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ACC power rankings: NC State opponent Louisville shows how quickly things can change

NC State’s Doeren talks about how fast fortunes can change in college football

In the wake of the firing of Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, N.C. State football coach Dave Doeren talks about how quickly things can change in the sport as the Wolfpack prepares to face the Cardinals.
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In the wake of the firing of Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, N.C. State football coach Dave Doeren talks about how quickly things can change in the sport as the Wolfpack prepares to face the Cardinals.

If you blinked, you missed it.

The ACC has changed that quickly and dramatically this season. Florida State and Virginia Tech — picked in the preseason to finish second in their respective divisions — are the verge of ending their long, bowl streaks.

Miami, on top of the ACC World (non-Clemson division) a year ago, might also crash from the top of the Coastal Division all the way into the “Land of 5-7.”

But none of those reversal of fortunes compare to what has happened to Louisville. In 2016, Louisville was 9-1 — with only a six-point loss at Clemson, the eventual national champion — and ranked No. 5 by the College Football Playoff committee.

One of those nine wins by Bobby Petrino’s program in 2016 was a 54-13 home demolition of N.C. State. The Cardinals led 44-0 at the half, in one of the most impressive displays by any ACC team this century.

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Louisville fired coach Bobby Petrino on Sunday after the team fell to 2-8 on the season. John David Mercer USA TODAY Sports

This week, N.C. State returns to Louisville but Petrino won’t be there. He was fired on Sunday. It’s nearly impossible to reconcile how quickly things soured for the ACC’s most turbulent member.

The Cards are 1-8 against Division I-A opponents this season and winless in seven ACC games.

With amazing quarterback Lamar Jackson, Louisville pounded Syracuse (62-28), Florida State (63-20), Boston College (52-7) and Wake Forest (44-12) in 2016.

(Aside: We really ought to consider renaming the Heisman Trophy in Jackson’s honor, given what we now know about Louisville.)

All four of those ACC teams paid Petrino back this season. To be filed under “N.C. State can’t have nice things,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren will get no such shot at redemption.

Not that Doeren cares. He has had his own problems since Thursday’s crushing 27-23 home loss to a depleted Wake Forest team.

N.C. State, at No. 14 in the College Football Playoff rankings last week, was on the precipice of its first major bowl appearance. Instead, the Wolfpack suffered a debilitating home loss to one of their usual nemeses (Boston College being the other).

The change in tone about the Wolfpack program — to put a twist on a Sinatra classic: riding high in November, shot down in November — is enough to give you whiplash.

“That’s just the world we are in right now,” Doeren said. “I don’t think it’s just football, to be honest with you. I think, you look across the country, it’s overreaction to everything.”

The ups-and-downs are an occupational hazard, Doeren noted, that come with the head coach’s hefty paycheck.

After the stumble to Wake, it’s on Doeren to get N.C. State back on track. N.C. State will be expected to handle the final three opponents: Louisville (2-8), UNC (1-8) and East Carolina (2-7).

Doing what you’re supposed to do isn’t always as easy at sounds.

“Every week you have to show up,” Doeren said. “Every single game it’s anybody’s game. You’ve got to make the plays, you’ve got to coach your butt off.”

And if you don’t, it can change and in a hurry. Just ask Florida State, Virginia Tech or Miami while you can. Petrino has plenty of time to discuss, if you really interested.

On to the “Only* ACC Power Rankings That Matter:”

1. Clemson

Record: 10-0 (7-0 ACC)

Last game: at Boston College (W, 27-7)

Next game: Saturday, vs. Duke

A 20-point road win against a top-25 opponent is what passes for testing Clemson this season.

2. Syracuse

Record: 8-2 (5-2 ACC)

Last game: vs. Louisville (W, 54-23)

Next game: Saturday, vs. Notre Dame (at New York)

That’s what you’re supposed to do against a downtrodden team at home with the ESPN lights on.

3. Boston College

Record: 7-3 (4-2 ACC)

Last game: vs. Clemson (L, 27-7)

Next game: Saturday, at Florida State

This will sound ridiculous but the Eagles need to be careful at FSU this week.

4. Pittsburgh

Record: 6-4 (5-1 ACC)

Last game: vs. Virginia Tech (W, 52-22)

Next game: Saturday, at Wake Forest

The Panthers are one win away from being the sixth different Coastal Division champion in six years.

5. N.C. State

Record: 6-3 (3-3 ACC)

Last game: vs. Wake Forest (L, 27-23)

Next game: Saturday, at Louisville

The Wolfpack is good for at least one dumb loss per season.

NC State coach Dave Doeren talks about the Wolfpack's loss to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

6. Georgia Tech

Record: 6-4 (4-3 ACC)

Last game: vs. Miami (W, 27-21)

Next game: Saturday, vs. Virginia

That road loss at Pitt on Sept. 15 might turn out to be the difference in the Coastal race.

7. Virginia

Record: 7-3 (4-2 ACC)

Last game: vs. Liberty (W, 45-24)

Next game: Saturday, at Georgia Tech

Not sure what happens on Saturday but the Cavaliers are going to end their 14-game losing streak to the Hokies on Nov. 23.

8. Duke

Record: 7-3 (3-3 ACC)

Last game: vs. UNC (W, 42-35)

Next game: Saturday, at Clemson

With a little better injury luck, Duke is probably 9-1.

The Duke Blue Devils play at the No. 2-ranked Clemson Tigers on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018. Duke coach David Cutcliffe's team will be without starting safety Dylan Singleton as the Blue Devils' season full of injuries on defense continues.

9. Miami

Record: 5-5 (2-4 ACC)

Last game: at Georgia Tech (L, 27-21)

Next game: Saturday, at Virginia Tech

It was a nice honeymoon for Mark Richt.

10. Virginia Tech

Record: 4-4 (3-3 ACC)

Last game: at Pittsburgh (L, 52-22)

Next game: Saturday, vs. Miami

Need to figure out if that’s the real Bud Foster or an imposter coaching the Hokies’ dreadful defense this season.

11. Florida State

Record: 4-6 (2-5 ACC)

Last game: at Notre Dame (L, 42-13)

Next game: Saturday, vs. Boston College

If the Noles have one fight left in them, it will be this week.

12. Wake Forest

Record: 5-5 (2-4 ACC)

Last game: at N.C. State (W, 27-23)

Next game: Saturday, vs. Pittsburgh

Dave Clawson can coach. Period.

13. UNC

Record: 1-8 (1-6 ACC)

Last game: at Duke (L, 42-35)

Next game: Saturday, vs. Western Carolina

Finally, a directional “Carolina” the Tar Heels can handle.

University of North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora talks with reporters in advance of the Tar Heels' game against Western Carolina. Fedora spoke at his weekly press conference Monday, Nov. 12, 2018.

14. Louisville

Record: 2-8 (0-7 ACC)

Last game: at Syracuse (L, 54-23)

Next game: Saturday, vs. N.C. State

That Petrino buyout will turn out to be the best $14 million the Cardinals have ever spent.

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