NC State

ACC power rankings: Mediocre middle the story of the regular season

NC State's Hines scores his second touchdown in victory over UNC

Watch NC State's Nyheim Hines break tackles as he scores on 48-yard touchdown run in the Wolfpack's victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels. Hines had 196 yards in the victory.
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Watch NC State's Nyheim Hines break tackles as he scores on 48-yard touchdown run in the Wolfpack's victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels. Hines had 196 yards in the victory.

Clemson and Miami will cap off what has been a perfectly acceptable, yet not exactly memorable, ACC football season on Saturday in Charlotte.

The Tigers (11-1) are in position to play for another national title. That’s good for the ACC.

Miami (10-1) is relevant in the national race for the first time in 15 years. That’s even better for the ACC.

But what is the lasting memory of an otherwise vanilla 2017 season? There’s Miami’s “turnover chain” and what else?

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, operating in the shadows of an athletic scandal at his own school, is being overlooked in the Heisman Trophy race despite having comparable numbers to his 2016 season – when he won the Heisman Trophy.

Louisville (8-4), despite Jackson’s impressive production, and Florida State (5-6) turned in disappointing seasons. Virginia Tech (9-3) and N.C. State (8-4) couldn’t quite win enough to fill that void at the top of the league.

Boston College (7-5) and Virginia (6-6) are feel-good stories while North Carolina (3-9) and Pitt (5-7) qualify as the biggest disappointments.

Clemson did beat Auburn, 14-6 back on Sept. 9 in what turned out to be the most important nonconference game of the season, but the ACC heads into bowl season with a 4-5 mark against the SEC. The ACC went 10-4 against the SEC last year.

Miami, and its gaudy bauble awarded on the sidelines after every turnover (an ACC-best 29), dominated the league’s narrative this season. The story should have been that second-year coach Mark Richt went 7-1 in the league, mostly without running back Mark Walton or a veteran quarterback, but that’s not the U’s style.

The ending has yet to be written. If Clemson or Miami win the national title, the conference will sing a victory song.

But by recent standards (last year was the league’s Best Ever), here’s what stands out: Eight teams finished either 4-4 or 3-5 in league play this season. That’s the biggest such cluster in league history.

Not bad, not great, just a bunch of teams smushed in the middle. The ACC can only hope that won’t be the epitaph for the 2017 season.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

ACC power rankings

1. Clemson

Record: 11-1 (7-1 ACC)

Last game: at South Carolina, W, 34-10.

Defense still wins and the Tigers have the best around.

2. Miami

Record: 10-1 (7-1 ACC)

Last game: at Pittsburgh, L, 24-14.

Key injuries starting to catch up with the Canes. They still turned in a great season.

3. Virginia Tech

Record: 9-3 (5-3 ACC)

Last game: at Virginia, W, 10-0.

Virginia Tech’s best win was? Over 7-5 West Virginia in the opener.

T4. N.C. State

Record: 8-4 (6-2 ACC)

Last game: vs. UNC, W, 33-21.

N.C. State’s best game was? A 38-31 loss to Clemson.

T4. Wake Forest

Record: 7-5 (4-4 ACC)

Last game: vs. Duke, L, 31-23.

The Deacs somehow fumbled away the “state title” at the goal line.

6. Boston College

Record: 7-5 (4-4 ACC)

Last game: at Syracuse, W, 42-14.

Freshman RB A.J. Dillon (1,432 yards) is going to be a problem for years to come.

7. Louisville

Record: 8-4 (4-4 ACC)

Last game: at Kentucky, W, 44-17.

At least the Cards avenged their loss to Big Blue.

8. Georgia Tech

Record: 5-6 (4-4 ACC)

Last game: vs. Georgia, L, 38-7.

A step back for Paul Johnson’s hard-luck crew after a 9-4 finish in 2016.

9. Florida State

Record: 5-6 (3-5 ACC)

Last game: at Florida, W, 38-22.

Go figure: the Noles are ranked No. 31 in Jeff Sagarin’s computer poll (two spots ahead of Boston College).

10. Virginia

Record: 6-6 (3-5 ACC)

Last game: vs. Virginia Tech, L, 10-0.

Ugly finish after an impressive start. A date with Navy in the Military Bowl likely awaits.

11. Duke

Record: 6-6 (3-5 ACC)

Last game: at Wake Forest, W, 31-23.

Great start, great finish, just don’t ask about the middle.

12. Pittsburgh

Record: 5-7 (3-5 ACC)

Last game: vs. Miami, W, 24-14.

The schedule was there to win the Coastal. The talent wasn’t.

13. Syracuse

Record: 4-8 (2-6 ACC)

Last game: vs. Boston College, L, 42-14.

The 4-8 finish might be enough to scare off suitors of Dino Babers. That’s a good trade for the Orange.

14. UNC

Record: 3-9 (1-7 ACC)

Last game: at N.C. State, L, 33-21.

Have to figure out the quarterback situation going forward but there are pieces in place to bounce back next year.

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