Well that was a wild weekend that few expected.
When we looked at the ACC schedule this past week prior to our staff picks, there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement. That changed quickly beginning with a wacky Friday night that saw Syracuse upset No. 2 Clemson 27-24.
If the standings pictured below are what you predicted at this point in the season, you’re missing your calling.
There are a number of surprises there, only complicated by this past weekend’s action.
Revisiting our staff picks from this past week, some of our takes were in the ballpark of correct including one of mine.
“Clemson is far too talented to drop one at the Carrier Dome, but I think Syracuse will cover.”
Then there was this one from Mike McDaniel.
“I like Clemson to win this game, but would not be surprised in the slightest if the Orange keep this one close.”
Well, partial credit on those prognostications at least. Syracuse (4-3, 2-1) has played well this season despite a head-scratching loss to Middle Tennessee State. The Orange lost by eight points to NC State and by nine to an LSU squad that has proven to be much better than a home loss to Troy made people think.
As such, it wasn’t exactly a long limb to go out on by saying the Orange would keep it closer than the 22.5 point line against Clemson.
— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) October 14, 2017
It’s really hard not to like Dino Babers. At the halfway mark this year, he’s already equaled the Orange win total from all of last season. Interestingly, the monumental upset of Clemson (6-1, 4-1) comes almost a year to the day of his first program-building victory at the Carrier Dome.
Last year on October 15th, the Orange knocked off then 17th-ranked Virginia Tech. The Dome hasn’t completely returned to it’s heyday of the eighties and nineties, but it’s getting there.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 14, 2017
No. 8 Miami is next on the docket for Syracuse. If ‘Cuse can pull another major upset, it would mark the first time the program has defeated ranked opponents back-to-back since 1983 when the Orange defeated No. 13 Boston College and No. 14 West Virginia to end the season.
Boston College Pulls a Fast One on Louisville
Lamar Jackson can only do so much, and it’s become clear that his ability to cover for his teammates and coaches isn’t enough anymore.
The Cardinals’ defense is a controlled-burn gone terribly awry. The unit is ranked 62nd in total defense and is allowing 5.55 yards per play. The Louisville (4-3, 1-3) offense has scored 24 touchdowns, but the defense has allowed 27.
That’s not to say Jackson is having a bad season. He’s fourth in the nation in passing yards with 2,322 plus he has 16 touchdowns against just five interceptions. He’s also 15th in rushing with 690 yards and 10 scores.
In a 45-42 loss to Boston College Saturday, Jackson accounted for 512 total yards and five touchdowns. He’s still a remarkable talent, but to say his defense is letting him down is a massive understatement.
It’s telling that the Louisville defense gave up 45 points and 555 yards to a Boston College (3-4, 1-3) offense that has been struggling to get anything going for years. Even after last weekend’s outburst, BC ranks 101st in the nation in total offense.
Apart from getting a much-needed conference win, The biggest development for the Eagles is the emergence of freshman running back AJ Dillon. He tallied 39 carries for 272 yards and four touchdowns against Louisville. That gives Dillon 605 yards on the season which is good for 30th in the country.
What Does it all Mean?
While the road is now tougher, Clemson still has a shot to make the college football playoff. It’s important to remember that the Tigers dropped a weird game to Pittsburgh last season and still made the field of four. This year is tougher but not impossible.
Louisville is no longer an impressive win, and Auburn’s loss to LSU knocks those Tigers out of the top ten. Still, that’s a good victory early in the season. The win at Virginia Tech is a good road W and there’s a game with NC State looming in the near future. If Clemson wins out, it could face a highly ranked Miami or Virginia Tech team in the ACC Championship game. Even if Georgia Tech or a wild card like Virginia wins the Coastal, they’ll be ranked.
Clemson just needs to win out.
Syracuse has a tough stretch with Miami and an improving Florida State team, but winnable games against Wake Forest, Louisville, and Boston College down the stretch. A bowl game is now very much on the table for the Orange. Dino Babers could get some votes for ACC Coach of the Year too.
If Boston College can continue to run the football, a bowl berth is on the table, but it’s going to be a tall order. Challenging but conceivably winnable road games against Virginia and Syracuse bookend home dates with Florida State, NC State, and UConn.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) October 15, 2017
Louisville has to find some answers in a hurry. Defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon replaced Todd Grantham because of performances like these and if he can’t turn it around, it will be a very short tenure indeed. The schedule won’t be easy, but the toughest games have already been played.
Still, road games against Florida State, Wake Forest, and 5-1 Kentucky in the season finale are no cakewalk. Virginia and Syracuse won’t be much easier at home. All of those teams can move the football and will attack a porous Louisville defense.
Each of these four teams have a lot to play for. The stretch run in the ACC is always fun and this year things are wide open in both divisions.