2016 North Carolina Power Rankings: Week 9

North State Journals sports staff picks their top college football teams from the state each week.

Jeremy Brevard—USA Today Sports
The Appalachian State Mountaineers team runs onto the field prior to the game against the Miami Hurricanes at Kidd Brewer Stadium.

When it comes to Power Five teams in the state of North Carolina, Saturday was a disaster. The Tar Heels were off for the weekend, and every other ACC team cratered under the pressure of carrying the torch.NC State’s collapse against Boston College was clearly the most embarrassing, but Duke and Wake Forest also suffered unfortunate losses. Meanwhile, HBCU schools continued to dominate while Appalachian State made a huge jump with a convincing win over Georgia Southern.With Week 9 of the college football season wrapped up, here’s a look at the top 10 teams in the state, according to North State Journal sportswriters R. Cory Smith, Brett Friedlander and Shawn Krest.1. North Carolina (30)Last Week: 1The aforementioned bye week for Carolina came at a perfect time with just four games remaining on the schedule. After both NC State and Duke lost over the weekend, the November slate looks much easier for the Tar Heels with a glimmer of hope for the Coastal Division title still possible. 2. Appalachian State (25)Last Week: 4For the second straight year, App State easily dismissed Georgia Southern, 34-10, behind a memorable performance from Taylor Lamb. The quarterback rushed for two touchdowns while both Marcus Cox and Jalin Moore tallied another rushing score of their own.The Mountaineers got a huge jump this week due to losses by both NC State and Wake Forest, but winning was a critical reason. Already bowl eligible with four games remaining on the schedule, seemingly only Troy (6-1) stands in the way of a 10-win season for the Apps.3. North Carolina A&T (23)Last Week: 5Is there any stopping the Tarik Cohen train? NC A&T’s feature back totaled 210 yards on 20 touches — that’s 10.5 yards per touch, if you’re counting at home — and had touchdowns of seven yards, 19 yards and 83 yards against Florida A&M.The Aggies may not be playing the same level of competition as the Big Four or Core Four teams, but they are dominant in their lane. Currently at six straight wins, the looming game against NC Central at the end of the season could be the tipping point for both programs.4. NC Central (18)Last Week: 7Speaking of the Eagles, NCCU is in the exact same boat as the Aggies with six straight wins after a narrow win over Morgan State. NC Central hasn’t been quite as dominant as NC A&T to this point, but with three wins on the road and three at home, this team has proven its mettle.Led by a strong defense and a dual-threat quarterback in Malcolm Ball (save for his five interception game against Savannah State), this year’s NCCU team is on a collision course with rival NC A&T for the MEAC crown.5. Wake Forest (17)Last Week: 2Just when you believed in this year’s Wake Forest team, they go and do this. It’s not that Army was a bad team, but after losses to Buffalo, Duke and North Texas, Wake should have easily came away with a win on Saturday at home.Now, the Demon Deacons are in a nearly must-win situation against Virginia if they want to make a bowl game. While Boston College remains on the schedule at the end of the year, getting to a respectable bowl relies heavily on coming away with a win over the Hoos.6. UNC Pembroke (14)Last Week: 8Three weeks away from the start of the Division II playoffs, UNC Pembroke bolstered its resume with another blowout victory over West Virginia State. The Braves trounced the Yellow Jackets by a final of 44-14 on the road.Pembroke heads into the bye week at 8-1 thanks to the combo of quarterback Patrick O’Brien and receiver B.J. Bunn. Tack on Rontonio Stanley’s five yards per rush and eight touchdowns this season and Pembroke has a chance for a late playoff run this season.7. East Carolina (10)Last Week: 10The Pirates are finally back in the win column! And they did so in blowout fashion with a 41-3 drubbing of UConn. Granted, the Huskies were 3-5 heading into Greenville, but a win is a win.Zay Jones is doing Zay Jones things with 114 receptions, 1,094 yards and four touchdowns … with four games remaining. With six games at 100 yards or more already this season, doing so against Tulsa (6-2) and somehow finding a win would erase any concern in Pirate Nation after a 2-5 start.T8. NC State (9)Last Week: 3Whether it was the lack of a run game, the defensive lapses late in the game or the soul-crushing interception in the end zone by Ryan Finley, Saturday was one of the most embarrassing losses in NC State history against a Boston College team that was winless in ACC play in 12 straight.That about sums it up. Oh, and now Florida State comes to town this Saturday looking to feast on the struggling Wolfies. Four straight losses would drop the Pack to below .500 and possibly out of the NC Power Rankings for the first time.T8. Duke (9)Last Week: 6For the second straight week, Duke was matched up with a team that clearly had the better offense, but the Blue Devils held their own. Seven days after a deflating loss against Louisville despite a stellar defensive effort, the Devils are now 3-5 heading into their toughest stretch of the season.David Cutcliffe is a phenomenal coach and Daniel Jones will eventually be a strong quarterback. However, with the youth of this football team and the injuries that keep piling up at crucial positions, 2016 will ultimately be a year to forget for the entire program.10. Winston-Salem State (7)Last Week: NRWinston-Salem State got off to a slow start at 1-2, but has since rattled off six straight wins (sound familiar?) and are undefeated in the conference. With a date at Fayetteville State (4-5) as the final game on the schedule, the Rams have a chance for an eight-win season and a berth to the CIAA Football Championship on Nov. 12.Also Listed: Charlotte (1), Louisburg (1), Wingate (1)