When the College Football Playoff rankings come out on Tuesday, the ACC is going to have two teams in the top 4.
Given how the season started for the ACC, with an 0-3 mark against the SEC, that’s fairly remarkable. Given where Clemson was after a loss at Syracuse on Oct. 13, it’s also downright unbelievable.
But here’s the ACC – not the SEC and not the Big Ten – with three Saturdays to go until the CFP field is set with the best chance to put two teams in the playoff.
It’s still a long-shot, but both Miami and Clemson could be in the playoff field come Dec. 3.
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Miami (9-0) was No. 7 last week and throttled No. 3 Notre Dame, 41-8, leaving little doubt about its legitimacy in Mark Richt’s second season.
Clemson (9-1) was No. 4 last week and beat Florida State, 31-14. Not exactly a big deal, but since No. 1 Georgia lost to Auburn and No. 3 Notre Dame lost, the Tigers are a safe bet to stay in the top 4.
Auburn’s win also is a great boost to Clemson’s resume. With FSU and Louisville in the tank this season, the Tigers needed a win outside the league to polish their playoff resume. Clemson beat Auburn 14-6 back on Sept. 9.
Miami and Clemson are set to meet in the ACC title game on Dec. 2 in Charlotte. So how could both end up in the CFP?
Both have to win out. The Canes have Virginia and Pittsburgh left in the regular season, and Clemson gets The Citadel and South Carolina.
Then an 11-1 Clemson team needs to beat an 11-0 Miami team in a close game in the ACC championship. The winner is in the CFP. There might be room for the loser, too.
One of the four playoff spots will go to the SEC champion (likely an unbeaten Alabama team). With the ACC champ, that leaves two spots. If Oklahoma (9-1) runs the table in the Big 12, the Sooners will get in.
That last spot will be tricky. A one-loss Miami would compare favorably to a 2-loss Big Ten champion, likely Ohio State. Wisconsin (10-0) could still win out and give the Big Ten the last spot.
Or Georgia (9-1) could win the SEC and give the SEC half of the CFP field (with Alabama, assuming the Tide beats Auburn).
There’s still a lot of hockey left, but the ACC is in the position to be where it wants, and where no other conference has been, when the dust settles.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938
ACC Power Rankings
Record: 9-0 (6-0 ACC)
Last game: vs. Notre Dame, W, 41-8. Next game: vs. Virginia.
Turnover Chain for president! Miami has 24 takeaways in only 11 games (and is plus-15 in turnover margin on the season).
Record: 9-1 (7-1 ACC)
Last game: vs. Florida State, W, 31-14. Next game: vs. The Citadel.
Pair of in-state games for the Tigers. The Gamecocks would love to play the spoiler in two weeks.
3. N.C. State
Record: 7-3 (5-1 ACC)
Last game: at Boston College, W, 17-14. Next game: at Wake Forest.
The Orange Bowl is in play for the Wolfpack – but it has to get by Wake Forest and UNC first.
4. Georgia Tech
Record: 5-4 (4-3 ACC)
Last game: vs. Virginia Tech, W, 28-22. Next game: at Duke.
Another win over the Hokies for the Jackets and Paul Johnson.
5. Virginia Tech
Record: 7-3 (3-3 ACC)
Last game: at Georgia Tech, L, 28-22. Next game: vs. Pittsburgh.
Jockeying with N.C. State for bowl position. A postseason trip to Florida (Orlando, Jacksonville, Miami) is almost certain.
6. Wake Forest
Record: 6-4 (3-3 ACC)
Last game: at Syracuse, W, 64-43. Next game: vs. N.C. State.
The Deacs have scored 143 points the past three weeks. John Wolford could pick that Wolfpack secondary apart.
7. Boston College
Record: 5-5 (3-4 ACC)
Last game: vs. N.C. State, L, 17-14. Next game: vs. Connecticut.
Freshman running back A.J. Dillon (1,039 yards) is the real deal for the Eagles.
Record: 6-4 (3-4 ACC)
Last game: vs. Virginia, W, 38-21. Next game: vs. Syracuse.
Lamar Jackson (3,003 passing yard, 1,176 rushing yards) will probably finish with better numbers than he had last year … when he won the Heisman Trophy.
9. Florida State
Record: 3-6 (3-5 ACC)
Last game: at Clemson, L, 31-14. Next game: at Delaware State.
Late scheduling adjustment might save the 35-year bowl streak. The Noles can thank Louisiana-Monroe for that.
Record: 6-4 (3-3 ACC)
Last game: at Louisville, L, 38-21. Next game: at Miami.
Was a good move by Bronco Mendenhall to get the six wins in the bag before this closing stretch.
Record: 4-6 (2-4 ACC)
Last game: vs. Wake Forest, L, 64-43. Next game: at Louisville.
The two worst defenses in the ACC meet. Ready the extra bulbs for the scoreboard lights.
Record: 4-6 (2-4 ACC)
Last game: vs. UNC, L, 34-31. Next game: at Virginia Tech.
Must sweep the Hokies (on the road) and Hurricanes to extend their sneaky impressive 9-year bowl streak.
Record: 4-6 (1-5 ACC)
Last game: at Army, L, 21-16. Next game: vs. Georgia Tech.
The Blue Devils are in a tailspin, with six straight losses, but can still pull out with a closing kick.
Record: 2-8 (1-6 ACC)
Last game: at Pittsburgh, W, 34-31. Next game: vs. Western Carolina.
After losing six straight the Heels should make it two in a row heading into the State game on Nov. 25.