<
>

ACC Week 14 Power Rankings: Can Clemson finish No. 1 outside ACC too?

play
Clemson return to the playoffs battle-tested (3:18)

Check out Clemson's road to the College Football Playoff and how its strength and unity became the team's devastating weapons against the competition. (3:18)

The ACC is back in the College Football Playoff, though Clemson gave it a bit of a scare with a close win in the conference title game. With the victory over Virginia Tech, the Tigers remain at the top of the ACC power rankings. But can they end the season at the top of the sport's national rankings?

1. Clemson. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Tigers are right where they want to be after 14 weeks. They’re back-to-back ACC champions for the first time in nearly three decades, and they’re the No. 2 seed in the playoff. It looks as if they have solved their turnover issues, as well.

2. Florida State. Coach Jimbo Fisher harped on constructing a November that people would remember, and a 4-0 record in the final month caught the attention of the selection committee. The Seminoles could end the year with a major bowl appearance and 10 wins for the fifth straight season.

3. Louisville. Coach Bobby Petrino said he couldn’t fault the committee for dropping his team behind Florida State and out of the Orange Bowl. Not only did the Cardinals lose their final two games, they did not play particularly well in either. Still, can their upcoming bowl game serve as a springboard to the 2017 playoff in the same manner that last season’s bowl game did for this 9-3 campaign?

4. Virginia Tech. Coach Justin Fuente was miffed at the notion the Hokies were playing with house money on Saturday and should have just been happy to be in the ACC championship. His team showed it was a worthy competitor and a resilient group by nearly pulling off the upset of Clemson. The Hokies will still be motivated to finish the season with double-digit wins for the first time since 2011.

5. Pittsburgh. There is only one team that can claim two top-5 wins, and that is the Panthers. They beat No. 2 Clemson and No. 5 Penn State, and that September win in the rivalry game likely kept the Nittany Lions out of the playoff. Not a bad second year for coach Pat Narduzzi.

6. North Carolina. It was a disappointing final few weeks for the Tar Heels, but they'll end the season in a quality bowl matchup against No. 18 Stanford. Quality in the sense that it’ll be a good game for viewers. North Carolina and its 113th-ranked rush defense might feel differently about the prospects of lining up across Christian McCaffrey.

7. Miami. A four-game winning streak was followed by a four-game losing streak, which was then bookended by a second four-game winning streak. The Hurricanes unsurprisingly struggled with a tough October schedule, but they rallied in November. Now they can build a lot of momentum with a win over No. 16 West Virginia in nearby Orlando, Florida.

8. Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are another Coastal Division team to finish on a winning streak. They’ve won three straight and five of six. The bowl will be the last game for Justin Thomas, who is probably the best quarterback coach Paul Johnson has had in Atlanta.

9. NC State. A bowl win wouldn’t make 2016 a successful season, by any means, but it would lift spirits in Raleigh during a critical offseason. Ending the year with an upset of rival North Carolina and a bowl win wouldn't be a bad way to end an otherwise disappointing season.

10. Boston College. Last month, coach Steve Addazio said that when he took the job, he and administrators agreed it could take up to five years to fix the Boston College program. Well, in Addazio’s first four seasons, he has taken the Eagles to three bowl games. A win over departed ACC member Maryland would be big.

11. Wake Forest. Temple might not be a Power 5 program, but the Owls are ranked No. 24 and have back-to-back seasons of 10 wins. Wake Forest is in its first bowl game since 2011, but a win won’t come easy.

12. Duke. A bowl bid looked possible as the Blue Devils entered November, but a young team battled injuries and struggled to close the season. Those extra bowl practices would have been big for a program that needs to continue developing its youthful talent. And its younger players are talented.

13. Syracuse. It’s going to take some time to get Syracuse where coach Dino Babers envisions, which makes these next few weeks crucial. A lot of coaches will be spending time this month coaching and breaking down X's and O's, but Babers and his staff can focus on recruiting the Jimmys and Joes.

14. Virginia. Just like Babers, first-year coach Bronco Mendenhall will need to make a splash in his first full recruiting class. The Cavaliers weren’t very competitive in the second half of the season.