Two weeks ago, Boston College looked like one of the worst teams in the ACC, and maybe even the Power Five. The Eagles were averaging 16.3 points per game, and under 10 in conference play. At times, BC’s rushing attack was promising, but it was hardly consistent. Through the air, the Eagles were inefficient to say the least. Quarterback Anthony Brown was recording just 4.7 yards per pass attempt and had only completed three passes over 30 yards.
Then, all of a sudden, everything came together. Against Louisville, BC totaled 555 yards of offense, including 361 in the second half alone, in a 45-42 upset victory. To put that in perspective, head coach Steve Addazio’s team had only logged 350-plus yards of offense once all season.
The Eagles put on an encore performance this past weekend with a resounding win over Virginia. For the second-straight game, BC racked up 40-plus points and over 500 yards of offense. Brown completed close to 80 percent of his passes, averaged 11.5 yards per pass attempt, and tossed a career-high three touchdowns, en route to ACC Rookie of the Week honors. But most importantly, BC came away with another road victory.
Earlier this month, people were starting to speculate whether or not the Eagles would win a single conference game this season. Now, there’s no telling when they’ll lose one. Their recent success just goes to show that you can’t count out any team in the ACC.
1. Clemson (6-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast) (AP Poll: No. 7)
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney owes the scheduling gods, big time. The Tigers got a much-needed week off, following their stunning loss to Syracuse. Not only did the break in play provide Swinney some time to gameplan for Georgia Tech, but it also allowed quarterback Kelly Bryant to rest up. The junior tweaked his ankle against Wake Forest and then sustained a concussion at Syracuse. Clemson’s offense hinges on the health and mobility of Bryant. If the Tigers want in on this year’s national title game, every game is do-or-die from here on out.
2. Miami (6-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast) (AP Poll: No. 8)
Once again, Miami needed all four quarters to extend, what is now, its longest winning streak in 15 years. After a 53-yard Cole Murphy field goal brought Syracuse within a point of the Hurricanes, quarterback Malik Rosier went to work. Miami’s nine-play, 85-yard drive culminated in a Travis Homer 33-yard touchdown run, which all but sealed the Hurricanes’ 11th-consecutive win. Rosier surpassed the 300-yard mark for the second time this year and pitched a pair of touchdowns. But the Hurricanes’ defense was by far the team’s most impressive unit. Miami picked off quarterback Eric Dungey four times in the first half and held Steve Ishmael and Ervin Phillips—two of the nation’s top-four wideouts—under 100 yards receiving.
3. North Carolina State (6-1, 4-0 Atlantic Coast) (AP Poll: No. 14)
Thanks to a bye week, North Carolina State was able to hang on to its six-game winning streak—its longest in 15 years—for a few more days. The Wolfpack will fly to South Bend, Ind. this weekend to take on No. 9 Notre Dame, in what’ll be its third game against a ranked opponent this season. On paper, this is a perfect matchup for NC State. The Irish’s offense is built on the run game. Notre Dame is averaging about 320 yards on the ground per contest. Luckily for the Wolfpack, it has the third-best rushing defense in the nation. A win against the Irish could very well bump NC State up five or so spots in the polls.
4. Virginia Tech (6-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) (AP Poll: No. 13)
Josh Jackson only completed 10 passes against North Carolina on Saturday. But three of them went for touchdowns. That was more than enough, considering the help the redshirt freshman quarterback was getting from his teammates. Virginia Tech’s defense scored twice. Ricky Walker scooped up a fumble deep in Tar Heel territory for the first touchdown of the game. Later, Reggie Floyd picked off quarterback Brandon Harris and ran the ball back 69 yards for another score. The special teams unit got in on the scoring party too. Greg Stroman notched his second punt return touchdown of the season, this one good for 91 yards. The Hokies will continue to pad their resume next week when Duke comes to town.
5. Georgia Tech (4-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast)
That’s more like it. After rushing for a measly 18 yards on 19 carries last week against Miami, quarterback TaQuon Marshall ran all over Wake Forest’s defense for 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns—the second of which was a deciding 70-yard triple-option, quarterback keeper. The junior’s partner-in-crime, KirVonte Benson, got back on track too. He ran for 136 yards and a score, helping GT rally from 11 points down in the first half. The Yellow Jackets’ top-25 defense shined in the second half, stopping the Demon Deacons on fourth down on three separate occasions. GT is a couple plays away from being one of the highest-ranked teams in the country. Remember, the Yellow Jackets’ two losses have each come in one-point games.
6. Florida State (2-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast)
Another game, another two-interception performance by quarterback James Blackman. The true freshman has now been picked off twice in each of the Seminoles’ past three games. But FSU can live with the interceptions. Fourth-quarter fumbles? Not so much. With the opportunity to lead his team to a go-ahead touchdown, Blackman faked a handoff to Cam Akers on the zone read, but in doing so, lost control of the ball. Louisville hopped on it and rattled off an eight-play, 59-yard game-winning drive. Since the Seminoles’ Week One loss to No. 1 Alabama, every one of their games has been decided by one score. The talent surrounding Blackman is as good as any team in the nation. Knowing FSU, head coach Jimbo Fisher’s team could turn it around anytime now. That being said, the Seminoles are running out of time. A loss to BC on Friday will drop the Seminoles outside of the top 10.
7. Louisville (5-3, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) ↑ 5
Last week, Louisville coughed up the ball on its final possession. BC took over, inched toward the end zone, and kicked the game-winning field goal. The exact same thing happened against FSU. Only this time, Louisville was the one forcing the turnover. Henry Famurewa recovered Seminoles quarterback James Blackman’s fumble with a tad more than two minutes remaining in the game. The rest was history. Jackson marched his team 59 yards downfield, and Blanton Creque drilled a 34-yarder to send the Cardinals home with their second ACC win. Jackson hardly used his arm on Saturday. Instead, he ran the ball 23 times for 178 yards and a score. But what saved Louisville was its defense. In addition to coming up with a timely turnover in the final minutes, the unit also held FSU to just 155 yards rushing. When the Cardinals’ defense plays moderately well, they are a top-tier ACC team. When it doesn’t, they fall to the bottom of the ladder.
8. Boston College (4-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) ↑ 3
On Saturday, BC was on the other side of an ACC blowout for the first time in three years. The Eagles defeated Virginia, 41-10, to snag their second-straight conference victory. Unlike many games this season, BC got out of the gates fast. Over the course of the first 20 minutes of play, the Eagles tacked on 24-consecutive points. Brown methodically moved the ball downfield, leading two 15-play scoring drives. But BC got its fair share of quick-hitters too—a pair of 76-yard touchdowns to be exact. Addazio’s guys are heading into their Week Nine matchup against FSU with arguably more momentum than any team in the country.
9. Syracuse (4-4, 2-2 Atlantic Coast) ↓ 1
Syracuse’s defense was ready to pull of its second-straight upset over a marquee opponent when it traveled to Miami this past weekend. Dungey was not. The junior completed just one of his first 11 passes, and was intercepted four times in the first half. When all was said and done, Dungey—who threw for 278 yards and three scores against then-No. 2 Clemson last week—finished with just 137 yards through the air, his worst performance this year. Even though his defense gave up 480 yards of total offense, head coach Dino Barbers has to be encouraged with what he saw. Time and time again, the Orange shut down the No. 8 Hurricanes on third down. In fact, Miami only had three third-down conversions all day. Heading into a bye week, Barbers just needs to piece both units together before the final stretch of the season.
10. Virginia (5-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) ↓ 3
Oh, did BC spoil the Cavaliers’ Homecoming Weekend. Needing a win to clinch a postseason berth, UVA hosted the Eagles on Saturday. But right from the get-go, it was clear that the Cavaliers’ were going to have to wait another week to secure that ever-desirable sixth win. For the first time all season, Kurt Benkert looked vulnerable. Drops hurt him early, and as the game went on, BC’s interior penetration started to take a toll on the veteran quarterback. A blindside hit actually briefly sidelined Benkert in the third quarter. Eventually, head coach Bronco Mendenhall decided to sit him for the latter portion of the final frame, just to be safe. Without a passing game, UVA’s offense was stagnant. This one was a wake-up call for the Cavaliers.
11. Wake Forest (4-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) ↓ 2
Wake Forest’s 38-24 loss to GT was emblematic of its entire season—one that started so strong, and has since folded. The Demon Deacons stormed out to a two-score lead in the first half, only to be outscored 25-3 in the back half of the game. On the bright side, quarterback John Wolford was back under center. The senior threw for 252 yards and accounted for all three of Wake Forest’s touchdowns (two passing, one rushing). But the Yellow Jackets’ defense simply proved to be too much for the Demon Deacons to handle in the second half. Wake Forest turned the ball over four times—three of which were on downs. The Demon Deacons had a hard time stopping Marshall on the ground. They’ll face a similar challenge next week in Louisville’s Jackson.
12. Pittsburgh (3-5, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) ↑ 1
Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi didn’t have to worry about his team’s woeful quarterback situation on Saturday against Duke. All he had to do was run the ball. Narduzzi rode the hot hand of running back Darrin Hall. The junior, whose previous season high was 52 yards, rushed for career marks of 254 yards and three touchdowns—including the longest in school history, a 92-yarder. Prior to the game, Pittsburgh hadn’t run the ball for more than 208 yards as a team all year. Hall carried the Panthers to a fourth-quarter comeback and their first win over a Power Five team this season. Maybe this is the spark that Pittsburgh needed to turn its season around.
13. Duke (4-4, 1-4 Atlantic Coast) ↓ 3
So much for the Blue Devils’ best start in three years. After winning their first four games, they’ve quickly reverted back to .500 and their 2016 selves. Quarterback Daniel Jones’ accuracy struggles continued on Saturday, as the sophomore completed less than half of his pass attempts. That’s not to say that he wasn’t effective at times. Jones’ two touchdown passes propelled Duke to a 10-point lead over Pittsburgh, with just one minute left in the third quarter. But the defense, a unit that has kept the Blue Devils in a bunch of games this season, broke down in the fourth. After pinning the Panthers deep in their own territory, Duke gave up a 92-yard rushing touchdown—the 11th of 40 or more yards that the Blue Devils have conceded this season. Pittsburgh punched another one in later in the quarter, dealing Duke its fourth ACC loss.
14. North Carolina (1-7, 0-5 Atlantic Coast)
Despite recording just 46 passing yards the previous week—the fewest by a UNC quarterback since 2000—graduate transfer Brandon Harris remained in the starting lineup on Saturday. That is, until the third quarter. Harris was 4-of-11 for 24 yards. Of his seven incompletions, two were interceptions—one of which was a pick-six. When he was pulled, the Tar Heels were already trailing No. 13 VT, 42-0. The rest of the game served as a tryout of sorts for redshirt freshmen Chazz Surratt and Nathan Elliot. On his second drive of the game, Surratt connected with Anthony Ratliff-Williams for a 43-yard score, UNC’s lone touchdown. But that would be the end of Surratt’s day. Elliot played the final quarter and failed to complete a single pass. UNC has been averaging less than 10 points per game over the past four weeks. The quarterback carousel certainly hasn’t helped.
Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Editor