ACC Midseason Coach Rankings
1. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Give the guy credit for keeping Clemson playing at a high level despite the Kelly Bryant drama, the bull’s-eye on the back, and with the expectations at a College Football Playoff-or-failure level. The Tigers might be scuffling a little bit, but they’re still rolling in a bad overall year for the league.
2. David Cutcliffe, Duke
He lost his starting quarterback Daniel Jones early on, he lost one of the nation’s best corners in Mark Gilbert, and … he’s coaching Duke. It’s going to end up going bowling, it beat Northwestern, and it managed to stop Army, too.
3. Dave Doeren, NC State
He lost Bradley Chubb, he lost Jaylen Samuels, he lost Nyheim Hines, and he lost a slew of other key parts off of last year’s solid team. And it’s still unbeaten with two weeks to rest up and try to do something amazing against Clemson.
4. Dino Babers, Syracuse
Who saw Syracuse getting the job done this year with an improved defense to make up for the struggling offense? It’s not the high-flying fun show of past seasons, but he has his Orange relevant. However, he needs to pull the team out of the two-game nosedive and get by North Carolina in two weeks.
5. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia
It’s not quite David Cutcliffe in a doing-most-with-the-least thing, but it’s not far off. He had to replace a few superstars off the defensive, upgraded at quarterback, and he’s got the team playing at a high level without a whole slew of top recruits.
6. Steve Addazio, Boston College
Okay, so BC beat the mediocre teams on the schedule and needs to get past the run of two losses in the last three games, but compared to where things were a few years ago, he has an offensive juggernaut. It’s hitting 40+ points with regularity now.
7. Mark Richt, Miami
Yeah, Miami has been solid, and it’s 5-1, but his team was outplayed by LSU to open things up, and it took way too much to get past Florida State. There’s a whole lot of meh wins in between those – but he’ll still likely get the Canes to 11-1 and a spot in the ACC Championship again.
8. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
Old Dominion 49, Virginia Tech 35. Old Dominion is 0-5 against the rest of college football. The Duke win was a must, and rolling FSU in the opener gave the program some national cred, but … ODU 49, Virginia Tech 35. That’s the No. 3 program in the ACC taking a loss among all losses that dragged down the conference respect.
9. Willie Taggart, Florida State
This is unfair. He’s taking over a team that needs a few changes, an offensive line, and has to get the swagger back. But the offense was too lousy over the first three games, and every game has been way too much of a battle. However, watch out for a strong second half.
10. Pat Narduzzi, Pitt
He really, really, really needed that win over Syracuse – and now there’s hope. But losing to North Carolina wasn’t okay, and getting dropped by UCF – as good as UCF might be – 45-14 stinks. With four road games in the last six, getting three wins won’t be a breeze. More to the point, the program shouldn’t be at a point where it has to fight for bowl eligibility.
11. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest
Call this an incomplete – it’s not fair to penalize him for losing to Notre Dame and Clemson, along with a fight against Boston College. There isn’t a good win yet, and the defense has been miserable. The second half of the slate isn’t bad – he needs to somehow squeeze out three wins to go bowling.
12. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Oooooooh, the offense ripped up Bowling Green and Louisville. Oooooooh – Bowling Green and Louisville are awful. The loss to Pitt was a killer dropping a game to USF hurt, and now it’s going to be a big-time fight just to get bowling.
13. Larry Fedora, North Carolina
After the total disaster of a 2017 season, the Tar Heels had to come out roaring. Instead, it lost at Cal, got rimrocked by East Carolina 41-19, and started out 1-3. To be fair, the hurricane nightmare became a factor, and there’s no shame in getting blown out by Miami, but the Tar Heels will need a miracle to get to a bowl.
14. Bobby Petrino, Louisville
As it turned out, Lamar Jackson really, really mattered. The Cardinals barely beat a mediocre WKU team, beat Indiana State from the FCS world, and … that’s it. The D gave up 66 to Georgia Tech – it could’ve been a lot worse – the O came up with three points against Virginia, and now there’s a run of three road games in the next four after starting 2-4.