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2018 ACC Weekly Power Rankings: Coastal Statements

A pair of Coastal Contenders separate from the pack after big wins

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In 2018, the ACC Atlantic has always had Clemson as a heavy favorite but through the early part of the season, the Coastal Favorite has been a bit harder to find. Everyone assumed it would be Miami, only to see them get smoked by LSU on National TV in Week 1. Then Virginia Tech smoked Florida State but Florida State ended up being bad and Virginia Tech got beat by Old Dominion. For a time some, including this writer, talked themselves into Duke as a real contender for the divison. The Devils had looked good but hadn’t really been tested, until last weekend. They did not pass the test. So who’s the favorite now? Let’s take a look with this week’s ACC Power Rankings.

1 - #4 Clemson Tigers (5-0, 2-0, S&P+ #2) - Last Week: 1

It was the worst case scenario for Clemson on Saturday. With Kelly Bryant set to transfer, the Tigers were left with redshirt freshman Chase Brice to lead a fourth quarter comeback when starter Trevor Lawrence left the game after suffering a head injury. Brice, who was the 6th string QB back in January before Bryant, Hunter Johnson, Zerrick Cooper, and Tucker Israel transferred out of the program, did just that, leaning on RB Travis Etienne to drive down the field and secure the win. Lawrence should be back this week but Brice (or WR Hunter Renfrow) will need to stay ready should the blue-chipper get banged up again.

Last Week: defeated Syracuse 27-23
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm at Wake Forest (ESPN)

2 - #16 Miami Hurricanes (4-1, 1-0, S&P+ #18) - Last Week: 3b

We’re right back where we started. The Miami Hurricanes installed a new starting QB and rode 3 defensive touchdowns to an easy win against North Carolina under the Thursday night lights. In his first start and second game with significant time, N’Kosi Perry was solid (8/12 for 125 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) but he didn’t have to much against the Tar Heels. The Canes deserve this spot but I’m not going all in on them as the far-and-away Coastal favorites until we see Perry tested a little bit more. Florida State’s defense and the rivarly atmosphere could provide an opportunity this weekend.

Last Week: defeated North Carolina 47-10
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 vs Florida State (ABC)

3 - #23 NC State Wolfpack (4-0, 1-0, S&P+ #24) - Last Week: 4

The Wolfpack played a pretty complete game against Virginia last week. The passing game was as good as always but freshman RB Ricky Person Jr. gave NC State their best rushing performance of the season with 108 yards on just 14 carries. Furthermore, the Pack’s defense did a great job of limiting a potent Virginia rushing attack, holding both QB Bryce Perkins and RB Jordan Ellis under 2.5 yards per carry. All around performances like that are just what NC State needs to be a real threat in the Atlantic.

Last Week: defeated Virginia 35-21
This Week: Saturday at 12:30 pm vs Boston College (RSN)

4 - #24 Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1, 2-0, S&P+ #35) - Last Week: 7

And here are the Hokies right back in the Top 25 and near the top of these Power Rankings less than two weeks after losing to Old Dominion by two scores. What can I say? Virginia Tech looked really good on Saturday, destroying Duke behind a strong day from backup QB and Kansas transfer Ryan Willis (332 yards, 3 TDs). Before losing to ODU, Virginia Tech’s last loss to an in-state opponent was in 2010 against James Madison. The Hokies finished that season with an ACC Championship. A sign of things to come in 2018? Stay tuned.

Last Week: defeated Duke 31-14
This Week: Saturday at 8:00 pm vs #6 Notre Dame (ABC)

5 - Syracuse Orange (4-1, 1-1, S&P+ #51) - Last Week: 5

There’s no shame in Syracuse’s performance against Clemson. The Orange gave the Tigers all they could handle last week and showed some signs that they may be more for real than not. Their defense really did a good job of pressuring the Clemson quarterbacks and forced three turnovers on the day but the game was lost on the ground. Syracuse couldn’t get much going and couldn’t stop Travis Etienne. Luckily, the going gets easier this week.

Last Week: lost at #3 Clemson 23-27
This Week: Saturday at 12:20 pm at Pittsburgh (Raycom)

6 - Duke Blue Devils (4-1, 0-1, S&P+ #42) - Last Week: 3a

Daniel Jones completed his near-miraculous comeback from a broken collarbone but couldn’t quite lead Duke to victory against Virginia Tech. Jones was fine in his return (23/35, 226 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) but has had better days. He was especially limited on the ground, an area he is more productive in than most expect. Really, the Blue Devils as a whole were held in check on the ground, rushing for just 2.0 yards per carry on the day. They’ll have the ACC’s first scheduled bye week this week to continue to heal up for the remainder of the season.

Last Week: lost to Virginia Tech 14-31
This Week: BYE (Next at Georgia Tech on 10/13)

7 - Boston College Eagles (4-1, 1-0, S&P+ #45) - Last Week: 6

Boston College drops a spot in this week’s ranking but that’s more to do with Virginia Tech’s impressive performance than anything Boston College did. The Eagles took care of business against Temple on Saturday but not without a couple bumps. Most notably, star RB AJ Dillon exited the game with an ankle injury early in the third quarter after putting up 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His backup, junior Ben Glines, is listed as a WR on ESPN but put up 120 yards of his own on 23 carries. There’s no word yet on Dillon’s status for Saturday. I’m still fairly high on Boston College and if they’re going to make some noise this season, they need to knock off NC State in this weeks FTRS ACC Power Rankings Non-Georgia Tech Game of the Week.

Last Week: defeated Temple 45-35
This Week: Saturday at 12:30 pm at #23 NC State (RSN)

8 - Virginia Cavaliers (3-2, 1-1, S&P+ #46) - Last Week: 8

Virginia didn’t have a great day on Saturday but no one else really did enough to jump into the 8 spot, so we’ll keep the status quo. Olamide Zaccheaus was the only real offensive bright spot for the Cavaliers. The senior WR had 9 catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns, plus 39 yards on a pair of carries. He’s really had a great senior season and may be Virginia’s best player.

Last Week: lost to NC State 21-35
This Week: BYE (next vs #17 Miami on 10/13)

9 - Florida State Seminoles (3-2, 1-2, S&P+ #70) - Last Week: 10

Crazy as it may seem, Florida State’s win over Louisville on Saturday is probably the best win any team from 9-14 in these Power Rankings has so far this season. The Seminoles took advantage of a late Louisville mistake to complete a comeback win over the Cardinals. The Seminoles still have serious issues - they couldn’t get anything going on the ground against a lackluster Louisville defense - but they should a lot of fight in this comeback. They’ll have a chance to really get their season back on track this week in a rivalry matchup.

Last Week: defeated Louisville 28-24
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm at #17 Miami (ABC)

10 - Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-2, 0-1, S&P+ #72) - Last Week: 9

The Deacs bounced back from their blow out loss against Notre Dame to destroy Rice last Saturday. Wake Forest was up 42-3 at the half before letting off the gas a bit down the stretch. Sophomore WR Greg Dortch continued his outstanding season, grabbing 11 balls for 163 yards and four touchdowns. The competition ramps up again in a big way this weekend when the Kings of the ACC come to town.

Last Week: defeated Rice 56-24
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm vs #4 Clemson (ESPN)

11 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-3, 0-2, S&P+ #58) - Last Week: 12

Bowling Green was the perfect “Get Right” game for a struggling Yellow Jacket offense. The Falcons sport one of the worst run defenses in college football and, predictibly, didn’t fare better against GT’s ground game. The offense was nearly flawless but the defense left a bit to be desired. The Jackets will look to shake their road woes this week under the Friday Night Lights.

Last Week: defeated Bowling Green 63-17
This Week: Friday at 7:00 pm at Louisville (ESPN)

12 - Pittsburgh Panthers (2-3, 1-1, S&P+ #85) - Last Week: 11

The Panthers couldn’t stop the machine that is the UCF Knights. Pitt forced a punt on their first defensive series but that was the high point of the game for the Panthers. Pitt couldn’t slow down the Knights and struggled to move the ball consistently while racking up 125 penalty yards. It was just an all around ugly game for the Panthers who will look to bounce back against their cross-division rival this week.

Last Week: lost at UCF 14-45
This Week: Saturday at 12:20 pm vs Syracuse (Raycom)

13 - Louisville Cardinals (2-3, 0-2, S&P+ #91) - Last Week: 14

The Cardinals came this close to beating Florida State and claiming their first conference win of the season. Louisville had the ball late, up three points, with a chance to run out the clock and sieze the win. Instead Bobby Petrino called up a pass play and Jawon Pass threw the ball to a defender, giving Florida State new life. Up to that point, the Cards had looked better than they had in recent weeks. They were able to move the ball well against FSU, racking up 421 yards and going 10/19 on 3rd down. They’ll have a chance to right the ship during their annual Blackout game against Georgia Tech.

Last Week: lost to Florida State 24-28
This Week: Friday at 7:00 pm vs Georgia Tech (ESPN)

14 - North Carolina Tar Heels (1-3, 1-1, S&P+ #90) - Last Week: 13

A week after upsetting Pittsburgh to get their first win of the season, UNC imploded on national television against Miami. The Heels gave up not one, not two, but three defensive touchdowns and just generally couldn’t do anything right. With a bye this week, North Carolina will have an extra-long time to prepare for a huge game against Virginia Tech.

Last Week: lost at Miami 10-47
This Week: BYE (next up #24 Virginia Tech on 10/13)