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ACC Power Rankings - Week 5

Making sense of the conference after a strong weekend against out of conference opponents

NCAA Football: Clemson at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Another crazy week of college football is in the books. Around the country, it seemed like every other game came down to the wire, from Utah’s Friday night comeback against USC and UNC’s last second score against Pitt to the bizarre ending of LSU-Auburn that ended with Les Miles unemployed. Through it all, the ACC came out standing tall, going 8-0 against non-conference opponents. A week like that made it harder than usual to make sense of the bottom of the conference, but ACC Chaos hasn’t stopped the Power Rankings yet. Let’s see how the conference stacks up after the first month of the season.

Tier 1: National Contenders

1 - Louisville Cardinals (4-0, 2-0) LW: 1

Another week, another outstanding game for Lamar Jackson. This week, the early Heisman front-runner threw for a career-high 417 yards and 5 touchdowns while adding another 2 trips to the endzone on the ground. His stiffest test of the season will come in primetime Saturday in Death Valley against Brent Venables and the Clemson defense.

Last week: defeated Marshall 59-28
This week: Saturday, 8:00 PM at Clemson

2 - Clemson Tigers (4-0, 1-0) LW: 2

After ending their Bobby Dodd losing streak on Thursday, Clemson turned their attention to the battle for ACC supremacy this weekend. Louisville will be, by far, the best test of this Tigers team on both sides of the ball. The offense will need to show they can produce at the level they did last year, while the defense will need to continue their performance against a higher level of competition.

Last week: defeated Georgia Tech 26-7
This week: Saturday, 8:00 PM vs Louisville

Tier 2: Conference Contenders

3 - Florida State Seminoles (3-1, 0-1) LW: 3

Florida State showed that they can still score in bunches, getting up on South Florida early and running the Bulls up and down the field en route to a 20 point win. South Florida is a good team, but FSU shut them down through the air, outside of a long touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage. After losing to Louisville, the ‘Noles are behind the 8-ball but don’t count them out just yet.

Last week: defeated South Florida 55-35
This week: Saturday, 3:30 PM vs North Carolina

4 - Miami Hurricanes (3-0, 0-0) LW: 4

Miami had a week off to celebrate their victory over Appalachian State and begin preparations for Georgia Tech’s unique brand of option football. Clemson gave them some good tape on how to defend the Jackets, now they just have to pull it off.

Last week: BYE
This week: Saturday, 12:00 PM at Georgia Tech

5 - Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1, 1-0) LW: 7

Virginia Tech looks legit. The Hokies, behind another great performance from QB Jerod Evans, stifled an East Carolina team that has given ACC teams fits over the past several season. Justin Fuente’s offense and Bud Foster’s defense are combining to create a team in Blacksburg that is downright scary.

Last week: defeated East Carolina 54-17
This week: BYE (at North Carolina Oct 8)

6 - North Carolina Tar Heels (3-1, 1-0) LW: 6

Star RB Elijah Hood was almost completely shut down and yet North Carolina was able to come away with a win over division rival Pittsburgh. QB Mitch Trubisky stepped up and showed that he is every bit the player Marquise Williams was, shredding a weak Pitt secondary. The Tar Heels have their issues (run defense) but they look like they’ll be able to score on just about anyone. Florida State will be a good test for their offense.

Last week: defeated Pittsburgh 37-36
This week: Saturday, 3:30 PM at Florida State

7 - Pittsburgh Panthers (2-2, 0-1) LW: 5

Pitt’s secondary is a problem. The run defense looks very good, but through four games, the Panthers’ pass defense is the second worst in the country, giving up 361 yards per game (side note - Arizona State is miles behind Pitt for the worst, giving up over 400 yards per game). Their running game is good enough to let Pitt control the clock and stay in games, but they’ll have a hard time competing in the Coastal if they don’t improve soon.

Last week: loss at North Carolina 36-37
This week: Saturday, 7:30 PM vs Marshall

Tier 3: Bowl Contenders

8 - Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-0, 1-0) LW: 10

Wake Forest is undefeated going into October and I have no idea where to put them in these Power Rankings. I feel like I would pick NC State and Georgia Tech over Wake on a neutral field, but the Deacons now have two road wins against Power 5 teams under their belt and that can’t be ignored. Their defense has been stout so far, but they have several big tests left in conference play.

Last week: defeated Indiana 33-28
This week: Saturday, 3:30 PM at NC State

9 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-1, 1-1) LW: 8

Georgia Tech doesn’t have much time to lick their wounds after getting flattened by Clemson last Thursday. This week, Mark Richt makes his return to Bobby Dodd with a high powered offense and the best scoring defense in the nation. The Yellow Jackets need to show some sort of improvement if they want to have any chance at making a run in 2016.

Last week: loss vs Clemson 7-26
This week: Saturday, 12:00 PM vs Miami

10 - North Carolina State Wolfpack (2-1, 0-0) LW: 9

The Wolfpack were off last week as the prepare to go into their conference schedule. October is a bit of brutal month for NC State. First up is a more important than expected date with upstart Wake Forest, followed by a visit from a struggling but talented Notre Dame team. They wrap up the month with back-to-back visits to conference elites Clemson and Louisville. If they can go 2-2 on the month, that will set them up well down the stretch.

Last week: BYE
This week: Saturday, 3:30 PM vs Wake Forest

11 - Duke Blue Devils (2-2, 0-1) LW: 13

Beating Notre Dame in South Bend was a monumental win for a young Duke team. That said, it may say more about the state of Notre Dame and the Irish defense than it says about Duke. This team still lost to Northwestern and Wake Forest. I’ll be interested to see how they handle this success in a game they should win at home against Virginia.

Last week: defeated Notre Dame 38-35
This week: Saturday, 12:30 PM vs Virginia

Tier 4: The Basement

12 - Boston College Eagles (2-2, 0-2) LW: 11

The Boston College defense recovered this week and completely shut down a lesser opponent. The Eagles offense still doesn’t look great but they should still be able to dominate Buffalo this weekend. Once they get back into the ACC schedule...we’ll see.

Last week: defeated Wagner 42-10
This week: Saturday, 1:00 PM vs Buffalo

13 - Syracuse Orange (2-2, 0-1) LW: 12

A player that is slipping under the national radar this season is Syracuse Senior WR Amba Etta-Tawo. Etta-Tawo had 938 yards over his first three seasons with the Orange. Through four games this season Etta-Tawo already has 706 yards. There’s no doubt that Dino Babers’ offense is a high-volume passing offense but Etta-Tawo has still been spectacular this season.

Last week: defeated Connecticut 31-24
This week: Saturday, 12:00 PM vs Notre Dame, in East Rutherford, NJ

14 - Virginia Cavaliers (1-3, 0-0) LW: 14

Bronco Mendenhall picked up his first win as head coach in Charlottesville defeating Central Michigan in a roller coaster of a game. Virginia went up 28-0, let the Chippewas come back and tie the game, then ran off 3 consecutive fourth quarter touchdown drives to put the game away.

Last week: defeated Central Michigan 49-35
This week: Saturday, 12:30 PM at Duke