Two weeks into the 2017 season and the ACC is still somewhat difficult to sort out. The top is pretty clear, as Clemson has rode a dominating defense to a 2-0 start and a spot in the heart of the playoff conversation. Beyond that there’s still a lot of question marks. The preseason division favorites are both in the middle of a double bye week in the wake of Hurricane Irma (from a native Floridian - best wishes to our friends and family members at Florida State, Miami, and throughout the Sunshine State. Stay safe!) making it difficult to evaluate either team, especially with new QBs at the helm. The reigning Heisman winner is putting up video game numbers but has no pass defense to speak of. A dark horse contender may be emerging in the Coastal. Then there’s the bottom of the conference which could be as bad as it has been in some time. There’s still a long way to go but here’s how I stack up the ACC headed into the third weekend.
1. Clemson Tigers (2-0, 0-0) Last Week: 1
New QB Kelly Bryant faced his first real test in the Auburn Tigers and, if he didn’t quite ace it, he definitely passed. Bryant was a fairly efficient 19/29 for 181 yards through the air and another 59 and 2 TDs on the ground. Clemson’s offense probably won’t reach the heights of the last couple of seasons but they’ll be fine. Their defense looks like it’s going to be elite. That defensive line is insanely good and is going to cause all kinds of problems for opposing offenses.
Last Week: defeated Auburn 14-6
This Week: Saturday, 8:00 pm at Louisville (ABC)
2. Florida State Seminoles (0-1, 0-0) LW: 2
Florida State’s game against Louisiana-Monroe was cancelled due to travel concerns from Hurricane Irma. With their scheduled game against Miami postponed it will be three weeks between games by the time they take the field against NC State on September 23rd.
Last Week: game against Louisiana-Monroe cancelled
This Week: game against Miami postponed to October 7th
3. Virginia Tech Hokies (2-0, 0-0) LW: 3
Bud Foster’s Defense and a bit of Beamer-ball led the way for the Hokies against the Blue Hens. Delaware’s offense was ill suited to deal with Virginia Tech, struggling to get much of anything done. Much the same could have been said of the Virginia Tech offense for much of the game. The Hokies didn’t score a touchdown on offense until there were about two minutes left in the first half. The run game, in particular, left a lot to be desired as VT averaged under 3 yards per carry.
Last Week: defeated Delaware 27-0
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 pm at East Carolina (CBSSN)
4. Miami Hurricanes (1-0, 0-0) LW: 4
Similar to Florida State, Miami will have gone three weeks between games by the time they take the field against Toledo on September 23rd.
Last Week: game against Arkansas State cancelled
This Week: game against Florida State postponed to October 7th
5. Louisville Cardinals (2-0, 1-0) LW: 5
This just in! Lamar Jackson - good at football. Louisville’s QB put up 525 total yards and 6 TDs to lead his Cardinals over North Carolina. After basically being a one man show last week against Purdue, Jackson had a bit of help from RB Malik Williams, who more than doubled his career rushing total by putting up 149 rushing yards on just 13 carries. The Cardinals’ defense was a mixed bag. On one hand, they held North Carolina to 17 rushing yards (after holding Purdue to 51). On the other, Brandon Harris threw all over their secondary. Clemson will be a massive test for the Cardinals on both sides of the ball.
Last Week: defeated North Carolina 47-35
This Week: Saturday, 8:00 pm vs Clemson (ABC)
6. Duke Blue Devils (2-0, 0-0) LW: 8
Duke might be on the verge of moving from Coastal Dark Horse to an outright Coastal contender. The Blue Devils tore apart an experienced Northwestern defense and completely shut down the Wildcats’ offense, including last year’s Big Ten rushing leader, Justin Jackson. QB Daniel Jones was excellent, totaling 413 yards and 4 TDs. We’ll have to see how good Northwestern ends up being before we know how big of a test this was but, for now, the Dukies look legit.
Last Week: defeated Northwestern 41-17
This Week: Saturday, 12:30 pm vs Baylor (RSN Affiliates)
7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-1, 0-0) LW: 6
The Yellow Jackets struggled to get going against Jacksonville State on short rest but, thanks to an opportunistic defense, were able to pull away for the win. The run game sputtered after torching Tennessee’s defense a few days earlier. Outside of freshman BB Jerry Howard’s long TD run, Tech averaged just 3 yards per carry. Luckily, TaQuon Marshall and Ricky Jeune were able to connect for a pair of touchdowns to lead the offense.
Last Week: defeated Jacksonville State 37-10
This Week: Saturday, 7:30 pm at UCF (ESPNEWS)
8. NC State Wolfpack (1-1, 0-0) LW: 7
The Wolfpack shook off a slow start, exploding for 20 points in the last 5 and a half minutes of the first half to pull away from Marshall. One of the bigger surprises in the first couple of weeks has been the struggles of NC State’s defense. What was supposed to be a strong unit gave up 35 points to South Carolina and 451 yards to Marshall. The good news is the offense has been really, really good behind QB Ryan Finley (29/36 341 yards 3 TDs).
Last Week: defeated Marshall 37-20
This Week: Saturday, 12:20 pm vs Furman (ACC Network)
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-0, 1-0) LW: 10
Wake Forest’s win at Boston College was something of a statement for a team trying to prove they’re more of a mid-tier ACC team and less of a cellar dweller. The Deacons were able to move the ball pretty consistently against the Eagles’ defense while their own defense forced several turnovers they were able to turn into points. John Wolford seems to have the starting job secured and was efficient on the ground and in the air.
Last Week: defeated Boston College 34-10
This Week: Saturday, 3:00 pm vs Utah State (ACC Network Extra)
10. Pittsburgh Panthers (1-1, 0-0) LW: 11
The bottom of the ACC could be pretty bad this year and any of the following five teams could be in that bottom tier. Outside of Qadree Ollison’s running it’s hard to say what the Panthers did well against Penn State. QB Max Browne has been less than impressive through two starts and was removed from the game after throwing a pair of interceptions and suffering a minor injury. The backup, Ben Dinucci, was solid but the game was out of reach by the time he entered. Pitt’s defense has also really struggled since the second half of their game against Youngstown State. Going up against Oklahoma State isn’t likely to help defensive problems.
Last Week: lost to Penn State 14-33
This Week: Saturday, 12:00 pm vs Oklahoma State (ESPN)
11. North Carolina Tar Heels (0-2, 0-1) LW: 12
Through two weeks it seems pretty safe to say that the Tar Heels are going to be an entertaining team. They’re going to score points but they’re going to give up a whole lot of them too. Besides the defense, the main point of concern for UNC is their ground game, which has been particularly ineffective (23 carries, 17 yards vs Louisville). We’ll have to see how far throwing the ball can get Carolina this year.
Last Week: lost to Louisville 35-47
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 pm at Old Dominion
12. Syracuse Orange (1-1, 0-0) LW: 9
A home loss to Middle Tennessee is a significant road block in Dino Babers’ second year at Syracuse. The Blue Raiders aren’t a bad team but this was still a game the Orange needed to win. Syracuse’s passing game is normally pretty consistent but MTSU managed to really limit QB Eric Dungey, holding him to 180 yards and an interception. They need to get back on track this week against Central Michigan before heading into the teeth of their schedule.
Last Week: lost to Middle Tennessee 23-30
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 pm vs Central Michigan (ACC Network Extra)
13. Boston College (1-1, 0-1) LW: 13
Saturday’s home loss to Wake Forest was really disappointing for Boston College and reopened the QB Battle that looked to be solved after week 1. Freshman Anthony Brown was an ineffective 11/29 for just 119 yards, 1 TD, and 3 INT before getting removed for Darius Wade, who was slightly better in garbage time. More concerning is the defense giving up 34 points to a good-not-great Wake Forest offense. If the defense isn’t elite, it’s hard to see how BC wins games.
Last Week: lost to Wake Forest 10-34
This Week: Saturday, 3:30 pm vs Notre Dame (ESPN)
14. Virginia Cavaliers (1-1, 0-0) LW: 14
Virginia is yet another team that is really struggling to get things going on offense. Against Indiana, the Wahoos ran the ball at a 2.2 yard per carry clip, while QB Kurt Benkert needed 66 attempts to hit 259 yards through the air. The Cavaliers defense gave up a big day to Indiana’s redshirt freshman QB, Peyton Ramsey, who was seeing his first collegiate action. Indiana will probably be solid this season but there wasn’t a lot for UVA to hang their hats on Saturday.
Last Week: lost to Indiana 17-34
This Week: Saturday, 12:00 pm vs Connecticut (ESPN2)