We’ve reached peak “scenario” season in college football.
It happens every year at this time. There are still six unbeaten “Power 5” conference teams, and 10 more with only one loss.
This is the spot on the calendar where fans, and national pundits, start projecting chaos scenarios.
▪ The SEC is going to get two teams in the College Football Playoff!
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▪ You can’t leave 11-1 Notre Dame out!
▪ One-loss Clemson is going to get left out!
▪ Pac-12 and Big 12 out in the cold (again)!
Step away from the scenarios. We haven’t even hit Halloween yet. Contenders are going to lose, usually on the road, and we will be left with five, maybe six teams, with a legitimate playoff argument.
Just don’t expect many of those unbeaten or one-loss teams to run the table. There were only four teams with one loss or less last year. In 2015, there were six, and in 2014, the first year of the playoff, there were six.
Only three teams (2016 Alabama, 2015 Clemson, 2014 Florida State) have entered the playoff without a loss.
Note there are two ACC teams on that list. The ACC champion has made the playoff in each of the first three years of the playoff. If the conference gets a team to Selection Sunday without a loss, or with just one, the ACC champion likely will make the CFP again.
Miami (6-0) is the only remaining unbeaten from the ACC. The Canes have two games against top 25 teams left – Virginia Tech and Notre Dame – and both at home. A third ranked opponent would be waiting in the ACC title game on Dec. 2 in Charlotte.
Clemson (6-1) made the playoff last year with one loss. Name-brand wins might become an issue for the Tigers. Auburn and Louisville, ranked teams when Clemson beat them, are fading. Florida State, at 2-4 overall, won’t move the needle, either.
An N.C. State (6-1) win at Notre Dame this week would do wonders for the ACC’s collective playoff hopes. The Wolfpack, with the Irish and Clemson in front of them, will be a factor in the playoff race, if not contenders themselves with a few more wins.
But, first things first, let the games play out. Then we can argue in December.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
ACC Power Rankings
Record: 6-1 (4-1 ACC)
Last game: Off. Next game: vs. Georgia Tech.
After a loss and a week off, the Tigers should be breathing fire this week.
Record: 6-0 (4-0 ACC)
Last game: vs. Syracuse, W, 27-18. Next game: at UNC.
There are no pictures on the scorecard. The Canes keep winning the old way: defense and running the football.
3. Virginia Tech
Record: 6-1 (2-1 ACC)
Last game: vs. UNC, W, 59-7. Next game: vs. Duke.
The Hokies have outscored UNC 93-10 the past two years.
4. N.C. State
Record: 6-1 (4-0 ACC)
Last game: Off. Next game: at Notre Dame.
Classic strength-vs.-strength matchup with the Fighting Irish: State ranks No. 6 in the country rushing defense and Notre Dame ranks No. 6 in rushing offense.
5. Georgia Tech
Record: 4-2 (3-1 ACC)
Last game: vs. Wake Forest, W, 38-24. Next game: at Clemson.
Jackets would have do it the hard way (through Clemson) but are still kicking in the Coastal race.
Record: 5-3 (2-3 ACC)
Last game: at Florida State, W, 31-28. Next game: at Wake Forest.
The defense is still bad, but Lamar Jackson is still great.
Record: 4-4 (2-2 ACC)
Last game: at Miami, W, 27-19. Next game: at Florida State (Nov. 4).
Both ACC losses (at N.C. State, at Miami) were by eight points.
Record: 5-2 (2-1 ACC)
Last game: vs. Boston College, L, 41-10. Next game: at Pittsburgh.
A little regression to the mean with that unexpected home loss to Boston College.
9. Florida State
Record: 2-4 (2-3 ACC)
Last game: vs. Louisville, L, 31-28. Next game: at Boston College.
The Noles scored a season-high 28 points and lost.
10. Wake Forest
Record: 4-3 (1-3 ACC)
Last game: at Georgia Tech, L, 38-24. Next game: vs. Louisville.
Wakeyleaks revenge game for the Deacs. This has “Super Bowl” written all over it.
11. Boston College
Record: 2-3 (4-4 ACC)
Last game: at Virginia, W, 41-10. Next game: vs. Florida State (Friday).
Break up the Eagles! Eighty-six points in the past two ACC games after scoring a total of 27 in the first three.
Record: 3-5 (1-3 ACC)
Last game: at Duke, W, 24-17. Next game: vs. Virginia.
Darrin Hall had 108 rushing yards on the season before Saturday’s win at Duke. He finished with 254 vs. the Devils.
Record: 4-4 (1-4 ACC)
Last game: vs. Pitt, L, 24-17. Next game: at Virginia Tech.
General Neyland’s first rule: The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. Duke has made too many mistakes during this four-game losing streak.
Record: 1-7 (0-5 ACC)
Last game: at Virginia Tech, L, 59-7. Next game: vs. Miami
The NCAA didn’t punish Carolina but Virginia Tech did.