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ACC Football Power Rankings: Week 4

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After a week off, our weekly checkup on the Atlantic Coast Conference returns.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Louisville
Kelly Bryant (2) scores a TD against Louisville in Clemson’s win over the Cardinals.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Weeks: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 (No Ranking - Hurricane Irma)

Like many programs in the ACC, our weekly ACC Power Rankings series was sidelined last week in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Thankfully, while some areas were worse off than others, the storm was not as devastating as originally predicted and we can (conscience-free) get back to doing what we do best around here: talking ACC football. And, without doing rankings in 2 weeks, there were plenty of changes to take into account. Let’s get to it.

ACC Power Rankings

1. Clemson Tigers (3-0, 1-0 ACC) (Last Week: 1)

Last week: at #14 Louisville Cardinals (2-1) - W 47-21

Next week: vs. Boston College Eagles (1-2)

In a game that took center stage for the ACC (and the nation) in Week 3, Clemson won handily over Louisville. The Tiger defense largely held reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson in check until garbage time, finding a way to slow Jackson down on the ground and forcing him to beat them with his arm. The Clemson offense was equally as impressive, as QB Kelly Bryant outplayed Jackson to the tune of 300 yards passing and 3 combined TD’s through the air and on the ground. Clemson has the look of a complete team through 3 weeks, and with two victories over top 15 opponents (Louisville, Auburn) they are firmly entrenched in the College Football Playoff picture. The ACC favorite takes on the lowly BC Eagles next week in what is likely to be an easy win before taking on Virginia Tech in 2 weeks in a rematch of last season’s ACC Championship game.

2. Florida State Seminoles (0-1, 0-0 ACC) (Last Week: 2)

Last week: vs. #17 Miami Hurricanes (1-0) - PPD

This week: vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack (2-1)

The Seminoles have taken the past 2 weeks off due to complications from Hurricane Irma and those postponements were a welcome sight for head coach Jimbo Fisher, who will be getting a true freshman QB ready to start this weekend after the season ending injury to Deondre Francois. James Blackman has now had 3 weeks to digest that he is the starting QB for Florida State football, and we’ll see if that extra prep time has paid off against a tough NC State Wolfpack team that always seems to give Florida State trouble.

3. Miami Hurricanes (1-0, 0-0 ACC) (Last Week: 3)

Last week: at #11 Florida State Seminoles (0-1) - PPD

Next week: vs. Toledo Rockets (3-0)

Like FSU, Miami has also had the past 2 weekends off thanks to Hurricane Irma and UM has resumed practice in Orlando while the school is shut down in the hurricane’s aftermath. The Canes will finally continue their season against the high-flying aerial attack of the Toledo Rockets this weekend, in what should be a stiff test for Miami’s rebuilt secondary.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies (3-0, 0-0 ACC) (Last Week: 5)

Last week: vs. East Carolina Pirates (0-3) - W 64-17

Next week: vs. Old Dominion Monarchs (2-1)

The Hokies had a bit of a scare when East Carolina leapt out to a 17-7 first quarter lead this weekend, but Virginia Tech responded with 57 unanswered points to close out the game in their win over the Pirates. QB Josh Jackson threw for five touchdowns in the rout and it appears the VT offense will be as explosive as ever this season despite the loss of some key personnel. The undefeated Hokies wrap-up their non-conference slate at home against Old Dominion on Saturday.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at East Carolina
VT QB Josh Jackson (17).
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

5. Louisville Cardinals (2-1, 1-1 ACC) (Last Week: 4)

Last week: vs. #3 Clemson Tigers (3-0) - L 21-47

Next week: vs. Kent State Golden Flashes (1-2)

It was a valiant effort, but the Cardinals were exposed by a more talented from top-to-bottom Clemson team over the weekend. Louisville just didn’t have the horses to keep up with the Tigers and Lamar Jackson couldn’t save them this time after being corralled most of the game. While they may not be a consistently elite team, this Louisville squad with Jackson can beat any team in the nation on any given Saturday, and that keeps them in the top 5 of the ACC. The Cardinals look to get back on track against Kent State this week.

6. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-1, 0-0 ACC) (Last Week: 6)

Last week: at Central Florida Golden Knights (1-0) - PPD

Next week: vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (1-2)

GT was the third ACC team affected by Hurricane Irma last weekend, as their bout with UCF was postponed. Yellow Jackets QB Taquon Marshall will look to have a field day against a struggling Pitt defense this weekend in Georgia Tech’s ACC opener.

7. N.C. State Wolfpack (2-1, 0-0 ACC) (Last Week: 7)

Last Week: vs. Furman Paladins (0-3) - W 49-16

Next Week: at #12 Florida State Seminoles (0-1)

The Wolfpack spent last Saturday beating down FCS Furman. QB Ryan Finley has taken his play under center to the next level in 2017 and he has been one of the most efficient passers in the nation so far, passing for 300+ yards per game, hitting on 75% of his throws, and adding in a 6-0 TD-INT Ratio for good measure. Many picked NC State as a darkhorse to win the ACC and their matchup with FSU on Saturday will tell us just how close the Wolfpack are to fulfilling that promise. NC State has traditionally given the Seminoles fits and Finley will need to be on his “A-game” next week in Tallahassee against an aggressive Seminoles defense.

8. Duke Blue Devils (3-0, 0-0 ACC) (Last Week: 12)

Last week: vs. Baylor Bears (0-3) - W 34-20

Next week: at North Carolina Tar Heels (1-2)

The Blue Devils have been one of the more surprising teams in the ACC this year, starting 3-0 with 2 wins coming over Power 5 opponents (Baylor, Northwestern). And all that despite an uneven start from QB Daniel Jones. The Blue Devil running game has been dominant so far, averaging over 240 yards per game going into their annual grudge match against longtime rival UNC.

NCAA Football: Baylor at Duke
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe embraces Baylor head coach Matt Rhule after the Blue Devils defeated the Bears.
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-0, 1-0 ACC) (Last Week: 9)

Last week: vs. Utah State Aggies (1-2) - W 46-10

Next week: at Appalachian State Mountaineers (2-1)

Wake Forest may have finally found an offense and that is very good news because their defense has remained stout. The Demon Deacons have averaged over 40 PPG in 2017 behind a well-balanced attack and have won all three of their contests by a comfortable margin. Could we be seeing the beginnings of a special season from Wake Forest? The Demon Deacons will face their first big test of the year on the road at App State this weekend and we’ll find out a lot more about this intriguing team then.

10. Syracuse Orange (2-1, 0-0 ACC) (Last Week: 11)

Last week: vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (2-1) - W 41-17

Next week: at #25 Louisiana State Tigers (2-1)

The Orange used their usual offensive barrage to take down previously undefeated Central Michigan on Saturday. QB Eric Dungey led the way with 200+ yards passing, 100+ yards rushing, and 3 total touchdowns on a day where Syracuse compiled nearly 600 yards of offense against the overmatched Chippewas. Head coach Dino Babers and the Orange get a chance to make a statement this weekend, going to Baton Rouge to take on the very vulnerable #25 LSU Tigers, who are still reeling from getting worked by Mississippi State last weekend.

11. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-2, 0-1 ACC) (Last Week: 10)

Last week: vs. Old Dominion Monarchs (2-1) - W 53-23

Next week: vs. Duke Blue Devils (3-0)

UNC got off the schneid a bit last week, easily handling Old Dominion for their first win of the season. It looks like Chazz Surratt has run away with the QB job at least for now, which is a very good thing for Tar Heels Nation because everyone and their mother outside of Chapel Hill knew Brandon Harris wasn’t the answer. The running game also showed signs of life against the Monarchs, contributing 250 yards and 6 touchdowns to the cause. UNC’s biggest issue is still their defense but they will look to regain some ground in the Coastal division when they face arch-rival Duke next week.

12. Pittsburgh Panthers (1-2, 0-0 ACC) (Last Week: 8)

Last week: vs. #9 Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-0) - L 21-59

Next week: at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-1)

There really are not many words to describe just how bad the Panthers have looked through 3 weeks of the young college football season. After being taken to overtime by FCS Youngstown State, Pitt was absolutely demolished by Penn State and Oklahoma State. The 59-21 final score this weekend wasn’t even indicative of how wide the gap was between the Panthers and Cowboys; Pitt was lucky to recover a poorly snapped Oklahoma State punt in the endzone for a free touchdown, and Cowboys star QB Mason Rudolph was pulled just after halftime... after he threw for 423 yards and 5 TD’s in THE FIRST HALF. Pitt’s secondary is a mess and now they may have a quarterback controversy on their hands. One thing is for sure: QB Max Browne is not the answer after averaging 5.1 yards per pass attempt through 3 games.

Pittsburgh v Penn State
Panthers QB Max Browne loses his helmet, and possibly his starting job.
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

13. Boston College Eagles (1-2, 0-1 ACC) (Last Week: 13)

Last week: vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-1) - L 20-49

Next week: at #2 Clemson Tigers (3-0)

BC was run out of the stadium by Notre Dame this weekend, literally. Irish running back Josh Adams hustled for over 200 yards on his own, while ND racked up a whopping 515 yards on the ground total on a once proud BC defense. The Eagles showed they still have a long way to go to be competitive against even decent teams under head coach Steve Addazio, but Addazio may not get that much more of a leash in year 5. BC will need a miracle to even hang close with #2 Clemson this weekend.

14. Virginia Cavaliers (2-1, 0-0 ACC) (Last Week: 14)

Last week: vs. Connecticut Huskies (1-1) - W 38-18

Next week: at Boise State Broncos (2-1)

Props to the Cavaliers, who rocked the Connecticut Huskies this weekend in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Virginia was up 31-6 midway through the 4th quarter and coasting to victory before a couple of garbage time TD’s by UCONN ran up the score a bit. Still, the Cavs have already matched their win total from all of last year and may have taken a baby step forward in Bronco Mendenhall’s second year. What will it take to get them out of the depths of the ACC Power Rankings though? A strong showing against a quality opponent or another complete Boston College collapse, both of which could come this weekend.