One weekend of football under the belt. Feels good doesn’t it?
Outside of Iowa State, Nebraska, and Akron every team in the FBS has played at least one game of the 2018 season. That mean’s it’s time to overreact! *air horn noises* Virginia Tech is your ACC Title favorite! The State of Florida’s ACC teams may never win again! Eric Dungey is the best RB in the conference! Georgia Tech’s defense is the greatest of all time!
Okay, but seriously though, we’re going to try not to overreact to a one week sample size. That may lead to some underreactions. The thing is there’s really no way to know which is which until we see a few more games. All that said, there were things we can learn from last weekend, so let’s take a look at the ACC after one week.
***I’m including the S&P+ rankings as a reference to what my preferred predictive analytic says but will note that it is especially reactive this year, which is uncomfortable for me. My rankings will be a bit slower to adjust than Bill C’s in some spots. I’m not saying I know more than Bill, just that I’m not okay with saying Virginia is the 6th best team in the conference yet.
1 - #2 Clemson Tigers (1-0, 0-0, S&P+ #3) - Last Week: 1
There’s not a ton to take away from the heavy ACC favorite demolishing an FCS opponent but the most exciting things for Tiger fans is that freshman QB Trevor Lawrence looked really good. Lawrence served as the backup but led Clemson in passing with 137 yards and 3 touchdowns on 9/14 passing. Kelly Bryant is still the starter for now but Lawrence is breathing down his neck.
Last Week: defeated Furman 48-7
This Week: Saturday at 7:00 pm at Texas A&M (ESPN)
2 - #12 Virginia Tech Hokies (1-0, 1-0, S&P+ #34) - Last Week: 6
Virginia Tech made the biggest statement in the conference by going on the road and just taking apart Florida State. The Hokies defense was a huge problem for the Noles, forcing 5 turnovers and 5 sacks. The offense was good enough to get the win and sophomore RB Deshawn McClease looked solid but there is still some room to improve on that side of the ball.
Last Week: defeated #19 Florida State 24-3
This Week: Saturday at 2:00 pm vs William & Mary (ACC Network/WatchESPN)
3 - Boston College Eagles (1-0, 0-0, S&P+ #24) - Last Week: 8
The next six teams are grouped pretty tightly for me but are a definite step down from Virginia Tech. They’re also a tough group to rank because three of them beat teams they were supposed to beat while three got destroyed on national TV by good teams. Just purely based on in-game performance, the Eagles were the most impressive last weekend. UMass is no juggernaut, but BC led 55-7 at one point and held the Minutemen to 213 total yards before their last two drives. Most importantly, sophomore QB Anthony Brown looked very good, going 15/21 for 279 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Last Week: defeated UMass 55-21
This Week: Saturday at 1:00 pm vs Holy Cross (ACC Network/WatchESPN)
4 - Florida State Seminoles (0-1, 0-1, S&P+ #44) - Last Week: 3
Remember everything I said about Virginia Tech? While all true, only a few bounces would have had to go the other way to make the game a much closer affair. Florida State looked rough but the Hokies blocked a punt for a touchdown and recovered all six fumbles. The Seminoles’ offensive line is going to be a problem (again) but their defense should be pretty good and Deondre Francois will get better as he gets his legs back under him after a year spent recovering from a 2017 Week 1 injury.
Last Week: lost to #20 Virginia Tech 3-24
This Week: Saturday at 7:20 pm vs Samford (ACC Network on Raycom Sports)
5 - #22 Miami Hurricanes (0-1, 0-0, S&P+ #38) - Last Week: 2
Similar to their in state rival, there are some underlying stats that suggest that Miami’s embarassing nationally televised loss wasn’t quite as bad as it seemed. Like VT, LSU scored a non-offensive touchdown (a pick six late in the second quarter) and the Canes held the Tigers to 3-16 on third downs. Miami may not be back to National Title contender status but they should still be a factor in the Coastal, especially if their QB play improves.
Last Week: lost to #25 LSU 17-33
This Week: Saturday at 6:00 pm vs Savannah State (ACC Network/WatchESPN)
6 - Duke Blue Devils (1-0, 0-0, S&P+ #37) - Last Week: 7
David Cutcliffe’s team took down a game Army team behind a balanced offensive attack led by QB Daniel Jones. The junior singal caller went 13/17 for 197 yards and a touchdown while adding another 43 yards and a score on the ground. The Blue Devil defense limited the Knights on the ground but were gashed through the air by an unexpectedly good passing attack. The Blue Devils also struggled a bit getting the Army offense off the field. A 5/14 3rd down conversion percentage may look pretty good for the Duke defense, but Army went 4/4 on 4th downs, making it more like a 9/14 get-off-the-field conversion rate. A trip to Evanston to face Northwestern will be a good test for Duke. Keep an eye on that game while you’re watching GT-USF.
Last Week: defeated Army 34-14
This Week: Saturday at 12:00 pm at Northwestern (ESPNU)
7 - NC State Wolfpack (1-0, 0-0, S&P+ #58) - Last Week: 4
NC State needed a late touchdown to get some breathing room in an 11-point win against FCS #2 James Madison. The Dukes, who have several ACC transfers on the roster including QB Ben DiNucci and RB Marcus Marshall, racked up 365 yards of offense and converted 7 of 13 3rd downs but couldn’t put enough on the scoreboard to make a real upset bid. The Wolfpack air attack was good with Ryan Finley at the helm but they need more out of the ground game and defense to reach their potential.
Last Week: defeated James Madison 24-13
This Week: Saturday at 12:30 pm vs Georgia State (RSN)
8 - Louisville Cardinals (0-1, 0-0, S&P+ #78) - Last Week: 6
Louisville was the second biggest faller in the updated S&P+ rankings, which implies that they faired even worse than expected against Alabama. I thought the Cardinals would be able to keep it slightly closer than 51-14, but I’m not shocked Bama blew them out. If there’s one good thing Louiville fans to take away from the game, Jawon Pass’s 252 yards through the air were the most against Alabama since some guy named Deshaun Watson in the 2016 National Championship game. The Cardinals badly need a running back to emerge - Pass isn’t Lamar Jackson; he’s most comfortable in the pocket - and the defense is not great but Pass is going to be good and will torch some secondaries.
Last Week: lost to #1 Alabama 14-51
This Week: Saturday at 7:00 pm vs Indiana State (ACC Network/WatchESPN)
9 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-0, 0-0, S&P+ #45) - Last Week: 10
Nate Woody’s defense gave an impressive debut performance, shutting out Alcorn State and holding the Braves to just 146 total yards. Alcorn isn’t expceted to be a good team even on the FCS level but a shut out is a shut out. The young members of the secondary looked solid but will be put to the test this weekend in Tampa. As long as there are no self-inflicted mistakes, the Yellow Jackets should have no problem moving the ball against a South Florida defense that gave up nearly 200 yards on the ground to Elon so the game will probably come down to Woody’s defense getting stops.
Last Week: defeated Alcorn State 41-0
This Week: Saturday at 12:00 pm at South Florida (ABC/ESPN2)
10 - Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-0, 0-0, S&P+ #55) - Last Week: 9
Somehow Wake Forest has become one of the more exciting offensive teams in the conference. This started last season with John Wolford at QB but freshman QB Sam Hartman had a pretty impressive debut on Thursday in New Orleans. Hartman threw for 378 yards and two scores to lead the Deacons to an overtime win. He threw two picks, but Kendall Hinton may not take the job back immediately upon returning from suspension.
Last Week: defeated Tulane 23-17 in overtime
This Week: Saturday at 12:00 pm vs Towson (ACC Network/WatchESPN)
11 - Pittsburgh Panthers (1-0, 0-0, S&P+ #48) - Last Week: 11
Pitt took care of business against Albany behind an efficient offensive performance. Sophomore QB Kenny Pickett had a fine game, throwing for 154 yards and 2 touchdowns. On the ground, seven players had at least 17 yards, paced by senior RB Qadree Ollison’s 73 yards on just 7 carries. The defense gave up some yards against the Great Danes but Albany couldn’t get anything done on the ground. The competition ramps up in a big way this week when Penn State comes to Heinz Field.
Last Week: defeated Albany 33-7
This Week: Saturday at 8:00 pm vs Penn State (ABC)
12 - Virginia Cavaliers (1-0, 0-0, S&P+ #43) - Last Week: 14
Virginia’s defense shut down a pretty good FCS Richmond team on Saturday, keeping the Spiders out of the endzone on the way to a 42-13 win. Richmond’s lone touchdown came on an early game pick-six, after which UVA dominated the game. JuCo transfer QB Bryce Perkins settled in and ended up having a pretty nice game with 185 yards and 2 scores in the air, plus another 108 and 2 scores on the ground. Senior RB Jordan Ellis looked like one of the best rushers in the conference, going for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns of his own. A win on the road against Indiana could put the Wahoos on the path for another bowl bid.
Last Week: defeated Richmond 42-13
This Week: Saturday at 7:30 pm at Indiana (Big Ten Network)
13 - Syracuse Orange (1-0, 0-0, S&P+ #67) - Last Week: 13
Raise your hand if you had Eric Dungey as the ACC’s leading rusher after Week 1? Put them down, you liars. Dungey renewed his bid to be secretly the most fun player in the ACC, connecting on only 7 of 19 passes but still putting up 184 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air while rushing for 200 yards on just 15 carries. The Orange defense gave up over 600 yards to the Broncos but Dungey and the offense did enough to hang onto the road win. That will have to be a common refrain this season for Syracuse to go bowling.
Last Week: defeated Western Michigan 55-42
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 vs Wagner (ACC Network/WatchESPN)
14 - North Carolina Tar Heels (0-1, 0-0, S&P+ #81) - Last Week: 12
Yikes. In a game that wasn’t super encouraging for either side, a late rally wasn’t enough for North Carolina to get a road win at Cal. Nathan Elliott started at QB and went 15/35 and threw 4 interceptions, including a pick-6 that was the margin in the game. Starting RB Antonio Williams rushed for just 2.8 yards per carry. Potential stud WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams caught a TD in the final two minutes to pull the Heels within a score but battled drops and other mental mistakes all game. UNC gets an easier road test this week at East Carolina. If Larry Fedora’s team doesn’t win there, he may find himself on the hot seat sooner than expected.
Last Week: lost to California 17-24
This Week: Saturday at 3:30 at East Carolina (ESPNU)
What do you think? Who’s too high? Who’s too low?