Another Saturday is in the books, and there were many interesting games across the ACC this weekend. With every week moving forward having more and more meaning, there should be no shortage of excitement as we hit the home stretch of the 2017 college football season. With plenty of football still remaining in the ACC race, here’s what we learned from Week Nine across the conference.
1) #8 Miami wins again, but the Hurricanes remain unproven
As I have been suggesting on social media for the last month or so (much to the chagrin of Miami fans, might I add), the Miami Hurricanes might be one of the most overrated teams in all of college football. The Hurricanes entered Saturday ranked #8 in the country with a 6-0 record, with many (myself included) wondering just how legitimate they are. Their performance on Saturday in Chapel Hill against 1-7 North Carolina left much to be desired, especially on the offensive side of the ball, where the Hurricanes rushed 32 times for 51 yards against the Tar Heels, who entered the match-up ranked 100th in the FBS in yards per rush allowed.
Additionally, North Carolina was without 22 players in total on Saturday, and played much of the game with their third string quarterback Nathan Elliot. Despite this, Miami could never put away a bad Tar Heels football team on Saturday, struggling to a 24-19 win. They moved to 7-0 on the season and certainly credit has to be given where it is due. The Hurricanes should not have to apologize to anyone for being undefeated.
With that being said, it is fair to question whether or not they are prepared to make the most of their schedule against tougher opponents in the coming weeks. The ‘Canes will now take on #13 Virginia Tech and #9 Notre Dame at home in the next two games, where they will be expected to prove whether or not they are a true playoff contender. If Miami comes out of the next two weekends unscathed, there will be little question about their legitimacy in the second season under coach Mark Richt. With wins the next two weeks, the Hurricanes will strengthen their hold on the Coastal Division, setting up for a potential showdown against Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.
Miami is a good team, but are they great? We’ll find out by mid-November.
2) NC State is one of the ACC’s best, but remain a clear step below college football’s heavyweights
#14 NC State entered Saturday with an incredible opportunity against #9 Notre Dame in South Bend. One week removed from a 42-14 throttling of then-ranked #11 USC in South Bend, Notre Dame was receiving warranted praise as a contender for the College Football Playoff. NC State’s 6th-ranked rushing defense had a golden opportunity to stymie Notre Dame’s 6th-ranked rushing offense and make a statement in South Bend as one of the nation’s top units.
And then, the game happened.
NC State started strong and hung with Notre Dame in the first half, but the Irish running game wore down the Wolfpack in the second half and was ultimately too much to overcome. Notre Dame running back Josh Adams solidified himself as a Heisman contender with 202 of Notre Dame’s 318 yards on the ground, which included a 77-yard touchdown scamper late in the 3rd quarter that effectively put the football game away for the Irish.
The Wolfpack were competitive throughout, but were simply beaten by a better team on Saturday. While NC State remains in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division with an unbeaten record in conference play, it may not be for the long haul. The ‘Pack host #7 Clemson next Saturday in Raleigh, who looked like a legitimate playoff team once again on Saturday night with a healthy Kelly Bryant against Georgia Tech.
If Clemson beats NC State in Week 10, it will not necessarily be a condemnation of the Wolfpack. Rather, it will be a sign that while NC State is on the upswing, they still have a ways to go before being considered a serious contender on the national scale.
3) Florida State and Louisville solidified themselves as two of the biggest disappointments in college football
Raise your hand if you had Florida State and Louisville in the basement of the ACC Atlantic in 2017.
Yet here we are, nine full weeks into the 2017 college football season, and Florida State and Louisville have completely disappeared into the night.
Florida State fell victim to a massive injury to their starting quarterback Deondre Francois in the opener against Alabama, but their issues extend far beyond that. Poor offensive line play, an inability to win outside at receiver to help out freshman quarterback James Blackman, and a defense that a propensity to bend and give up big plays, have all resulted in a 2-5 start for the Seminoles, who are now in danger of missing their first bowl game since 1981.
Louisville, meanwhile, has one of the worst defenses in the ACC after bringing on Peter Sirmon as the new defensive coordinator after Todd Grantham departed for Mississippi State. Sirmon’s unit ranks 12th out of 14 teams in the conference in total defense, allowing over 410 yards per game and 5.96 yards per play. The unit has clearly held the team back from being one of the nation’s 15-20 best teams in 2017, as the Cardinals offense continues to be carried by reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson in spite of horrific play on the other side of the football. Louisville leads the ACC in total offense behind Jackson’s magnificent play, yet sits at 5-4 overall on the season with a 2-4 record in conference play following Saturday’s loss to Wake Forest.
Louisville should still be able to squeak out a bowl game, but considering the team that many expected the Cardinals to have entering the season, 2017 should be labeled as nothing less than a disappointment.