1. Notre Dame (8-0, 7-0 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 2) ↔
A week after beating Clemson in dramatic fashion and ascending to the top spot in the rankings, Notre Dame holds on to the No. 1 spot for another week following a 45-31 win over Boston College. The Eagles jumped out to an early 10-3 lead, but it was all Irish from then on out as they racked up over 550 yards and limited Phil Jurkovec to a measly 18-of-40 performance. The win was especially impressive, as the matchup had widely been labeled as a trap game for the Irish. Ian Book continued the dominant play that he showed against Clemson, throwing for 283 yards and three touchdowns and adding another 85 yards on the ground. Notre Dame has a bye this week and then will face North Carolina in what should be its last real test before the ACC Championship Game.
Next Up: Bye
2. Clemson (7-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 4) ↔
The Tigers had a much needed bye this week after suffering a 47-40 loss to Notre Dame last week and a scare to BC the Saturday before. The schedule from here on out should be easier, as they face Florida State on Saturday, followed by Pitt and Virginia Tech in the weeks after. Trevor Lawrence, who had been sidelined for the last two games with COVID-19, is back healthy and will take back the reins of the offense from D.J. Uiagalelei. Still, the return of Lawrence is not guaranteed to fix Clemson’s struggles. Uiagalelei performed well in his two starts, and the Tigers’ woes have primarily come on defense and in the offensive line.
Next Up: at Florida State, Saturday, 12:00 p.m.
3. Miami (7-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 12) ↔
Just a week after scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter to eke out a 44-41 win over NC State, Miami again needed late-game heroics to win, as D’Eriq King’s 36-yard fourth quarter touchdown pass to Mark Pope gave the Hurricanes a 25-24 victory over Virginia Tech. The offensive line particularly struggled against the Hokies, allowing six sacks and leading Miami’s running backs to just 2.7 yards per carry. Miami has been relatively unimpressive for three consecutive weeks—the ’Canes beat Virginia just 19-14 a week before facing NC State—but it continues to find ways to come up with wins. The Hurricanes will have a bye this week after their game with Georgia Tech was postponed to Dec. 19 as the ACC continues to deal with scheduling issues related to COVID-19.
Next Up: Bye
4. North Carolina (6-2, 6-2 Atlantic Coast)↔
North Carolina’s clash with Wake Forest last week was a 2020 Tar Heel special, meaning that there was a barrage of offense and very little defense. Sam Howell and the Tar Heels’ offense scored five straight touchdowns between the third and fourth quarters to storm back from a 45-31 deficit and win 59-53. Howell threw for an astounding 550 yards and six touchdowns. North Carolina has now scored over 40 points in five of its games while allowing over 45 points three times. The offense will need to continue its spectaculars if the Tar Heels are going to have any chance at keeping up with Notre Dame in the conference standings.
Next Up: Bye
5. North Carolina State (5-3, 5-3 Atlantic Coast) ↑2
The Wolfpack bounced back from losses against North Carolina and Miami with a lopsided 38-22 win over Florida State. The 16-point margin doesn’t do justice to the level of dominance which NC State showed, as the Seminoles scored 13 points in the fourth quarter. Bailey Hockman played well, completing 24 of 34 passes for 265 yards and a trio of touchdowns. While the Wolfpack’s upcoming game against Liberty likely seemed like an easy win prior to the season, the Flames have shown that it will be anything but an off week. Liberty is 8-0 and has already notched two wins over ACC opponents this year with a 38-21 victory over Syracuse and a dramatic 38-35 last-second win versus Virginia Tech.
Next Up: vs. Liberty, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
6. Wake Forest (4-3, 3-3 Atlantic Coast) ↓1
Wake has quietly put together a strong season after losing its first two games, rattling off four straight wins and only dropping its fifth due to an earth-shattering performance from Howell and the North Carolina offense. The Demon Deacons’ signal caller Sam Hartman was nearly as good as Howell, throwing for 429 yards and four touchdowns. With upcoming games against Duke and Louisville, Wake should have a couple of weeks to recover from the heartbreaking loss before it closes the season with Notre Dame and Clemson.
Next Up: Bye
7. Boston College (5-4, 4-4 Atlantic Coast) ↓1
With a victory in the Red Bandanna Game and Jurkovec’s revenge game on the line, the matchup against Notre Dame had all the makings of a surprise upset for the Eagles. BC looked poised to live up to the hype as it jumped out to a 10-3 lead, but the firepower of the Irish was ultimately too much to handle, and the Eagles fell 45-31. Jurkovec struggled for the second straight game and, while BC had decent success on the ground, the Eagles were forced to move away from the run quickly as Notre Dame ran up the score. Already with a bye this upcoming weekend, the Eagles’ scheduled game against Louisville has now been pushed to the end of the season due to COVID-19-related scheduling changes. BC will now have two weeks off before it faces Virginia in Charlottesville.
Next Up: Bye
8. Virginia Tech (4-4, 4-3 Atlantic Coast) ↔
A week after a heartbreaking 38-35 loss to Liberty, the Hokies suffered another brutal loss, this time a 25-24 defeat against Miami. Quarterback Hendon Hooker was mediocre, completing 19 of 29 passes for 202 yards and an interception, and star running back Khalil Herbert saw just eight carries as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury.
Next Up: at Pitt, Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
9. Virginia (3-4, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) ↑1
The Cavaliers suffered a four-game losing streak earlier in the season but have rebounded nicely with wins over North Carolina and Louisville. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong is the Cavaliers’ entire offense as he threw over 20 times against both North Carolina and Louisville and was also Virginia’s leader in rushing attempts in both games. Virginia’s lack of balance on offense may come back to bite it later in the season, but the Cavaliers should be fine this week against FCS opponent Abilene Christian.
Next Up: vs. Abilene Christian, Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
10. Pitt (4-4, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) ↓1
It’s hard to believe that Pitt was 3-0 and ranked No. 21 in the nation earlier this year. The Panthers are just 1-4 since then, with their sole win coming against lowly Florida State. Pitt would have had a good chance for a win last Saturday against Georgia Tech, but the game was postponed as both teams were forced to shut down their facilities due to COVID-19. It will now be played on Dec. 12.
Next Up: vs. Virginia Tech, Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
11. Louisville (2-6, 1-6 Atlantic Coast) ↔
The Cardinals have shown an astounding ability all year to lose games by large margins while still putting up impressive rushing stats, and their game against Virginia was no different. Louisville ran for 317 yards on a terrific 8.1 yards per attempt but still scored just 17 points and lost by two touchdowns. Syracuse has a generous rushing defense and should be a good matchup for the Cardinals.
Next Up: vs. Syracuse, Friday, 7:00 p.m.
12. Georgia Tech (2-5, 2-4 Atlantic Coast) ↔
Georgia Tech stays at No. 12 in the rankings after its game against Pitt was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within both programs. The Yellow Jackets’ scheduled game against Miami this weekend has also been postponed as Miami deals with an outbreak within its program.
Next Up: Bye
13. Florida State (2-6, 1-6 Atlantic Coast) ↔
Another Saturday, another bad loss for the Seminoles as they suffered a 38-22 defeat to NC State that was not nearly as close as the final score indicates. The only bright spot of the game for the Seminoles was the play of freshman quarterback Chubba Purdy. Purdy, Florida State’s third starting quarterback of the season, completed 15 of 23 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 54 yards. If Purdy can hold his own against Clemson, expect the Seminoles to move up in the rankings.
Next Up: vs Clemson, Saturday, 12:00 p.m.
14. Duke (2-6, 1-6 Atlantic Coast) ↔
With a bye last week and this week’s matchup against Wake postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Wake program, the Blue Devils will have two weeks off before they face Georgia Tech at the end of the month. Duke has regained a modicum of confidence after opening the season 0-4, notching wins over Syracuse and Charlotte and playing NC State to a close result.
Next Up: Bye
15. Syracuse (1-7, 1-6 Atlantic Coast) ↔
The Orange were on a bye last week, but the game against BC two weeks ago gave some indication that Syracuse has more fight in it than expected at many points throughout the season. BC just barely eked out a 16-13 victory, a far cry from the drubbings levied on the Orange in the four weeks prior. Still, Syracuse will have to get much more out of its offense if it is to have any hope of even beating other weak ACC opponents. Only six teams in all of the FBS rush for fewer yards per game than the Orange.
Next Up: at Louisville, Friday, 7:00 p.m.
Featured Graphic by Emma Healy / Heights Editor