ACC Week 14 power rankings: Clemson heads back to playoff

Dabo says he's excited to play Alabama in the Sugar Bowl (0:45)

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says that he is looking forward to taking on Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide in a rematch of the last 2 National Championship games. (0:45)

What did we learn in the ACC championship game? Nothing other than getting yet another reminder that Dabo Swinney has the Clemson juggernaut rolling. The dominant win over Miami assured Clemson our top spot for the third straight year, and it was another sign that the Tigers are peaking at just the right moment.

1. Clemson Tigers (12-1, 7-1). It's a new set of stars, but the results are the same. Clemson is the ACC's best team, and it turns out, it wasn't that close. The Tigers dominated Miami in the title game and for the third straight season will head to the College Football Playoff.

2. Miami Hurricanes (10-2, 7-1). This was a better team that it showed against Clemson, but with Chris Herndon and Ahmmon Richards out with injuries, the passing game really never stood a chance against Clemson's attacking D. But while the ending was ugly, 2017 was most certainly a step forward for Miami, and a stellar recruiting class means brighter days are ahead.

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (9-3, 5-3). A strong start to the season ended with a thud for QB Josh Jackson, but the extra time off and bowl practices could be just the spark he needs to get healthy, make some adjustments and find his groove again. He still figures to be the centerpiece for Virginia Tech's offense in 2018, so finding some answers now is critical for next year's success.

4. NC State Wolfpack (8-4, 6-2). Dave Doeren got a contract extension and some security for an 8-4 campaign. The question is whether he can do a little more on the field. The Wolfpack have won nine games just twice since 1995, so a bowl victory would be meaningful. Moreover, it'd be a good chance to finish on a high note before saying goodbye to a host of stars, including Jaylen Samuels and Bradley Chubb.

5. Louisville Cardinals (8-4, 4-4). There may not be a better combo of offensive and defensive stars in the country than Lamar Jackson and Jaire Alexander. If the latter had been healthy all season, Louisville might've been a legitimate contender for the Atlantic. Instead, an 8-4 season felt more like an afterthought. Still, it's worth appreciating just how good these two have been in their Cardinals careers, and it will be enjoyable watching them one more time in the bowl game.

6. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-5, 4-4). The loss to Duke in the regular-season finale stings, but this was still a stellar season by the Deacons, which made such huge strides on offense that it's almost tough to recall how bad they were in Dave Clawson's early years. While the bowl will be a send-off for Cam Serigne and John Wolford, the bulk of the offensive talent returns for 2018, which makes Wake an interesting team in the Atlantic next year.

7. Boston College Eagles (7-5, 4-4). Perhaps the most underappreciated player in the country is BC running back A.J. Dillon. From Week 5 on, Dillon ran for 1,267 yards -- fourth-most of any running back in the country -- and BC scored at least 28 points six times (going 5-2 in the process). The Eagles had hit 28 just five times in their previous 33 games vs. FBS foes.

8. Pittsburgh Panthers (5-7, 3-5). There will be no bowl game for Pitt, thanks to a failure to get in on four chances from the 1-yard line against Virginia Tech, a three-point loss to UNC and a narrow defeat against Syracuse. But the way Pitt finished in spite of all that went wrong is encouraging, and the Panthers should open 2018 as a legitimate contender in their division.

9. Florida State Seminoles (6-6, 3-5). There's little doubt that 2017 will go down as the most significant 6-6 season in Florida State history -- from the injury to Deondre Francois in Week 1 to the struggles throughout the first two months of the season to the controversy surrounding Jimbo Fisher's exit.

10. Virginia Cavaliers (6-6, 3-5). This was a miraculous season for Virginia, a team that is leaps and bounds ahead of where it ended 2016. And a bowl win would be something else altogether. A winning season would be a huge step, but it would also be the first victory in a postseason game for the Hoos since 2005, back when next year's incoming freshmen were in kindergarten.

11. Duke Blue Devils (6-6, 3-5). Duke's defense made marked strides this year, allowing 30 points or more in a game just once. But the offense struggled at times, and while a bowl berth is the reward for a late-season resurgence, the key to getting the Blue Devils back into competition in the Coastal will be developing some game-breaking weapons on that side of the ball.

12. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-6, 4-4). Paul Johnson missed a bowl game for the second time in three years. That's a little hard to swallow, considering that the Yellow Jackets actually looked like a pretty good team for much of this season. But losses to three teams that finished .500 or worse are simply inexcusable.

13. Syracuse Orange (4-8, 2-6). It's hard to measure progress when the win-loss record doesn't change. But for Syracuse fans, there was a lot to like -- from the win over Clemson to the improvement on defense for much (but not the end) of the season. This is still a program with a higher ceiling than it has shown.

14. North Carolina Tar Heels (3-9, 1-7). Now that it's over, perhaps UNC can look back on 2017 as filled with necessary growing pains. Truth is, this probably wasn't a team that would compete for the Coastal anyway, so while all the injuries and struggles were tough, there will be far more depth in 2018 because of them.