The ACC’s big showdown on primetime this week ended up not being much of a matchup at all, as Clemson dominated Virginia Tech to remain squarely in the College Football Playoff race. The theme was the same throughout the conference, as favorites ruled the weekend and upset hopes were dashed.
ACC Power Rankings
1. Clemson Tigers (5-0, 3-0 ACC) (Last Week: 1)
Last week: at #12 Virginia Tech Hokies (4-1)- W 31-17
Next week: vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-1)
Clemson just keeps rolling; they’re now the first team in history to defeat three top 15 teams in the first month of play. The defense took on the #14 offense in the country and shut them down. Kelly Bryant managed the game like a vet and with this nasty defense behind him, he just has to not make any big mistakes to rack up wins. I don’t see any team left in the Atlantic that can matchup with them and the Tigers are pretty much penciled into the ACC Championship game right now.
2. Miami Hurricanes (3-0, 1-0 ACC) (Last Week: 2)
Last week: at Duke Blue Devils (4-1) - W 31-6
Next week: at Florida State Seminoles (1-2)
Great road win for the Canes, and it looks like their defense is really starting to rally. They held a previously high scoring Duke offense to 6 points and made a living in the backfield, racking up 5 sacks and 11 TFL. While the offense still relies a little too much on big plays, you can tell how dangerous this team is when they are clicking on all cylinders. With UM’s win and VT’s loss, Miami is now in the driver’s seat in the Coastal going into their annual grudge match against a very vulnerable FSU.
3. Louisville Cardinals (4-1, 1-1 ACC) (Last Week: 4)
Last week: vs. Murray State Racers (1-4) - W 55-10
Next week: at #24 North Carolina State Wolfpack (4-1)
As expected, Louisville blew out FCS Murray State. I’d give you Lamar Jackson’s exact numbers, but you should know the routine by now: 200+ passing yards, 100+ rushing yards, a few TD’s, rinse and repeat. Can the defense step up against a very good NC State offense?
4. Virginia Tech Hokies (4-1, 0-1 ACC) (Last Week: 3)
Last week: vs. #2 Clemson Tigers (4-0) - L 17-31
Next week: at Boston College Eagles (2-3)
The Hokies had been explosive on offense through 4 weeks, but considering the level of competition, I think a lot of people (including me) wanted to see how they responded playing against a highly ranked defense like Clemson. The previous best defense Virginia Tech had faced was Old Dominion, ranked #95. Well, consider that test failed. And without a garbage time touchdown with less than 2 minutes to go, the numbers look much worse. VT QB Josh Jackson threw 2 picks (with one returned for a TD) and could have easily thrown a few more, while the Hokies’ running game was basically a non-factor. Luckily, this hiccup probably won’t turn into a slide for Virginia Tech with BC on tap next week.
5. N.C. State Wolfpack (4-1, 2-0 ACC) (Last Week: 5)
Last Week: vs. Syracuse Orange (2-3) - W 33-25
Next Week: vs #17 Louisville Cardinals (4-1)
While the secondary looked vulnerable through the air, the Wolfpack were able to squeak out a victory against Syracuse after their upset win in Tallahassee. Still, giving up 385 passing yards to anybody is a cause for concern, and it will be intriguing to see if the defense can rebound against Lamar Jackson. An NC State win this weekend would make their matchup with Clemson in a few weeks a heck of a lot more interesting.
6. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-1, 2-0 ACC) (Last Week: 7)
Last week: vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-4) - W 33-7
Next week: BYE
Georgia Tech ran circles around an overmatched UNC, racking up over 400 yards on the ground to keep their #1 rushing attack on pace. After winning their first 2 ACC games decisively against UNC and Pitt, we know GT is not at the bottom of the conference. But we’ll see just how much of a contender they really are when they head to Miami after their bye week.
7. Florida State Seminoles (1-2, 1-1 ACC) (Last Week: 6)
Last week: at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-1) - W 26-19
This week: vs. #13 Miami Hurricanes (3-0)
It was a hard debate between the Noles and the Yellow Jackets for the 6th spot in the rankings, but in the end I just had to move the Noles down. They were outgained by nearly 100 yards by Wake Forest and if a few things didn’t break their way down the stretch, they’d easily be 0-3 right now. The defense looks solid enough, but the offense is in shambles. The Seminoles offensive line gave up 17 TFL against the Demon Deacons and now an even better defensive line comes to town in Miami.
8. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-1, 1-1 ACC) (Last Week: 9)
Last week: vs. Florida State Seminoles (1-2) - L 19-26
Next week: at #2 Clemson Tigers (5-0)
Dave Clawson’s team did almost everything they needed to do, and looked like the better team on Saturday, but left FSU hanging around too long. They let one get away against the Noles with crucial mistakes and not being able to make plays when it mattered most. The offense had way too many 3 and outs and kept putting the defense, who played extremely well, back on the field in tough situations. Eventually, against a coach like Jimbo Fisher, he’s going to make you pay for that. QB John Wolford played a very sound game for Wake and they’ll try their hand at another upset bid this weekend, this time at Clemson.
9. Duke Blue Devils (4-1, 1-1 ACC) (Last Week: 8)
Last week: vs. #14 Miami Hurricanes (3-0) - L 6-31
Next week: at Virginia Cavaliers (3-1)
I thought Duke looked much better than the score indicated against Miami. A few plays here and there, and that is a different ballgame. Still, Duke is lacking some key pieces to really make them a contender in the ACC and that got exposed a bit against Miami. They are probably a year away from making any true noise in the Coastal, but for David Cutcliffe and his staff, that is nothing to be ashamed of. The Blue Devils are way ahead of expectations coming off a 4-8 season.
10. Virginia Cavaliers (3-1, 0-0 ACC) (Last Week: 10)
Last week: BYE
Next week: vs. Duke Blue Devils (4-1)
Not much has changed with Virginia coming off a bye. They’ll look to continue their upward trajectory at home against Duke this weekend. A win against the Blue Devils and the Cavaliers are probably going bowling in 2017.
11. Syracuse Orange (2-3, 0-1 ACC) (Last Week: 11)
Last week: at North Carolina State Wolfpack (4-1) - L 25-33
Next week: vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (2-3)
Syracuse might be my favorite ACC team outside of Miami. They’re fun to watch and always pile up big yards and points. The offense did what they could against a tough NC State defense, but the Orange were again let down by their defense. WR’s Ervin Philips and Steve Ishmael were unstoppable and might be the best duo in the ACC, combining for over 300 yards receiving on 23 catches and 1 TD. Syracuse plays Pitt next week and while they are back-to-back in the rankings, I fully expect the Orange to blow out the Panthers.
12. Pittsburgh Panthers (2-3, 0-1 ACC) (Last Week: 13)
Last week: vs. Rice Owls (1-4) - W 42-10
Next week: at Syracuse Orange (2-3)
The Panthers finally got back on track a bit with their domination of Rice. Max Browne put up 400 yards passing and 4 TD’s, but that probably says more about Rice than anything else. Regardless, we are talking about a team that struggled with FCS Youngstown State, so it is an encouraging sign. Pitt has a chance to move up in the rankings again next week when they head to New York to play Syracuse, although the Orange’s strong passing offense is a poor matchup for Pitt’s weak secondary.
13. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-4, 0-3 ACC) (Last Week: 12)
Last week: at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-1) - L 7-33
Next week: vs. #21 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-1)
Yes, injuries have hit the Tar Heels hard. And yes, they haven’t had a schedule filled with cupcakes like some other schools. But UNC wasn’t competitive at all with Georgia Tech, not even scoring points until there was 5:05 left in the game. They’re now 0-3 in the conference and any hopes of winning the Coastal is long gone, while getting to a bowl may even be a stretch. The defense is also swiss cheese and among the worst in the country. It took a lot to keep me from moving them to the bottom of these rankings, but I’m giving them one more chance. Unfortunately, that one chance comes against a hot Notre Dame squad coming in on a 3 game winning streak.
14. Boston College Eagles (2-3, 0-2 ACC) (Last Week: 14)
Last week: vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (2-3) - W 28-8
Next week: vs. #16 Virginia Tech Hokies (4-1)
The Eagles pounded Central Michigan behind a relentless ground game and a stingy defense. BC running backs AJ Dillion and Jon Hilliman combined for 48 carries, 209 yards, and 3 TD’s, while the defense hounded Chippewas QB Shane Morris into 3 interceptions. This was a matchup at home that BC was expected to win and it will take more to get them out of the cellar here. The Eagles, at home, get a Virginia Tech team looking to rebound after their primetime loss to Clemson.