Week 8: MVPs, Helmet Stickers, and Power Rankings

Week 8 in the ACC had many important matchups relating to conference standings and bowl eligibility. Clemson kept itself alive in the Atlantic Division as the Tigers rolled past Virginia Tech. Duke grinded out one of their most important football victories in recent memory. And FSU found its way at Miami after a slow start.

> Biggest Surprise Week 7:
This week’s biggest surprise for me was Duke’s win over UNC. No one could predict how the Blue Devils would respond after getting blown out in Blacksburg last weekend. It seemed as though they had left all of their momentum and confidence in Lane Stadium as they walked off the field a week ago. But as good teams typically do, Duke found it within themselves to forget about that performance and get a huge victory at home against their arch rival. Duke now has an overall record of 6-2 with a 3-1 ACC record. They are on top of the Coastal Division standings and control their own destiny in the race for the ACC Championship Game. And as the Hollywood story continues, the Blue Devils couldn’t win comfortably. They had to score in the final minute of regulation on an 84-yard drive and stop a last second lateral play before students could storm the field to celebrate. Duke is now bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. But the fun won’t stop here. The Blue Devils have started what has to be the most difficult remaining conference schedule of any team in the league. Next week they are on the road at FSU. Then they finish the season against Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Miami. No matter how the season shakes out, its great to see this program recover and I congratulate them on their successes thus far.

> MVP: Sean Renfree, Duke QB: Renfree completed 23 of 36 passes for 276 and converted three third downs on the game winning 84 yard drive late in the fourth quarter. His performance and resiliency accurately reflects the mentality of this team and coaching staff. With this type of leadership and determination, the Blue Devils are a scary matchup for every team left on their schedule.

> Helmet Stickers

1.) Jonathan Meeks, Clemson Safety. Meeks finished the day with two interceptions. One of the interceptions was a key turning point in the game, as the Hokies were driving the ball down the field and building momentum when Logan Thomas inexplicably overthrew his receiver and Meeks took the interception 74 yards for the score. Meeks’ performance contributed to the best defensive performance Clemson has had so far this year.

2.) Bryan Underwood, NC State WR. Underwood, the hero from NC State’s win over FSU two weeks ago came back with another big performance. He finished the day with 134 yards receiving on just six catches and one touchdown. Underwood has caught a touchdown in each of the past seven games, which is a school record.

3.) Chad Hedlund, Wake Forest Kicker. Hedlund made three field goals that proved be the difference in the win over UVA. Wake had a dominant defensive performance and Hedlund came through for the Deacons, who are now 4-3 on the season and in much better position to be bowl eligible.

>ACC Power Rankings

1.) Florida State. Week 8: W 33-20 vs. Miami. Florida State started off slow, but turned it on and blew by in-state rival Miami. FSU continues to be the best and most consistent team in the conference. However, the team took a major blow Saturday as they lost their star tailback Chris Thompson for the season. There is no doubt that this will affect the offense, but the question is how much? Duke comes to town Saturday. The way Duke is playing on defense and special teams is a major concern and I’m putting the Noles on upset alert.

2.) Clemson. Week 8: W 38-17 vs. Clemson. The Tigers must wish they could play Virginia Tech every week. For some reason, they seem to play their best ballgames of the year against the Hokies. Granted, the Hokies started off the game well, but the last three quarters were all Clemson. Even the highly ridiculed defense came up with a huge performance. Clemson will be the favorite in each of its last four ACC games this year. They will need help, but they still have a shot at winning the division. Their first test will be this Thursday at Wake Forest.

3.) NC State. Week 8: W 20-18 vs. Maryland. The Wolfpack find themselves at number three this week because they win. So many fans and critics get so caught up in rankings each week, but all that matters is wins and losses. And thus far NCSU has only fallen twice, and only once in ACC play. They control their own destiny in the race to the ACC Championship. The road will not be easy however, as they will travel to Chapel Hill Saturday to take on UNC.

4.) Duke. Week 8: W 33-30 vs. UNC. Duke deserves all the credit in the world this week. How they responded to a disappointing performance one week ago speaks volumes to the coaching staff and player leadership on this team. The most resilient team in the conference will need to bring all they have this Saturday as they hit the road to play the highest ranked team in the ACC, the Florida State Seminoles.

5. ) UNC. Week 8: L 30-33 vs. Duke. UNC once again finds its players defending themselves as Shakeel Rashad took a cheapshot at Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon Saturday. The loss combined with the negativity completes one of the worst weeks of the season for the Tar Heels. Rashad has issued an apology and the ACC has announced the suspensions of the referees who missed the call. In case you missed it, here is the video. UNC takes on NC State at home this Saturday.

6.) Virginia Tech Week 8: L 17-38 vs. Clemson. Well, if there’s anything good to take away from this win, it’s that the Hokies don’t play Clemson in a regular season game again for at least three years. Perhaps by then they can figure out a way to consistently move the ball, finish drives with scoring plays and not give up so many big plays on defense. Surprisingly enough, the Hokies still have a reasonable shot at playing their way into the conference championship game. If you look at the standings and the remaining schedules of the teams in front of them, it’s not that far of a stretch to say the Hokies could pull it off. The Hokies get about a week and a half off before facing Miami on the road Thursday November 1st.

7.) Miami. Week 8: L 20-33 vs. FSU. I have to admit, the Canes and their fans showed up for the beginning of the game Saturday night. It looked as if the game might have the makings of another big upset. However, the Noles figured out their issues and blew past the Canes in the second quarter and second half. Miami is starting to catch the injury bug, as several of their major players came off the field Saturday. Luckily they will get some extra rest as they have a week and half to prepare for Virginia Tech on November 1st.

 8.) Maryland Week 8: L 18-20 vs. NC State. This one really hurt for Terps fans. After giving up a late scoring drive to the Wolfpack, the Terps drove 60 yards and then missed a game winning chip shot field goal from 33 yards out. The Terps have five conference games left and need just two wins to become bowl eligible. The easiest of the five opponents comes this Saturday in the Boston College Eagles.

9) Georgia Tech Week 8: W 37-17 vs. Boston College. Georgia Tech snapped its losing streak Saturday with a dominating win over Boston College. The win was a much needed confidence booster. as the Yellow Jackets were coming off an embarrassing three game losing streak. Georgia Tech takes on BYU Saturday and needs to win three out of the last five to become bowl eligible.

10) Wake Forest. Week 8: W 16-10 vs. UVA. I know it seems unfair to have Wake Forest this far down the list after a road win. But lets be honest, UVA isn’t having a very good year and it wasn’t a pretty win either. Plus they get prime time coverage this Thursday night as they play host to the Clemson Tigers. I will give them my undivided attention and bump them up the list if they put on a performance that is deserving against the others now ranked above them.

11.) Virginia. Week 8: L 10-16 vs. Wake Forest. UVA seems to be regressing each week on offense.  What is confusing is that they have enough talent to be competitive, especially this year in this division. You can’t ask for a bigger opening. But UVA is struggling to find an identity on offense, and is shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers, untimely penalties, and lack of discipline. The Cavs are off until a November 3rd trip to NC State.

 12.) Boston College Week 8: L 17-37 vs. Georgia Tech. The Eagles offensive and defensive struggles continued Saturday as they were beaten easily by a team on a three game losing skid. Things can only get better from here. BC hosts the Terps Saturday afternoon.

Featured game, week 8: Duke at Florida State.

Hey, don’t joke too much: this could be the matchup for the ACC Championship Game. As good as Duke is playing, Florida State is far more talented. But that doesn’t always matter in this sport. That’s why the game is played on the field and not on paper or in a computer. In case you were busy Saturday night and didn’t get to see the Miami/Florida State game, it was physical. There were a lot of big hits and tough tackles going on. FSU is banged up and lost their star tailback for the remainder of the year. And I’m wondering how hostile Doak Campbell Stadium will be for a Duke game. The game has major conference implications, but to the average fan this can’t be seen as a big game in Tallahassee. No disrespect to Duke, but FSU fans weren’t exactly circling this game as a must see when the schedule was released last spring. However, it’s just that mentality that will give Duke a better shot at this one. The Blue Devils are riding a wave of momentum after beating arch rival UNC Saturday afternoon. FSU has beaten Duke all seventeen times they have played in history.

But this is a different Duke. One that is resilient and playing each game with the expectation to win. You wont hear “Oh well, we played ’em tough this year”. They are heartbroken after losses. And I expect a lot of emotion from David Cutcliffe’s team as they take the field Saturday. Will FSU match that emotion, or will they come out flat against an inferior opponent. It happens somewhere every week in college football and I think it can happen this week too.

Duke is playing great in all three phases of the game. Their solid defense and special teams usually wins the field position battle, and they are averaging around 35 points per game, so you have to score well to win. I think Duke’s ability to prevent the big plays will keep them in this game and keep the scoring down too. In the end I think the Noles will prevail behind E.J. Manuel’s ability to take his team down the field in the second half. Don’t be surprised to see Duke up early and perhaps leading at halftime. But in the end, I believe the more talented team will prevail.

Florida State 31 Duke 27

Don Deibler is a college football enthusiast and Virginia Tech alumnus who has had a passion for college sports since he was a young child. Outside of the ACC, he follows Notre Dame and South Carolina intently. He currently lives in Frederick, Maryland where he works in the mortgage banking industry and is in training for Air Traffic Control. You can reach him at [email protected].

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