Another week of ACC football is in the books and it’s time yet again to reevaluate the ACC hierarchy. It was a week where statements were made, with Virginia Tech hanging 7 touchdowns on a supposedly tough defense, Miami making everyone calling for their upset look silly, Georgia Tech dominate an SEC opponent, and Louisville demolish a National Championship contender. Without further ado, here are your Week 4 Power Rankings.
Tier 1: National Contenders
1 – Louisville Cardinals (3-0, 2-0) LW: 3
Last week, I said that Louisville had a chance to make a statement against FSU and they did that and then some. The Cardinals are the real deal on both sides of the ball. Their defense made Florida State’s offense, which had been locked in over the previous 6 quarters, look absolutely pedestrian. Oh, and that Lamar Jackson kid is pretty good.
Last week: defeated Florida State 63-20
This week: Saturday, 8:00 PM at Marshall
2 – Clemson Tigers (3-0, 0-0) LW: 2
Louisville may be the flavor of the week in the ACC, but the Tigers are still lurking. After two lackluster performances to open the season, Clemson dropped the hammer on an FCS opponent in exactly the manner a National Title contender should. Deshaun Watson looked like a Heisman contender should, Wayne Gallman was efficient in limited action, and their defense held South Carolina State to a hair over 100 yards of offense. It was just South Carolina State, but it was reassuring for Tigers fans to see 2016 Clemson look like 2015 Clemson.
Last week: defeated South Carolina State 59-0
This week: Thursday, 7:30 PM at Georgia Tech
Tier 2: Conference Contenders
3 – Florida State Seminoles (2-1, 0-1) LW: 1
Yikes. I don’t think there was anyone that predicted that Louisville would run Florida State out of the stadium like they did Saturday. Florida State still has as much talent as anyone in the conference, so it’s probably too early to count them out of the race, but their youth on offense showed against the Cardinals and the importance of Derwin James to the Seminoles defense can’t be overstated. The ‘Noles are still a really good team, but they’ll need to right the ship quickly. South Florida is no joke and the Bulls would love to pull an upset.
Last week: loss at Louisville 20-63
This week: Saturday, 12:00 PM at South Florida
Before I get to the Coastal teams, a quick note. The five teams at the top of the Coastal division are so close right now that sorting them out is basically a matter of personal preference. Ask me again tomorrow, and I might put these teams in a different order. In fact, I nearly flipped a couple teams while I was editing this post. That said, I think I’m happy with this order after three weeks.
4 – Miami Hurricanes (3-0, 0-0) LW: 6
Appalachian State may be a Sun Belt team, but they won 10 games last year and took a very talented Tennessee team to the wire in Week 1. They’re a good football team, which makes Miami’s demolishing of them on their home turf all the more impressive. The Hurricanes haven’t faced a team that can match their talent level yet, but they’ve blown out everyone they’ve faced. Brad Kaaya looks as good as ever and they may just have found a run game behind Mark Walton. Miami is dangerous and, for now, I think they’re the Coastal favorites.
Last week: defeated Appalachian State 45-10
This week: BYE (at Georgia Tech Oct 1)
5 – Pittsburgh Panthers (2-1, 0-0) LW: 4
What’s going on with Pitt’s defense? The unit that was supposed to be the strength of this Panthers’ team has been lit up each of the past two weeks. The Panthers gave up over 600 yards to the Cowboys this weekend, following up a performance where they gave up over 400 to Penn State. The good news is that the running game looks pretty strong behind James Conner and Quadree Henderson, but the defense, and particularly the pass defense, needs to improve for Pitt to make a run at the Coastal.
Last week: loss at Oklahoma State 38-45
This week: Saturday, 3:30 pm at North Carolina
6 – North Carolina Tar Heels (2-1, 0-0) LW: 5
North Carolina’s matchup against Pitt this weekend will go a long way towards establishing some sort of hierarchy in the Coastal. Thus far, both teams have looked pretty impressive on offense while leaving a lot to be desired on the other side of the ball. I think Pitt is a little more likely to find a defense, but the game is in Chapel Hill. Definitely one to watch on Saturday.
Last week: defeated James Madison 56-28
This week: Saturday, 3:30 pm vs Pittsburgh
7 – Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1, 1-0) LW: 7
If this is what the Virginia Tech offense is going to look like when they don’t fumble the ball five times, look out. The Hokies dominated the vaunted Boston College defense with a very balanced attack – 253 yards through the air and 223 yards on the ground. Jerod Evans played really well and looks like the answer to the recent QB woes in Blacksburg.
Last week: defeated Boston College 49-0
This week: Saturday, 12:30 pm vs East Carolina
8 – Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-0, 1-0) LW: 8
Keeping Georgia Tech this low may ruffle some feathers and a good showing on Thursday night could rocket them up these power rankings, but I’m keeping the Yellow Jackets at the back of the Coastal pack for now. The offense is rolling along on all cylinders and the run defense has quietly been pretty good so far. That said, for all the talk about the Boston College and Vanderbilt defenses (and after this weekend, there has to be at least some question about both units), Georgia Tech hasn’t faced a good team yet. That will change on Thursday.
Last week: defeated Vanderbilt 38-7
This week: Thursday, 7:30 pm vs Clemson
Tier 3: Bowl Contenders
9 – North Carolina State Wolfpack (2-1, 0-0) LW: 9
The Wolfpack rebounded from a tough loss against East Carolina by drubbing Old Dominion. The offense again looked very good, with starting QB Ryan Finley going 24/28 and backup QB Jalan McClendon scoring 3 touchdowns in a Matthew Jordan-like goal line QB role. The defense also was much improved, giving up most of the Monarchs’ yards in garbage time. State will take a week to rest up and then start ACC play against Wake Forest. Speaking of…
Last week: defeated Old Dominion 49-22
This week: BYE (vs Wake Forest Oct 1)
10 – Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-0, 1-0) LW: 12
The Demon Deacons came out and dominated a lesser opponent in game that was not as close as the score might indicate. Wake Forest’s defense absolutely shut down Delaware, holding the Blue Hens under 100 yards of total offense. The offense was productive, if a bit sloppy, with two turnovers deep in their own territory. We’ll have to see where they fare against the bottom half of the Atlantic, but a bowl trip is not out of the question for Wake Forest.
Last week: defeated Delaware 38-21
This week: Saturday, 3:30 pm at Indiana
Tier 4: Pretenders
11 – Boston College Eagles (1-2, 0-2) LW: 10
Last year, the most points an opponent scored on Boston College was Clemson’s 34 points. Virginia Tech added two touchdowns to that. If Boston College’s defense can’t keep them in games, they’re not going to win. After Patrick Towles looked pretty good for two weeks, he laid an egg in Blacksburg, going 9/28 for only 80 yards. RB Jon Hilliman hasn’t been much better. If you take away his 73 yard run against Georgia Tech in Ireland, Hilliman is averaging 1.7 yards per carry. That’s not great.
Last week: loss at Virginia Tech 0-49
This week: Saturday, 1:00 pm vs Wagner
12 – Syracuse Orange (1-2, 0-1) LW: 11
One defense that is definitely bad is the Syracuse defense. As I mentioned in the Florida State segment, South Florida is a good team, but Syracuse was unable to stop the Bulls’ attack. If Syracuse is going to go bowling, they’ll offense is going to need to outscore teams. Against USF, the Orange offense was able to pile up yards, outgaining the Bulls by nearly 100 yards, but costly turnovers and other mistakes kept them off the scoreboard. If Syracuse can clean up the mistakes, they could still make some noise.
Last week: loss vs South Florida 20-45
This week: Saturday, 1:00 pm at Connecticut
13 – Duke Blue Devils (1-2, 0-1) LW: 13
I wasn’t expecting much out of Duke this season, but I’m surprised they’ve been as bad as they have over the past two weeks. This week, they went on the road to play a very unimpressive Northwestern team and came away with a loss. We’ll have to see if David Cutcliffe can round the Blue Devils into shape as the season progresses, but it doesn’t look very good right now.
Last week: loss at Northwestern 13-24
This week: Saturday, 3:30 pm at Notre Dame
14 – Virginia Cavaliers (0-3, 0-0) LW: 14
It has been a particularly rough start of the season in Charlottesville. A week after traveling out west to face Oregon, the Hoos traveled to UConn and lost when a game tying field goal attempt from a walk-on kicker who had never kicked in a football game at any level missed a short kick. Just another heartbreaker for Virginia.
Last week: loss at Connecticut 10-13
This week: Saturday, 12:30 pm vs Central Michigan