For all that was made of the Dabo Swinney vs. Florida State administration feud (also known as the latest chapter in Dabo Swinney vs. The World), one aspect of last week's game between the Tigers and the Seminoles getting postponed at the last minute that has gone under-discussed is the delayed return of Trevor Lawrence.
While the "Tank for Trevor" efforts are clearly all the rage in the NFL, we haven't seen Lawrence play in more than a month. Prior to his positive COVID-19 test, Lawrence was pacing as one of the most productive and efficient quarterbacks in the entire country. He had a top-10 passer rating, top-10 completion percentage and 17 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Because he's been a dominant piece of the college football conversation since the start of the 2018 season, Lawrence's place among the elite quarterback talents is so entrenched that his actual production gets overlooked.
Freshman D.J. Uiagalelei was fantastic in relief of Lawrence, but the Tigers absolutely welcome the return of their quarterback who carries a 31-1 record as a starter. Saturday's game against Pitt is not only a chance to get back into rhythm on the field but to tie Deshaun Watson, Tajh Boyd and Rodney Williams for the career wins record at Clemson, not to mention a handful of other school records that are in reach over the next couple weeks. It's also Senior Day in Death Valley, and while Lawrence has not committed to one decision or the other, the assumption is that he will exit with this year's senior class given all that interest in the "Tank for Trevor" movement.
Week 13 Odds, Picks
Friday -- No. 2 Notre Dame at No. 19 North Carolina
If Sam Howell and the Tar Heels offense can score early and turn this into a back-and-forth affair, it favors the North Carolina. The last time we saw Notre Dame's defense, it wasn't great and I'm expecting a little bit of rust with the extra week off leading up to this Friday afternoon kickoff. One path to victory for Notre Dame is to squeeze the life out of the game by winning the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Irish have one of the best rushing attacks in the ACC and stopping the Tar Heels' ground game is the key to slowing their offense. But all that goes out the window if North Carolina can score early and get into rhythm offensively. Pick: North Carolina +4.5
While the Wolfpack's win against Liberty was a great one for the team, it was not the best night for the offense. Thankfully, NC State's defense, which has stepped up to the plate a few times this season (Virginia and Duke wins come to mind), was there to lead the way to victory. Syracuse has not been able to muster much offense either, so instead of counting NC State to have a bounce back performance offensively, I'll assume the Orange will have trouble scoring. The only way Syracuse makes this is a game is to keep the scoring low, so I'll take the total instead of the side. Pick: Under 51.5
Pitt at No. 3 Clemson
One of the reasons to like Pitt in any matchup is going to be its defensive line. The Panthers are among the best teams in the country in tackles for loss and stopping the run, which makes it more difficult for everything that Clemson wants to do offensively. Throw in Kenny Pickett's recent hot streak moving the ball through the air and you've got the makings of a far more interesting game than the oddsmakers suggest. Pick: Pitt +25
We haven't seen Boston College since the loss to Notre Dame, but what have the Eagles done to be rated so close to a Cardinals team that has fallen well short of expectations this year? Louisville's shutout win against Syracuse was not enough to think this team has turned a corner or "found something" late in the season. I'll take the team that, for my money, has been better all year. Pick: Boston College -1
Duke at Georgia Tech
These two teams have combined for three ACC wins on the season and none since Oct. 10, which is probably why you've got this coin-flip line. It's a "who wants it" motivation game and I think the Blue Devils have a little more experience on their side, but I would not wager on this contest. Pick: Duke pick'em
Virginia at Florida State
The youth movement at Florida State was called into action a couple weeks ago and that presents an opportunity to try and get ahead of the oddsmakers for when things start to click. This may be premature, but it's also a big line for Virginia to carry on the road into Tallahassee. Pick: Florida State +9.5
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 13? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned over $3,600 in profit over the past four-plus seasons -- and find out.
Last week: 2-1 | 2020 season: 32-33
Each week, we'll be offering these top-half power rankings for the 15-team, one-division ACC. Results matter, but won't match the standings necessarily as we look to identify the teams that have the best chance to contend for one of the top two spots (by winning percentage) and play for the conference championship in December.
1. Clemson (Last week -- 1): The committee's overvaluation of Clemson only reinforces my stubborn belief that the Tigers are the best team in the ACC and still the conference's best candidate to win a national championship.
2. Notre Dame (2): If Ian Book continues to play some of the best football of his college career, the Irish will cruise in these final tests of the season and show up to the ACC Championship Game with a chance to make the playoff regardless of result.
3. North Carolina (3): The Tar Heels let a great opportunity slip away last year against Clemson and I think that will be a motivating factor all week as they prepare to welcome the Irish on Friday.
4. Miami (4): It's tough to adjust teams in the rankings who aren't playing, and COVID-19 issues have really put a wrench in the recent and final weeks of the Hurricanes season.
5. NC State (5): The administration had no way to know that scheduling Liberty for the team's lone nonconference game in 2020 would mean welcoming an undefeated top-15 squad to Carter-Finley Stadium, but the Wolfpack answered the call and proved to be the better team. Strong win for Dave Doeren in what's becoming one of his most impressive seasons as a head coach.
6. Wake Forest (6): Tough breaks continue for the Demon Deacons on the COVID-19 front, with a shuffled schedule removing Duke (a winnable game) and leaving back-to-back games against Miami and Notre Dame as the next two dates on the slate. Wake Forest has played the toughest draw in the conference and yet has a .500 record in league play heading into December.
7. Boston College (7): There was a competitive peak for the Eagles with those dates against Clemson and Notre Dame, now Jeff Hafley's challenge will be maintaining that same energy through the rest of the season to guarantee a final record representative of a great first year in Chestnut Hill.
8. Pitt (NR): The Panthers have found their swagger again with impressive wins against Florida State and Louisville. Now comes the cold shower of Clemson in Death Valley on the Tigers' Senior Day.
Dropped out: Virginia Tech (8)