet, and have had a tremendously easy schedule.
Freshman quarterback Josh Jackson has looked great all year long. He and Cam Phillips (above) already have a strong rapport. This team is still waiting on a feature back to form, and the lack of a go-to option out of the backfield could hurt this team down the stretch.
The defense is only allowing 13.7 points a game, which is good for 7th best in FBS play.
However, this team will need to win out unless something absolutely crazy happens. The Playoff has yet to have a two-loss team, but following the circus that was week 7, we could be in for more madness. A two-loss team that has only lost to Clemson and whoever comes out of the Atlantic in the ACC Championship Game? It’s doubtful, but once again, if it hits the fan, anything can happen.
- Clemson Tigers-
Despite the stunning 27-24 loss to Syracuse, Clemson only dropped five spots to #7, one spot ahead of Miami. The Tigers are still the top dogs in the ACC. They’re the best team on paper with the best head coach in the conference.
Assuming they’re able to take care of a Georgia Tech team that will be running into the best defensive line in college football, it’ll be a de facto qualifying game against NC State to get the Atlantic Division bid in the ACC Championship Game.
If Kelly Bryant’s injury persists, however, they could slip up to the Wolfpack or South Carolina in the Palmetto Bowl. This puts a ton of pressure on Travis Etienne (above) and the rest of the Clemson running backs. The defense, which is chocked full of NFL talent at all three levels.
Based on reputation alone, a one-loss conference champion in Clemson is a mortal lock for a bid in the College Football Playoff.
Cover Photo via Richmond-Times Dispatch
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