This was the first big week of ACC play and there was some exciting football, but mostly boring games. Hopefully the ACC becomes more exciting if it can’t be great.
1 - #2 Clemson Tigers (5-0, 3-0)
Clemson got it’s first scare of the season on the road at North Carolina. North Carolina hung with the Tigers all game and scored what would have been a game-tying touchdown with just over a minute left. Instead of tying it up and playing for overtime Mack Brown made the ballsy call to go for two. The Tigers stuffed quarterback Sam Howell to preserve the 21-20 win. This should have been a game that Clemson won easily and the game brought about a lot of the question marks that Clemson might have against top teams. Can the defense stuff the run? Is Trevor Lawrence in a sophomore slump? Lawrence played a solid game, but given the hype on him coming into the year and UNC focusing on the run that is a little disappointing. The Heels focused on Etienne and made Lawrence beat them. He struggled to. Defensively Clemson was worn down by UNC’s run game. That could be something to watch if the Tigers ever face off against Alabama or Georgia or Wisconsin. But, a win is a win and the train rolls on. They get a week off to rest up and prepare for the potentially resurgent Seminoles.
This Week: Win 21-20 at North Carolina
Next Week: Bye
2 - #23 Virginia Cavaliers (4-1, 2-0)
Virginia was not good enough to give a top-15 team a scare on the road. There was some hope that the Cavaliers would challenge Notre Dame and after the first half they were leading 17-14. But ultimately Notre Dame dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball on the way to a 35-20 win. There were two big differences in this game. The first was the run game. Virginia ran with a running back 13 times and got 33 yards. That’s not good, especially because the Irish had a questionable run defense. That forced them to rely on Bryce Perkins to make plays. Defensively they couldn’t stop the Domers on the ground allowing Tony Jones Jr. to get 131 yards on just 18 rushes. The other difference in this game was turnovers. Notre Dame lost one fumble, but UVA finished with five turnovers, four in the second half. Perkins threw two interceptions (although one was in desperation time) and fumbled the ball three times, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Perkins felt the pressure to make plays and instead gave up some big ones. He also got sacked 8 times. This team needs to figure out how to take some pressure off of him if they want to get to the ACC Championship. Still, this is the ACC so they’re a top-3 team. They now have a bye before facing Miami in one of the ACC’s biggest games of the year.
This week: Lose 35-20 at #10 Notre Dame
Next Week: Bye
3 - #22 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-0, 1-0)
The Demon Deacons are now one of just two remaining undefeated ACC teams and they’re in the top-25. Dave Clawson’s squad is having a great year so far. Last week Wake Forest went to Chestnut Hill and just escaped Massachusetts with a win. Wake got out to an early lead, but it was close almost the entire game and they really escaped with a win there. Jamie Newman was once again the star with 21/33 passing for 243 yards, two touchdowns and a pick as well as 102 yards rushing on 23 carries. They struggled running the ball and stopping the run which are both areas of concern for this team. The Deacons would have liked to win this one in easier fashion, but they got a road conference win. They’ll stay undefeated for one more week as they have a bye followed by a matchup against Louisville.
This Week: Win 27-24 at Boston College
Next Week: Bye
4 - Pittsburgh Panthers (3-2, 0-1)
Pitt won two weeks ago in a minor shootout against UCF. This week they eked one out in a defensive slugfest against Delaware. Yikes. True, starter Kenny Pickett was out with a shoulder injury, but still. Pitt needed a fourth quarter touchdown drive to win the game 17-14. Once again this defense was strong (both touchdowns were short fields), but the offense made things harder than they needed to be. If Delaware made the 36-yard field goal that they missed early in the game then this could have been a different game. The Panthers need Pickett back. Nick Patti was unimpressive. The run game was solid, but they need some airpower to back it up. They better hope he heals up before a pivotal matchup this week at Duke. I give them a pass here because Pickett was out and Pitt still has the best win.
This Week: Win 17-14 vs. Delaware
Next Week: Saturday at 8 at Duke
5 - Duke Blue Devils (3-1, 1-0)
Duke just obliterated Virginia Tech on Friday night. The score ended up 45-10 and that was how lopsided the game was. Quarterback Quentin Harris slashed the defense for 20/27 163 yards and two touchdowns to go with 100 yards and a touchdown on 17 rushes. As a team they had 41 rushes for 234 yards, nearly 6 yards a carry. They held Virginia Tech to just 120 yards passing. They took advantage of VT’s missteps scoring a touchdown on both turnovers and a turnover on downs (from a failed fake punt). This was a great start to the ACC season by the Blue Devils who now look like a Coastal contender. They’ll have to keep up the good work with a home game against Pitt this week.
This Week: Win 45-10 at Virginia Tech
Next Week: Saturday at 8 vs. Pitt
6 - North Carolina Tar Heels (2-3, 1-1)
North Carolina is allergic to blowouts apparently. They have gone deep into the fourth quarter of all of their games. If you want a close matchup to watch, the Heels have been a very good bet and Saturday was no exception. They took then #1 Clemson to the wire, made a ballsy call to go for two late in the fourth instead of taking the tie, and just missed winning. It feels weird placing a 2-3 team so high, but they have played a schedule facing at least a pretty good team every week. Now they need to win. Their defense looked solid this week, their run game was very good, and Sam Howell almost made enough plays to win it. Their schedule starts to ease up from here on out, but they don’t have a ton of runway to work with. They need to start this week at Georgia Tech.
This Week: Lose 21-20 vs. Clemson
Next Week: Saturday at 4 at Georgia Tech
7 - Florida State Seminoles (3-2, 2-1)
There it is. Florida State finally played a game for 4 quarters. They took down North Carolina State 31-13 for their first comfortable win of the year. New starter Alex Hornibrook looked the part spreading the ball around on his way to 316 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. The defense was still a little shaky particularly against the run, but all in all not a bad effort. It’s hard to complain too much when you get an easy conference win. The real question is if this team is actually turning a corner. That, I have no idea. They now get a bye week before heading to Clemson and Wake back-to-back. They better hope things are actually improved.
This Week: Win 31-13 vs. NC State
Next Week: Bye
8 - Miami Hurricanes (2-2, 0-1)
The Hurricanes move up one on their bye week due to NC State dropping. The Hurricanes didn’t look impressive when we last saw them, but they catch a break with the seemingly hapless Hokies coming to town. This is a must win for Manny Diaz’s squad.
This Week: Bye
Next Week: Saturday at 3:30 vs. Virginia Tech
9 - Louisville Cardinals (2-2, 0-1)
Like the Hurricanes the Cardinals jump up one spot on their bye week. This week they will face off against BC in a huge game. A loss there might doom Louisville in their chase for a bowl game as their next three weeks are against Clemson, Wake, and Virginia. The Cardinals have looked better this year than many expected. If they lose this week though I wouldn’t expect many wins the rest of the year.
This Week: Bye
Next Week: Saturday at 12:30 vs. Boston College
10 - Boston College Eagles (3-2, 1-1)
Boston College came oh so close against Wake Forest this week in a game they feel like they could have won. If they could have just finished their drives. An 83 yard drive stalled and led to a short field goal. A 61 yard drive was ended with a pick. A 59 yard drive ended in a turnover on downs after a delay of game wiped a field goal off the board. Any one of those drives could have led to a winning score. AJ Dillon was fantastic on the ground and Anthony Brown held his own through the air by spreading the ball around a lot (no receiver had more than 4 catches or 43 yards). But, Brown turned the ball over twice and Wake was able to do just enough to nab the road win. Now BC is in a tough position. A loss at Louisville this Saturday puts them in jeopardy of missing a bowl. Feels like a big game for both teams.
This Week: Lose 27-24 vs. Wake Forest
Next Week: Saturday at 12:30 at Louisville
11 - Syracuse Orange (3-2, 0-1)
Syracuse did exactly what they wanted against Holy Cross. They blew them out in an easy 41-3 win. The defense dominated and Tommy DeVito had a solid game. Wide receiver Taj Harris had a big game which DeVito must love to see as he looks for dependable targets. This week wasn’t all good news for the Orange. Their blowout losses to Clemson and Maryland look even worse after Clemson struggles with UNC and Maryland gets obliterated by Penn State. Cuse gets the week off before a game against fellow ACC Atlantic disappointee NC State.
This Week: Win 41-3 vs. Holy Cross
Next Week: Bye
12 - North Carolina State Wolfpack (3-2, 0-1)
Things are sliding in the wrong direction for Dave Doeren’s team as they lose in convincing fashion to the Seminoles. Starting quarterback Matthew McKay was pulled after the first few possessions to play former Seminole Bailey Hockman. He was fine, if uninspiring. Freshman quarterback Devin Leary came in late to provide a little bit of a spark, but it was too little too late. The offense struggled on the ground and lost one of their running backs to injury. Alex Hornibrook was successful throwing on this defense. The Wolfpack also lost two fumbles including one that otherwise might have been a touchdown late in the game. They now have a bye to figure out the quarterback situation before welcoming Syracuse to Raleigh.
This Week: Lose 31-13 at Florida State
Next Week: Bye
13 - Virginia Tech Hokies (2-2, 0-2)
So their first three games weren’t a fluke. This team just is not that good. This was their biggest ACC loss ever. They suffered Virginia Tech’s worst home defeat since 1974. That’s right, 1974. Ryan Willis was no good and the defense could not stop the Blue Devils. Fuente is looking like a dead man walking, but his buyout is big enough that VT may not be able to afford it. While the Hokies have looked really terrible so far this year, it’s still possible that they turn it around it enough to keep their bowl streak going or maybe even beat UVA again. This week they head to Miami to see if they can pull a rabbit out of their hat.
This Week: Lose 45-10 vs. Duke
Next Week: Saturday at 3:30 at Miami
14 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-3, 0-1)
New goal for this season, make it out of the cellar. Welcoming UNC to Atlanta brings the first chance. UNC is known for tight games so this may be exciting.
This Week: Lose 24-2 at Temple
Next Week: Saturday at 4 vs. UNC