N.C. State (8-4): Chronic kicking games issues aside, the totality of this season indi- cates progress for the Wolfpack.
this week in the INSIDE ONE OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S PREMIER CONFERENCES | COMPiLeD BY PAtRiCk steVens, sPeCiAL tO GAtehOUse MeDiA
ACC ChAMPiOnshiP NO. 1 CLEMSON (11-1, 7-1 ACC) VS. NO. 7 MIAMI (10-1, 7-1)
POweR RAnkinGs Breaking down the ACC
When: 8 p.m. EST Saturday Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C. TV: ABC
1. Clemson (11-1): Kelly Bryant follows the Deshaun Watson credo in the passing — when in doubt, ﬁnd Hunter Renfrow. It worked to perfection against South Carolina. (Last week: 1) 2. Miami (10-1): There’s no getting around it — the Hurricanes laid an egg at Pittsburgh to close out the regular season. They need to bounce back in a hurry to deal with Clemson this weekend, though their playoff hopes are still alive. (LW: 2) 3. Virginia Tech (9-3): The Hokies closed out the regular season with a vintage day from Bud Foster’s defense, holding Virginia to 191 total yards, including just 5 yards on the ground in the Commonwealth Cup. (LW: 3) 4. N.C. State (8-4): Chronic kicking games issues aside, the totality of this season indicates progress for the Wolfpack. It might be tough to maintain next year with DE Bradley Chubb and FB/TE Jaylen Samuels graduating and QB Ryan Finley pondering turning pro. (LW: 5) 5. Louisville (8-4): Avenged last year’s loss to Kentucky, pummeling the Wildcats 44-17 to complete a strong ﬁnish to the regular season. Louisville could be headed back to Orlando for a bowl game for the second year in a row. (LW: 7) 6. Boston College (7-5): Steve Addazio called his shot after a loss to Virginia Tech dropped the Eagles to 2-4. Things did work out beautifully, as the Eagles won ﬁve of their last six and have a good shot at heading to the Pinstripe Bowl. (LW: 6)
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant (2) eludes South Carolina linebacker Skai Moore (10) during the second half Saturday in Columbia, S.C. [SEAN RAYFORD/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]
ACC champion likely to find spot in CFP KEYS FOR CLEMSON Rattle Rosier. While Miami QB Malik Rosier has largely been steady all season, he probably turned in his worst game in last week’s stunning 24-14 loss at Pittsburgh. Rosier was 15 of 34 for 187 yards and two TDs and was briefly benched for Evan Shirreffs, and will face a far nastier defense this week. DE Clelin Ferrell, LB Dorian O’Daniel and the rest of the Clemson front seven could create problems all day for the Hurricanes. Lean on experience. Besides Alabama, no team in the country is as accustomed to being in high-pressure, high-spotlight situations as Clemson. It’s the Tigers’ third consecutive ACC title game, and they have plenty of guys who played on the final day of the entire season the last two years. Clemson should have no problems handling the environment of a de
facto national quarterfinal. KEYS FOR MIAMI Short memories. Miami played its worst game of the season last week against a Pittsburgh team that had nothing to lose — and no tomorrow. Whereas most teams had used their mulligans earlier in the season, the Hurricanes waited until they had a quick turnaround on a holiday week to do so. There’s no changing that result and a win this week probably gets them into the playoff, anyway. That’s the task at hand, and there can’t be a hangover. Engage the running game. Perhaps the most underrated part of Miami’s 10-0 start was that it got there despite a midseason injury to Mark Walton, who was generally viewed as the top rushing option in the ACC entering
the season. Backup Travis Homer has enjoyed some fine games and has 866 yards and seven TDs, but he’s not the same threat as Walton. Miami mustered just 45 rushing yards on 23 carries against Pitt and needs to do better this week. PREDICTION Clemson 34-20. The most puzzling thing about Clemson isn’t that it has a loss, but that it somehow lost to Syracuse (granted, QB Kelly Bryant was ailing that night). The Tigers have gone about their business in impressive fashion since that setback, and they boast an enviable amount of depth and balance. They won’t pummel Miami like the last time the teams played — a 58-0 bludgeoning in 2015 — but they clearly have an advantage. They should win their third ACC title in a row.
stARs OF the week
• TB A.J. Dillon, Boston College: Rushed 23 times for 193 yards and three TDs as the Eagles smacked Syracuse to secure a winning season.
• LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech: Had nine tackles (three for loss) and two sacks as the Hokies defeated Virginia in the Commonwealth Cup.
• TB Nyheim Hines, N.C. State: Rushed for 196 yards and two TDs on 22 carries as the Wolfpack defeated North Carolina.
• QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville: Threw for 216 yards and two TDs and rushed for 156 yards in the Cardinals’ rout of Kentucky.
stAt OF the week
Rushing yards for Boston College’s A.J. Dillon. He needs 223 yards in the Eagles’ bowl game to match Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams for the most rushing yards ever by a freshman in ACC history.
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7. Wake Forest (7-5): The Demon Deacons might have cost themselves a trip to the Belk Bowl after squandering a lead to Duke last week. Still, back-to-back bowl trips is tough to argue with in Winston-Salem after the program slumbered through the ﬁrst half of the decade. (LW: 4) 8. Florida State (5-6): Used a pair of defensive touchdowns to take down Florida with ease and keep postseason hopes alive. All that stands between the Seminoles and a bowl bid is Louisiana-Monroe. (LW: 10)
9. Virginia (6-6): The Cavaliers still haven’t defeated in-state rival Virginia Tech since the Hokies entered the ACC in 2004. There’s a decent chance Virginia makes the roughly three-hour trip to the Military Bowl next month. (LW: 8)
10. Duke (6-6): Credit to the streaky Blue Devils, who won their last two to avert an eight-game skid to end the season. Instead, Duke gets three extra weeks of practice, a bowl trip and the perception of a bounceback season after missing the postseason last year. (LW: 11) 11. Georgia Tech (5-6): The Yellow Jackets had no answers for Georgia and were ﬂattened 38-7, a loss that keeps them out of the postseason for the second time in three seasons. (LW: 9)
12. Pittsburgh (5-7): With three total TDs in an upset of Miami, Kenny Pickett staked a claim to the Panthers’ starting quarterback job heading into 2018. It’s a job competition certain to receive scrutiny in the months to come. (LW: 14) 13. North Carolina (3-9): Couldn’t win three in a row to end the season, but the Tar Heels were still spunky when they had little to play for in November. They may also have found their QB for next year in Nathan Elliott. (LW: 12)
14. Syracuse (4-8): Losing QB Eric Dungey to injury in November didn’t help and the upset of Clemson was a nice jolt of life, but the Orange’s sad-sack defense needs to get ﬁxed for this program to achieve any sort of relevancy in the coming years. (LW: 13)