Just like last season, the ACC is already showing their depth in 2017. NC State upset #12 Florida State at Tallahassee, while Boston College gave the #2 Clemson Tigers a run for their money before folding late. Not expected to do much this season, Duke and Wake Forest are undefeated at 4-0, yet still sit in the second half of our ACC Power Rankings, while usual doormat Virginia is 3-1 and out here on the road knocking off big favorites. It looks like it’s going to be another banner year for ACC football and this week kicks off the first full slate of in-conference matchups that has the potential to really shakeup the Championship race.
ACC Power Rankings
1. Clemson Tigers (4-0, 2-0 ACC) (Last Week: 1)
Last week: vs. Boston College Eagles (1-3) - W 34-7
Next week: at #12 Virginia Tech Hokies (4-0)
The Tigers seemed to take BC lightly early-on, and the Eagles made them pay for their indifference, forcing 2 Kelly Bryant interceptions and taking a 7-7 tie into the 4th quarter to put the fear of god into Clemson fans. From there, though, it was all Clemson, as they scored 27 straight points (all on rushing TD’s) to pull away from BC, averting what would have been a catastrophic upset, especially at home. Clemson will have to wake up earlier in the game this week if they hope to hang on to the ACC’s pole position, as Virginia Tech surely won’t be as forgiving as the Eagles.
2. Miami Hurricanes (2-0, 0-0 ACC) (Last Week: 3)
Last week: vs. Toledo Rockets (3-1) - W 52-30
Next week: at Duke Blue Devils (4-0)
It was an up-and-down return to football for the Canes on Saturday after the drama of Hurricane Irma. Two huge runs from UM RB Mark Walton had Miami up 10-0 early, but the Hurricanes allowed Toledo to creep back into the game and went into half down 16-10 to the Rockets. The Canes exploded in the second half though, scoring 28 unanswered points on their way to a comfortable win in front of the home crowd. New QB Malik Rosier has played better than many expected through 2 games, however, Miami’s secondary continues to be exposed and there doesn’t seem to be any quick fixes. The last line of defense could end up being the achilles heel for an otherwise loaded team as the Canes go into a tough road matchup against undefeated Duke.
3. Virginia Tech Hokies (4-0, 0-0 ACC) (Last Week: 4)
Last week: vs. Old Dominion Monarchs (2-2) - W 38-0
Next week: vs. #2 Clemson Tigers (4-0)
The Hokies blanked Old Dominion for their second shutout of the season on Saturday. QB Josh Jackson has been a revelation under center for VT and he passed for 298 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Monarchs, while WR Cam Phillips continues to look like one of the best receivers in the nation. Justin Fuente’s exciting offense will face it’s first stout defense of the season when Clemson comes to town this week in a rematch of last season’s ACC Championship game.
4. Louisville Cardinals (3-1, 1-1 ACC) (Last Week: 5)
Last week: vs. Kent State Golden Flashes (1-3) - W 42-3
Next week: vs. Murray State Racers (1-3)
Louisville’s defense finally stepped up to help out star QB Lamar Jackson, as the Cardinals’ stop-unit held the Kent State offense to 150 yards total and only 11 yards passing. Jackson went for 299 through the air and 3 combined TD’s before taking the 4th quarter off in the blowout victory. Louisville feasts on another cupcake next week, this time bringing FCS Murray State into town.
5. N.C. State Wolfpack (3-1, 1-0 ACC) (Last Week: 7)
Last Week: at #12 Florida State Seminoles (0-2) - W 27-21
Next Week: vs. Syracuse Orange (2-2)
Dave Doeren and his Wolfpack team walked into Doak Campbell Stadium and left no doubt who the better team was, leading the entire game and completing the upset over the Seminoles. QB Ryan Finley has improved leaps and bounds from his time at Boise State and continually made clutch plays when NC State needed it most. H-Back Jaylen Samuels showed off his versatility, scoring touchdowns both in the air and on the ground, while also completing a 25 yard pass for good measure. Bradley Chubb and a ferocious Wolfpack D-Line set up camp in the Noles’ backfield and made their presence known to FSU true freshman QB James Blackman. Add it all up, and you get a stellar performance from everyone’s favorite ACC darkhorse. NC State looks to keep it rolling at home versus Syracuse this week.
6. Florida State Seminoles (0-2, 0-1 ACC) (Last Week: 2)
Last week: vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack (3-1) - L 21-27
This week: at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-0)
We didn’t penalize the Seminoles much for their loss to Alabama on opening weekend, but after losing an in-conference game to NC State at home, it was clear this Florida State team is not elite and had to fall in the rankings. True freshman QB James Blackman actually fared pretty well in his first career start, as he fought off some early accuracy issues to finish with 278 yards passing and 0 interceptions. The issue was settling for field goals instead of finishing drives for TD’s, as well as the Seminoles vaunted defense, which gave up 27 points to NC State and could’ve bled even more if the Wolfpack didn’t go into conservative mode in the 4th quarter. It won’t get any easier for Jimbo Fisher when his ‘Noles head on the road to face-off against a surging Wake Forest team.
7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1, 1-0 ACC) (Last Week: 6)
Last week: vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (1-3) - W 35-17
Next week: vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-3)
In a contest that was surprisingly close at halftime, Georgia Tech’s defense clamped down on the Panthers in the second half and TaQuon Marshall and the offense triple-optioned their way to victory. The top ranked rushing attack in the nation had their way with a sketchy Pitt defense and the Yellow Jackets piled up 436 yards on the ground. Marshall has executed Paul Johnson’s gameplan to perfection so far this season and GT has the feel of a team that can beat anybody when the conditions are right. They get another disappointing ACC Coastal team at home this week when UNC comes to Atlanta.
8. Duke Blue Devils (4-0, 1-0 ACC) (Last Week: 8)
Last week: at North Carolina Tar Heels (1-3) - W 27-17
Next week: vs. #14 Miami Hurricanes (2-0)
Duke used a big 4th quarter to overtake the Tar Heels and come away with a huge rivalry win to stay undefeated on the season. First, Shaun Wilson punched in a touchdown from a yard out, giving the Blue Devils a three point lead. Then, with UNC trying to drive down the field for the win, Bryon Fields Jr. intercepted Chazz Surratt and sprinted the other way for a TD to ice the game for Duke. The running game, which was a question mark coming into the season, has been Duke’s bread and butter so far in 2017. The Blue Devils have a chance to make their season REALLY interesting if they can upset Miami when they come to town on Friday night.
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-0, 1-0 ACC) (Last Week: 9)
Last week: at Appalachian State Mountaineers (2-2) - W 20-19
Next week: vs. Florida State Seminoles (0-2)
Wake Forest went on the road to Boone, NC and handled their business at App State to remain unbeaten on the season. Senior QB John Wolford has been a poor man’s Lamar Jackson this year, throwing for 169 yards per game and running for 74.5 yards per game, while accounting for 11 total touchdowns. His most important stat though? No turnovers, and Wake is #15 in the country in turnover margin. Like Duke in front of them, the Demon Deacons have a great opportunity to make their mark on the ACC this season next week as a reeling 0-2 FSU squad comes to Winston-Salem.
10. Virginia Cavaliers (3-1, 0-0 ACC) (Last Week: 14)
Last week: at Boise State Broncos (2-2)- W 42-23
Next week: BYE
Behind the country’s #17 ranked passing offense, the Cavaliers walked into Boise, Idaho a 14 point underdog, but left with a 19 point win, handing the Broncos their worst home loss since 2001. Virginia had lost 20 of its past 21 road games but it is clear this version of the Cavs is different from previous iterations. QB Kurt Benkert added 3 more touchdown passes to his ACC leading 10, and Olamide Zaccheaus busted off a 56 yarder to put the game out of reach. UVA finished their non-conference schedule 3-1 and now get a week off before heading full steam ahead into conference play.
11. Syracuse Orange (2-2, 0-0 ACC) (Last Week: 10)
Last week: at #25 Louisiana State Tigers (3-1) - L 26-35
Next week: at North Carolina State Wolfpack (3-1)
The Orange gave the Tigers quite a tussle in Baton Rouge, with Syracuse pulling within 2 points late in the 4th quarter. However, LSU WR DJ Chark scored on a run with under 2 minutes to go to bring home the win for the Tigers. Without much of a running game, Syracuse QB Eric Dungey and WR’s Steve Ishmael and Ervin Phillips had to put the load on their shoulders, hooking up 22 times for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns. Syracuse begins ACC play next week at NC State.
12. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-3, 0-2 ACC) (Last Week: 11)
Last week: vs. Duke Blue Devils (4-0) - L 17-27
Next week: at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1)
North Carolina fell to Duke in the annual rivalry showdown and not much is going right for the Tar Heels. On a positive note, Chazz Surratt seems to have made the QB position his, and accounted for 336 of UNC’S 377 total yards in their loss against the Blue Devils. The downside is that Surratt threw an inexcusable pick 6 in Duke territory late to seal the win for the Blue Devils, when a field goal would have tied up the game. Surratt’s growing pains could continue this week on the road against a resilient Georgia Tech team.
13. Pittsburgh Panthers (1-3, 0-1 ACC) (Last Week: 12)
Last week: at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1) - L 17-35
Next week: vs. Rice Owls (1-3)
Pittsburgh just looks like an overmatched and defeated team this year. They have no offensive identity, lacking a consistent ground game while switching back and forth between two mediocre QB’s. Their defense might be even worse, as they have been a sieve and sit at #115 in the country in total defense. There’s just not much more to say, but a step in a positive direction would be to get the ball to RB/WR Quadree Henderson more often. Arguably their most explosive talent, Henderson only has 19 touches through 4 games this season. If Pitt can’t get it together against the lowly Rice Owls next week, consider their season over.
14. Boston College Eagles (1-3, 0-2 ACC) (Last Week: 13)
Last week: at #2 Clemson Tigers (4-0) - L 7-34
Next week: vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (2-2)
I’ll give BC some credit: they played Clemson about as tough as they could for 3 quarters, and the defense came up huge, forcing two interceptions and allowing 7 points through 3 quarters. The Eagles just didn’t have enough on offense to complete the upset and, with Virginia’s resurgence, end up falling into the ACC basement. While BC has a solid ground game, QB Anthony Brown has been terrible, throwing 7 interceptions in only 4 games so far this season, along with an astonishingly bad 4.7 yards per attempt. The Eagles need a big win against Central Michigan this week if they hope to stay bowl relevant.