2018 has, to put it likely, not been kind to the ACC. Week 2 was especially brutal with many teams suffering big non-conference losses. Unfortunately, teams don’t have much longer to round into form before conference season begins. Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Boston College, and Wake Forest all open conference play this week with most of the conference following in Week 4. There’s still a lot of season to go but teams need to start finding answers soon before the season gets away and they tumble down the power rankings.
1 - #2 Clemson Tigers (2-0, 0-0, S&P+ #8) - Last Week: 1
Kelly Bryant and the Clemson Tigers survived a scare in College Station on Saturday, barely escaping Kyle Field with a win. Jimbo Fisher’s teams usually play Clemson well but Texas A&M put up a truely special performance against Clemson’s defense and were arguably the better team that night. I’m not particularly worried about Clemson going forward but the Aggies showed that the Tigers aren’t invincible.
Last Week: defeated Texas A&M 28-26
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm vs Georgia Southern (ESPN2)
2 - #13 Virginia Tech Hokies (2-0, 1-0, S&P+ #41) - Last Week: 2
The Hokies had little trouble dispatching William & Mary last weekend, dominating the trenches and sending the Tribe home with a blow out loss. Virginia Tech’s defense gave up just 34 yards on 29 carries meaning, aside from Cam Akers’s 85 yard run in Week 1, Bud Foster’s crew has allowed 43 yards on 56 rushes.
Last Week: defeated William & Mary 62-17
This Week: game vs East Carolina canceled in anticipation of Hurricane Florence
3 - Boston College Eagles (2-0, 0-0, S&P+ #13) - Last Week: 3
Boston College’s star RB AJ Dillon touched the ball six times in the first 8 minutes and change of last week’s game against Holy Cross. He took those six carries for 149 yards and 3 touchdowns and then called it a day. The Eagles had all they needed. With a road trip to Winston-Salem on a short week upcoming, Steve Adazzio made sure to get his dudes plenty of rest. By the way, Boston College - Wake Forest is a sneaky good game so let’s go ahead and call it the FTRS ACC Power Rankings non-Georgia Tech Game of the Week (trademark pending).
Last Week: defeated Holy Cross 62-14
This Week: Thursday at 5:30 pm at Wake Forest (ESPN)
4 - Duke Blue Devils (2-0, 0-0, S&P+ #31) - Last Week: 6
Duke is kind of a tough team to rank this week. On one hand, the Blue Devils looked impressive in their opener, then went on the road and beat a pretty good Northwestern team. On the other hand, starting QB Daniel Jones is out indefinitely with a broken clavicle and all-ACC caliber CB Mark Gilbert is done for the season after dislocating his hip. Both injuries have at least a bit of an impact on how I’d stack Duke up against the rest of the conference on a neutral field. For now, I’ll reward Duke for the strong road win and wait and see how they look going forward.
Last Week: defeated Northwestern 21-7
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm at Baylor (FS1)
5 - #21 Miami Hurricanes (1-1, 0-0, S&P+ #32) - Last Week: 5
The Hurricanes returned home and got back to winning ways last week, blasting Savannah State 77-0. Miami held the Tigers under 100 total yards, thoroughly dominating every aspect of the game. Malik Rosier looked much better against the low level competition, completeing 8 of 12 passes for 131 yards and two scores. Miami fans also got their first taste of freshman backup N’Kosi Perry, who threw for three scores. They’ll hit the road again this week for a tricky game against Toledo.
Last Week: defeated Savannah State 77-0
This Week: Saturday at 12:00 pm at Toledo (ESPN2)
6 - NC State Wolfpack (2-0, 0-0, S&P+ #45) - Last Week: 7
Ryan Finley continues to show that he is probably the ACC’s best QB, throwing for 370 yards and two touchdowns on 82% passing. As good as NCST’s passing game is they still haven’t shown anything resembling an effective run game. Brady Bodine, a senior special teams ace and former walk-on, was the Pack’s only effective rusher against Georgia State. If they can’t find an effective ground game they will struggle mightily against better defenses.
Last Week: defeated Georgia State 41-7
This Week: game vs #14 West Virginia canceled in anticipation of Hurricane Florence
7 - Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-0, 0-0, S&P+ #53) - Last Week: 10
Greg Dortch, Wake Forest’s star WR, had himself a game against Towson. The sophomore caught 7 balls for 94 yards and found the end zone three times, including twice on second quarter punt returns. Behind Dortch’s big day, the Deacons raced out to a big lead and coasted in the second half. Wake gave up a lot of passing yards to Towson’s Tom Flacco, brother of Elite NFL QB Joe Flacco, but the Deacs held strong on the ground, giving up just 2.2 yards per carry.
Last Week: defeated Towson 51-20
This Week: Thursday at 5:30 pm vs Boston College (ESPN)
8 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-1, 0-0, S&P+ #26) - Last Week: 9
The S&P+ rank that stood out the most to me this week was Georgia Tech’s spot just outside the Top 25. Despite a loss to USF, the Yellow Jackets’ offense has really impressed the analytic system, while the defense rates as average, which is an improvment on last year. I’m not convinced the eye test matches the analytics yet but I am slightly more optimistic about GT than I was in the preseason. A lot of that has to do with how the rest of the conference has looked through two weeks but I think there are good building blocks on both offense and defense. Special teams will probably continue to be special but. despite a disappointing loss to USF, if you’re selling your Georgia Tech stock, I’ll buy it.
Last Week: lost at USF 38-49
This Week: Saturday at 12:30 pm at Pittsburgh (RSN)
9 - Florida State Seminoles (1-1, 0-1, S&P+ #71) - Last Week: 4
One stock I’m not buying this season is Florida State. Through two games they’ve largely looked out of sorts. Last week, they gave up nearly 500 yards through the air to FCS Samford. That’s not to say that they won’t somewhat turn things around by the end of the season but the Fisher to Taggart transition looks like it will be a bit bumpier than expected. Long term, I’m still in on Willie Taggart at Florida State. He was a program builder at both Western Kentucky and South Florida but year one in Tallahassee is off to a slow start and a tricky trip to Syracuse looms.
Last Week: defeated Samford 36-26
This Week: Saturday at 12:00 pm at Syracuse (ESPN)
10 - Louisville Cardinals (1-1, 0-0, S&P+ #66) - Last Week: 8
A big part of my reasoning to be high on Louisville in the preseason was the offensive talent and development of Juwan Pass at QB. Two weeks into the season, he’s looked okay against Alabama and was benched in favor of redshirt freshman Malik Cunningham against Indiana State. Cunningham led the Cardinals on four second half scoring drives to put distance ahead of the Sycamores. The Pass-Cunningham quarterback battle will be one to watch going forward. Cunningham is obviously no Lamar Jackson but he’s much more of a dual threat than Pass and may, in the end, be a better fit for Petrino’s offense.
Last Week: defeated Indiana State 31-7
This Week: Saturday at 7:30 pm vs Western Kentucky (RSN)
(Author’s note: I’ve been writing these rankings over the last few days. I thought I’d have plenty of time to do these last four teams on Wednesday night but work stuff went really long, so we’re just going to finish rapid-fire style)
11 - Syracuse Orange (2-0, 0-0, S&P+ #81) - Last Week: 13
Your weekly Eric Dungey recap: 23/32 passing for 218 yards and a school record-tying 5 touchdowns, 11 rushes for 44 yards. If you’ve got two screens on Saturday keep an eye on Dungey and the Orange against FSU.
Last Week: defeated Wagner 62-10
This Week: Saturday at 12:00 pm vs Florida State (ESPN)
12 - Virginia Cavaliers (1-1, 0-0, S&P+ #59) - Last Week: 12
Through two games this is a very different Virginia offense than we’ve seen so far under Bronco Mendenhall. QB Bryce Perkins is the team’s leading rusher with 38 carries and 231 yards on the season.
Last Week: lost at Indiana 16-20
This Week: Saturday at 4:30 pm vs Ohio (WatchESPN)
13 - Pittsburgh Panthers (1-1, 0-0, S&P+ #75) - Last Week: 11
Penn State just about shut down Pitt last week, limiting Kenny Pickett to just 55 yards through the air. Qadree Ollison had a big day on the ground (21 carries, 119 yards, 1 TD) but it wasn’t near enough.
Last Week: lost to Penn State 6-51
This Week: Saturday at 12:30 pm vs Georgia Tech (RSN)
14 - North Carolina Tar Heels (0-2, 0-0, S&P+ #96) - Last Week: 14
Last Week: lost at East Carolina 19-41
This Week: game vs #18 UCF canceled in anticipation of Hurricane Florence