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2018 ACC Weekly Power Rankings: Past the Quarter Pole

Just like that, we’re three games into the season

NCAA Football: Florida State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like it was just yesterday that the season started, full of promise and excitement at the prospect of grand victories to come. Now we’re three weeks into the season, a full quarter of the regular season behind us, and it feels like most of the ACC is at least somewhat disappointed with how their team has looked so far. Outside of Clemson and Boston College, is any fan base ecstatic with how their team has looked so far? I guess Virginia Tech. Maybe Syracuse? It’s been a strange start to 2018 but luckily there’s still a lot of season left to go.

1 - #3 Clemson Tigers (3-0, 0-0, S&P+ #4) - Last Week: 1

Clemson overcame a slow start on Saturday, turning the ball over twice and missing a field goal in the first quarter, before eventually dominating Georgia Southern. QB Kelly Bryant missed the entire second half after a hard hit but freshman QB Trevor Lawrence continued his strong play and RB Travis Etienne rushed for 162 yards and 2 TDs to lead the Tigers. Bryant should be back this week against Georgia Tech but it feels like just a matter of time before Lawrence breaks out and siezes the starting job.

Last Week: defeated Georgia Southern 38-7
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm at Georgia Tech (ABC)

2 - #13 Virginia Tech Hokies (2-0, 1-0, S&P+ #41) - Last Week: 2

The Hokies game against East Carolina was canceled in anticipation of Hurricane Florence’s arrival. This week, they’ll make the rare road trip to an in-state Group of 5 team to play Old Dominion. The Hokies should have no problem with the Monarchs.

Last Week: game vs East Carolina canceled due to Hurricane Florence
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm at Old Dominion (CBS Sports Network)

3 - #23 Boston College Eagles (3-0, 1-0, S&P+ #17) - Last Week: 3

I’m kind of all in on Boston College. How did that happen? Not as an ACC Title contender - Clemson is on another level - but as the clear second best team in the Atlantic? Yep, all-in. The Eagles showed signs last year before QB Anthony Brown suffered a season-ending injury and in Weeks 1 and 2, absolutely destroying inferior opponents, but last Thursday’s road win in Winston-Salem put them in the spotlight. If they can keep rolling, AJ Dillon (432 rushing yards - 5th nationally) could find himself in the Heisman conversation.

Last Week: defeated Wake Forest 41-34
This Week: Saturday at 12:00 pm at Purdue (ESPN2)

4 - Duke Blue Devils (3-0, 0-0, S&P+ #33) - Last Week: 4

Duke’s sitting at 3-0 with a pair of road wins against out-of-conference power conference teams. Baylor is bad and Northwestern is off to a slow start but kudos to the Blue Devils. You don’t see many power conference teams making two non-conference, power conference, true road games. In place of injured starter Daniel Jones, QB Quentin Harris was effective but struggled a bit with efficiency through the air, hitting on just 12 of 30 passes. He’ll have a week to tune up before heading into conference play.

Last Week: defeated Baylor 40-27
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm vs North Carolina Central (watchESPN/ACC Network Extra)

5 - #21 Miami Hurricanes (2-1, 0-0, S&P+ #24) - Last Week: 5

The Hurricanes had a productive trip to northwest Ohio, pulling away from a pretty solid Toledo team in the second half to clinch the road win. Malik Rosier had a productive day, accounting for 5 total touchdowns. Perhaps the most amazing stat of the day, especially for people who grew up with “The U” was that Miami was not called for a single penalty.

Last Week: defeated Toledo 49-24
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm vs Florida International (ESPN2)

6 - NC State Wolfpack (2-0, 0-0, S&P+ #49) - Last Week: 6

The Pack’s first big test of the season was canceled when Hurricane Florence forced NC State to call off their tilt against #14 West Virginia. This week, they have a potentially tricky road game at Marshall. The Herd are also coming off a cancellation (at South Carolina) and will be ready to go against their power conference foe.

Last Week: game vs #14 West Virginia canceled due to Hurricane Florence
This Week: Saturday at 7:00 pm at Marshall (CBS Sports Network)

7 - Syracuse Orange (3-0, 1-0, S&P+ #61) - Last Week: 11

Syracuse is your big moved this week, leaping up to the 7th spot, though it feels like there’s a pretty big gap between the top 6 teams and the rest of the conference right now. Syracuse dominated Florida State on Saturday, no small feat even considering how inept FSU has looked so far this season. Star QB Eric Dungey left the game in the second quarter after suffering from blurred vision due to a poke in the eye but backup Tommy DeVito led the Orange on three touchdown drives to turn a close game into a blowout. Year 3 of the Dino Babers era is off to a pretty sweet start in Syracuse.

Last Week: defeated Florida State 30-7
This Week: Saturday at 4:00 pm vs UConn (ESPNNEWS)

8 - Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-1, 0-1, S&P+ #57) - Last Week: 7

As I said earlier, I’m all in on Boston College, so I don’t fault Wake Forest too much for the loss Thursday night. The Deacons were able to move the ball, led by the RB duo of Matt Colburn and Cade Carney, both of whom rushed for over 100 yards, they just couldn’t quite do enough in the end to get the win. They’ll get a chance at making a statement this week when they host Notre Dame. The Irish are good but haven’t been dominant yet this year. Keep an eye on this game if you’re near a television at noon on Saturday.

Last Week: lost vs Boston College 34-41
This Week: Saturday at 12:00 pm vs #8 Notre Dame (ABC)

9 - Pittsburgh Panthers (2-1, 1-0, S&P+ #62) - Last Week: 13

Pitt bounced back from a disasterous loss two weeks ago to beat Georgia Tech and grab the early ACC win. The Panthers rode a big first quarter and capitalized on the Jackets’ mistakes to hold on down the stretch. Indiana transfer Taysir Mack had a big game, catching 4 passes for 95 yards, bailing out Pitt on several occasions. If Pitt wants to compete for the Coastal, they’ll need to build on this win in Chapel Hill and can’t get caught looking ahead to UCF in two weeks.

Last Week: defeated Georgia Tech 24-19
This Week: Saturday at 12:20 pm at North Carolina (Raycom Sports)

10 - Virginia Cavaliers (2-1, 0-0, S&P+ #52) - Last Week: 12

These next two teams were the hardest for me to order this week. It doesn’t feel quite right to rank Virginia ahead of Georgia Tech (and advanced metrics put Tech slightly ahead) but in a head-to-head matchup, it feels like the Cavaliers would shred the GT defense. Last week, Ohio focused on slowing down QB Bryce Perkins on the ground. Perkins responded by hooking up with WR Olamide Zaccheaus for 247 yards and 2 touchdowns. RB Jordan Ellis also ran wild, picking up 171 yards and 3 scores on the ground. Most ACC defenses will be better than Ohio’s but Virginia is showing they have the pieces to move the ball in many ways.

Last Week: defeated Ohio 45-31
This Week: Saturday at 12:30 pm vs Louisville (RSN)

11 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-2, 0-1, S&P+ #45) - Last Week: 8

After two straight loses that felt very winnable, the Yellow Jackets are falling in the rankings. Through a series of mostly self-inflicted wounds, Tech finds itself staring 1-3 in the face as they get ready to host #3 Clemson this weekend. The last time Georgia Tech started 1-3 was in 2003, in Chan Gailey’s second season at the helm. To avoid that fate, the Jackets will need to control time of possesion and get a breakout game from Nate Woody’s defense.

Last Week: lost at Pittsburgh 19-24
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm vs #3 Clemson (ABC)

12 - Louisville Cardinals (2-1, 0-0, S&P+ #76) - Last Week: 10

This week’s FTRS ACC Power Rankings Non-Georgia Tech Game of the Week is Louisville at Virginia. Yes, really. Honestly, there aren’t a lot of other choices this week but I think this could be an interesting game. After getting benched in consecutive weeks, Juwan Pass is taking a back seat to redshirt freshman Malik Cunningham. Cunningham is much more mobile and has been Louisville’s only effective runner this season. The offense will likely look a lot like a Dollar General version of the Lamar Jackson-led Louisville offense, but that’s a step up from where it’s been so far. I would probably watch Notre Dame-Wake Forest over Louisville-Virginia, but if you want some pure, uncut ACC action to start your Saturday (ACCtion? The conference has to have tried to make that a thing at some point) tune in to this one.

Last Week: defeated Western Kentucky 20-17
This Week: Saturday at 12:30 pm at Virginia (RSN)

13 - Florida State Seminoles (1-2, 0-2, S&P+ #77) - Last Week: 9

A rough start to the 2018 season took a turn for the disasterous on Saturday in Syracuse. The Seminoles offense has looked absolutely inept against FBS competition, averging just 5.0 points per game against Virginia Tech and Syracuse, good for 130th out of 130 FBS offenses. The offense’s struggles basically all come down to the offensive line. SB Nation and Tomahawk Nation’s Bud Elliott has a good article explaining how FSU’s offensive line reached the dire situation it finds itself in today and why there is no easy fix. This week the Noles host Northern Illinois, who won’t be an easy out. The Huskies’ offense is very bad but their defense ranks 13th in FBS, according to S&P+.

Last Week: lost at Syracuse 7-30
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 vs Northern Illinois (ESPNU)

14 - North Carolina Tar Heels (0-2, 0-0, S&P+ #87) - Last Week: 14

North Carolina’s game against UCF was canceled due to Hurricane Florence. If the Tar Heels are going to win an ACC game this season, they’ll have one of their best chances this weekend when Pitt comes to town. A loss here has UNC looking at an 0-5 start to the season with Miami on deck and VT in the hole. After that are a pair of road trips to Syracuse and Virginia. If UNC starts 0-7, is Larry Fedora on the sidelines when Georgia Tech visits Chapel Hill on November 3rd?

Last Week: game vs #18 UCF canceled due to Hurricane Florence
This Week: Saturday at 12:20 pm vs Pittsburgh (Raycom Sports)