Points pile up rapidly, No. 25 N.C. State tops Syracuse

N.C. State’s Drake Thomas returns an interception for a touchdown against Syracuse, in Raleigh on Saturday. With a win against UNC Friday, the Wolfpack could make the ACC title game if Wake Forest falls to Boston College on Saturday.

With one week to go in the regular season, it seems a good thing that Wake Forest owns the tiebreaker versus N.C. State in these rankings, having beaten the Wolfpack a couple of weeks ago in a showdown of the top two.

If not for that, the Demon Deacons might be in trouble after their comprehensive loss to Clemson and the Wolfpack’s thrashing of Syracuse. Meanwhile, Appalachian turned in another routine blowout win in the Sun Belt and at long last, East Carolina’s fourth straight win vaulted it into fourth place ahead of North Carolina despite its win over Wofford.

Here’s an updated top-five:

1. Wake Forest (9-2)

Saturday’s game: at Boston College, noon, ESPN2.

Why No. 1? Wake ran into a familiar foil in the form of Clemson last week and was never in the hunt against the Tigers . But the Deacons’ unprecedented start to the season earned them plenty of breathing room, and they can take their frustrations out on the Eagles in Beantown.

2. N.C. State (8-3)

Friday’s game: vs. North Carolina, 7 p.m., ESPN.

Why No. 2? The Wolfpack has been knocking on the door to the top spot all season, and if Wake has another slip-up at Boston College and N.C. State takes care of the Tar Heels at home, the ‘Pack could grab the final No. 1 spot. State outscored the Orange 28-7 in the second quarter last week.

3. Appalachian State (9-2)

Saturday’s game: vs. Georgia Southern, 2:30 p.m., ESPN+.

Why No. 3? The Mountaineers are still in the hunt for the Sun Belt title as they get set to take on traditional rival Georgia Southern on Saturday with a chance to lock up the East Division title and set up a rematch against Louisiana, which thumped the Mountaineers for one of their two losses.

4. East Carolina (7-4)

Friday’s game: vs. Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., ABC

Why No. 4? The Pirates leapt into fourth place after their seventh win of the season and fourth straight, 38-35, at Navy in another breathtaking finish. The Pirates’ clash with the unbeaten and No. 4 Bearcats took on national interest this week after Cincinnati also ranked 4 in the College Football Playoff poll.

5. North Carolina (6-5)

Friday’s game: at N.C. State, 7 p.m., ESPN.

Why No. 5? The Tar Heels finally slipped, and they did so after winning and becoming bowl eligible. This was about ECU’s late-season surge versus UNC’s ongoing ups and downs all season. Tonight’s game in Raleigh is chance for a signature end to the season for the Heels and for a return to No. 4.