College Football Playoff Contenders: State of the ACC Week 14

Written By: Brett Korpi
(Photo Credit: Craig Balog/ The SkyBoat)
(Chestnut Hill, MA) Clemson stayed in the top 4, moving up a spot to No. 3, in the fifth release of the College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings. Meanwhile, Louisville dropped to No. 13 and in a somewhat controversial decision, Florida State jumped ahead of them to No. 12. After being left out of the rankings the last two weeks, Virginia Tech, climbed back in at No. 23, ahead of their ACC Championship match-up with Clemson.

Let’s take a look at where these team stand, as we head into Championship Week.

No. 3 Clemson (11-1,7-1)

Last Week: 4
Remaining Schedule:
ACC Championship – Virginia Tech
The Tigers closed out their regular season with a blowout 56-7 win over in-state nemesis South Carolina. Their last test looms in the ACC Championship.
Clemson is risking a playoff spot when they take on the Hokies for the ACC title. Meanwhile, No. 2 Ohio State is not in their conference championship and gets to take the week off with presumably no worries of falling out of contention.
A loss would not only eliminate the Tigers from the playoff, it could also knock them out of a New Year’s Six bowl. If Virginia Tech wins, they will represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl, which means head coach Dabo Swinney and his team will have to keep their fingers cross for an at-large bid to one of the other prestigious bowls.

No. 12 Florida State (9-3,5-3)
Last Week: 14
The Seminoles ran over bitter-rival Florida, 31-13, to secure their fourth straight win to end their regular season. The win, coupled with Louisville losing back-to-back games, saw them jump ahead the Cardinals, despite getting trounced in their head to head battle. Jimbo Fisher’s bunch is now in position to represent the conference in the Orange Bowl.
Florida State is an awkward position where it has to root for conference rival Clemson this week. A Tigers loss would knock the Seminoles down into a mid-tier bowl game.

No. 13 Louisville (9-3, 7-1)
Last Week: 12
The Cardinals have suffered a rough couple of weeks to end the season. First, they were upset and then they were left out the top 4 in the third set of rankings. Then, they got embarrassed in Houston and suffered a heart-breaking loss to Kentucky. These consecutive losses have knocked them below the ‘Noles in the rankings, despite beating them in overwhelming fashion early in the season.
In defending the committee’s controversial decision of ranking FSU over the Cardinals, Chairman Kirby Hocutt cited Louisville’s strength of schedule as being the primary factor in the decision.

“Florida State, a talented team that has played one of the toughest schedules in the country; Louisville, a team that’s only beaten one team with a winning record. Strength of schedule is significant.”

Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino, has to start getting concerned about next season has well. It will presumably be Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson’s final season with the Cardinals, and they have another weak slate of non-conference opponents in Purdue, Weber State, Murray State, and once again Kentucky. They are going to have to find ways to separate themselves from the pack next season.

No. 23 Virginia Tech (9-3, 6-2)
Remaining Schedule:
ACC Championship – Clemson
Three weeks ago, the Hokies were upset by Georgia Tech. They were removed from the rankings and in danger of losing their division. They rebounded nicely with wins over Notre Dame and Virginia, to move back into the top 25 and to secure a spot in the ACC Championship.
A conference championship and a New Year Six bowl, will do a lot for the program that is a in a slight rebuild with first year head coach Justin Fuente. A loss, may not be detrimental to the Hokies, but a win will put them back in the national forefront heading into next season.

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