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2018 ACC Weekly Power Rankings: QB Ch-ch-ch-changes

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Several ACC teams are looking at new QBs taking the reigns

NCAA Football: Clemson at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend was a new low in a season of low points for our beloved Atlantic Coast Conference. A low tier G5 team took out one of the Coastal Division favorites and a pair of somewhat struggling teams from Indiana blew out two of the rising Atlantic teams. Just a tough week all around for the conference. Let’s see where things stand.

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

Clemson looked every bit the dominant force in the conference against Georgia Tech, and never more so than when freshman QB Trevor Lawrence was under center. The Yellow Jacket defense more or less held serve with the Tigers until Lawrence took over in the second quarter. The freshman went on to pass for 176 yards and 4 touchdowns, earning the starting role going forward. Lawrence may have a bumpy game or two but if Clemson is going to make a run at a National Championship, they need to get their blue chip QB as many snaps as possible.

Last Week: defeated Georgia Tech 49-21
This Week: Saturday at 12:00 pm vs Syracuse (ABC)

2 - [Left Vacant]

There’s a big step down here.

3a - #22 Duke Blue Devils (4-0, 0-0, S&P+ #27) - Last Week: 4

If I had to put somebody at 2, I think I would give Duke a slight edge over Miami. The Blue Devils’ defense has been pretty outstanding this year and the offense has been effective despite the loss of QB Daniel Jones to a broken clavicle in Week 2. Backup QB Quentin Harris has been solid through two weeks as the starter, throwing for 3 scores and rushing for another against NC Central. The schedule gets more difficult but Jones is already on the mend and could be back sooner rathern than later. This week, Duke will have a chance to prove they’re for real when they host VT in a key Coastal matchup under the lights. Let’s call this our FTRS ACC Power Rankings non-Georgia Tech Game of the Week.

Last Week: defeated North Carolina Central 55-13
This Week: Saturday at 7:00 pm vs Virginia Tech (ESPN2)

3b - #16 Miami Hurricanes (3-1, 0-0, S&P+ #17) - Last Week: 5

The Hurricanes are another team that could be turning from a veteran QB to a freshman backup. Malik Rosier played only two ineffective series against FIU before getting replaced by redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry. Perry went on to lead the Canes to the victory, throwing for 3 scores and flashing some rushing potential. The Miami offense looked a lot better with Perry in control but Mark Richt has yet to name a starter for tonight’s conference opener. If Richt goes with Perry, Miami might be on their way to turning around their season after a rough start.

Last Week: defeated FIU 31-17
This Week: Thursday at 8:00 pm vs North Carolina (ESPN)

4 - NC State Wolfpack (3-0, 0-0, S&P+ #29) - Last Week: 6

NC State’s passing offense continues to be one of the better units in the conference behind the arm of Ryan Finley. The senior signal caller threw for 377 yards on Saturday against Marshall. This was also the first time that NC State’s running game showed a pulse all season with Reggie Gallaspy II racking up 81 yards and two touchdowns. The run defenses will get tougher in the upcoming weeks but if Gallaspy can continue to improve, the Wolfpack may yet round into a complete offensive attack.

Last Week: defeated Marshall 37-20
This Week: Saturday at 12:20 pm vs Virginia (Raycom)

5 - Syracuse Orange (4-0, 1-0, S&P+ #50) - Last Week: 7

Don’t look now, but with Syracuse’s remaining schedule the Orange have a shot at not just making a bowl but winning ten games. They don’t have a ton of room for error but it’s in play if they can keep QB Eric Dungey healthy, continue to get strong contributions from RB Moe Neal and the ground game (13 carries, 116 yards vs UConn), and the defense looks like it did two weeks ago against Florida State. They get a huge test this week as they try and repeat last year’s stunning upset of Clemson.

Last Week: defeated UConn 51-21
This Week: Saturday at 12:00 pm at #3 Clemson (ABC)

6 - Boston College Eagles (3-1, 1-0, S&P+ #40) - Last Week: 3

The week I publically go all in on Boston College, their offense sputters against a Purdue team that had hardly showed a pulse on defense all season? *shakes fist at the sky* ADAZZIOOOOOOO! All that aside, I’m still pretty optimistic about the Eagles this season. Young quarterbacks will have rough games. Assuming that Anthony Brown can learn and grow from the experience, BC will still be alright. Their remaining schedule is tougher than Syracuse’s (crossovers against Miami and VT vs Pitt and UNC) but I think the Eagles are more likely to pull a major upset *coughNovember 10thcough*.

Last Week: lost at Purdue 13-30
This Week: Saturday at 12:00 pm vs Temple (ESPNU)

7 - Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1, 1-0, S&P+ #53) - Last Week: 2

The sky is falling in Blacksburg after the Hokies became the victims of the upset of the season, losing to previously winless Old Dominion by two scores. To add injury to insult, VT’s starting quarterback, Josh Jackson, broke his leg against the Monarchs and will be out indefinitely. With Jackson down, Justin Fuente will turn to Kansas transfer Ryan Willis to pilot the offense. As if the loss of the starting QB wasn’t enough, top pass rusher Trevon Hill was dismissed from the team following Saturday’s loss.

Last Week: lost at Old Dominion 35-49
This Week: Saturday at 7:00 pm at #22 Duke (ESPN2)

8 - Virginia Cavaliers (3-1, 1-0, S&P+ #43) - Last Week: 10

The Cavaliers took it to Louisville last weekend, completely shutting the Cardinals out of the end zone and dominating in basically every facet of the game. QB Bryce Perkins continues to be very good through the air and on the ground, account for all three Virginia touchdowns. Defensively, the Hoos bounced back from a bit of a disappointing outing against Ohio to force three turnovers and hold the Cards to just 214 total yards. They’ll get a much bigger test this week in a cross-divisonal matchup against Ryan Finley and NC State.

Last Week: defeated Louisville 27-3
This Week: Saturday at 12:20 pm at NC State (Raycom)

9 - Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-2, 0-1, S&P+ #84) - Last Week: 8

Virginia Tech has, with good reason, been getting a lot of votes for the #GoACC Moment of the Week but if that award goes to a single moment, it has to be headed to Winston-Salem.

Not only did Wake Forest line up for a field goal without a kicker, but the kicker then ran on to the field, rushed the kick, and bounced it off the upright and out. Later in the game, he bounced another kick off an upright and out. At least he was on the field for the full sequence that time. Improvement?

Last Week: lost to #8 Notre Dame 27-56
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm vs Rice (RSN)

10 - Florida State Seminoles (2-2, 0-2, S&P+ #67) - Last Week: 13

The Florida State offense showed signs of life against a pretty good Northern Illinois defense. QB Deondre Francois completed 74% of his passes for 352 yards and a pair of touchdowns, leading the way for the Noles’ best offensive performance of the season. There was still casue for concern, though. FSU really struggled to move the ball efficiently on the ground. Cam Akers averaged under 3.0 yards per carry, while Jacques Patrick just cleared that mark. Theres a big talent gap between FSU and NIU but putting up numbers against any halfway decent defense is a step in the right direction for Willie Taggart’s team.

Last Week: defeated Northern Illinois 37-19
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm at Louisville (ESPN2)

11 - Pittsburgh Panthers (2-2, 1-1, S&P+ #75) - Last Week: 9

Pitt had a chance to jump out to an early Coastal lead but another poor second half performance doomed the Panthers. Up 28-21 at halftime, Pitt gave up 17 3rd quarter points and was unable to recover late. In their two losses, QB Kenny Pickett has really struggled through the air, hitting on only 57% of his passes on Saturday and avergaing just 5.3 yards per attempt. Pitt was probably going to have a tough time hanging in the Coastal race regardless but they badly needed to win in Chapel Hill to have a chance.

Last Week: lost at North Carolina 35-38
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm at #13 UCF (ESPNU)

12 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-3, 0-2, S&P+ #70) - Last Week: 11

It’s not exactly surprising given recent seasons but Georgia Tech really struggled with Clemson on Saturday. GT averaged just 2.6 yards per carry on offense while the defense only forced Clemson to face 9 3rd downs on the day. It’s probably best to just forget this game and move on. Luckily, if they can cut down on self-inflicted mistakes, the Jackets have a decent chance to get back to 0.500 on the season with Bowling Green and Louisville on deck. It may also be an opportunity to see what QB Tobias Oliver can do with meaningful game reps.

Last Week: lost to Clemson 21-49
This Week: Saturday at 12:00 pm vs Bowling Green (RSN)

13 - North Carolina Tar Heels (1-2, 1-0, S&P+ #78) - Last Week: 14

The Tar Heels finally won their first game of the season, using a big third quarter to come from behind and knock off Pitt. UNC had an all-around strong offensive performance, led by QB Nathan Elliott’s 313 yard, 2 touchdown through the air and RB Antonio Williams’s 114 yards and 2 scores on the ground. The beginning of the season was absolutely dismal but as the Heels get players back from suspension, they may yet be able to recover.

Last Week: defeated Pittsburgh 38-35
This Week: Thursday at 8:00 pm at Miami (ESPN)

14 - Louisville Cardinals (2-2, 0-1, S&P+ #85) - Last Week: 12

Yikes, Louisville. The Malik Cunningham era lasted just one half against Virginia before Bobby Petrino turned the reigns back to former starter Jawon Pass. Unfortunately, neither quarterback was able to muster much of anything against Virginia. Cunningham connected on 6 of 9 passes and led the team with 26 rushing yards, but also threw an interception and generally couldn’t move the offense. Pass threw for 113 yards but also had a pick and didn’t do a better job of finding an endzone. The Cardinals completely lack a running game and have a subpar defense, adding up to make Louisville look like one of the worst teams in any Power 5 conference this season.

Last Week: lost at Virginia 3-27
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 pm vs Florida State (ESPN2)