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ACC Power Rankings: Week 6

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The Week 6 Theme Was Almost Comebacks

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Duke James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

We’re now into the heart of the ACC season and things are starting to shake out a little bit. These rankings are going to start fossilizing a little bit. The top teams were all on bye weeks so there were no big changes up top.

1 - #2 Clemson Tigers (5-0, 3-0)

The Tigers had a week to rest after their super close win against North Carolina. Not that they really needed one. They now come back with a home game against Florida State. I expect the Tigers to come back with a vengeance and smoke the Seminoles this week.

Last Week: Bye

Next Week: Saturday at 3:30 vs. Florida State

2 - #20 Virginia Cavaliers (4-1, 2-0)

Virginia also is coming out of a bye. I thought this game would potentially determine the Coastal, but Miami has continued to struggle. Still, a road game on Friday night is a scary place for a ranked favorite. A loss here would bring Virginia back to Earth with the rest of the Coastal. A win and they are in total control. On this bye week I’d hope that Virginia is working on figuring out a running game. You can’t rely on Bryce Perkins all the time.

Last Week: Bye

Next Week: Friday at 8 at Miami

3 - #19 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-0, 2-0)

Wake Forest is getting to the part of the season where it’s really impressive to be undefeated. After a bye week the Deacons will welcome Louisville to the Triad. Louisville has looked a lot better in Year 0 than many expected, but this is a game the Deacons should win. This is looking like Wake Forest’s best team in a long time.

Last Week: Bye

This Week: Saturday at 7:30 vs. Louisville

4 - Pittsburgh Panthers (4-2, 1-1)

What a game. Pitt dominated most of this game. They led 26-3 late in the third quarter. Then things changed drastically. Pitt muffed a punt at their own four yard line leading to a quick Blue Devil touchdown. Pitt fumbled on their very next play leading to a Duke short-ish field touchdown (43 yards). Then an interception leading to yet another Duke short field touchdown and the Panthers only lead 26-24. A few failed drives later the Panthers give up a 44 yard passing touchdown to fall down 30-26 with a minute and a half remaining. It’s hard to watch your huge lead evaporate and still play hard and eke out the win, but that’s just what Pitt did. Two defensive penalties and 4 plays later Pitt was in the endzone capping off a game winning drive with just 38 seconds left for Duke to attempt a comeback. A huge win for the Panthers on the road. This was a crazy game featuring 9 turnovers. You know Pitt is happy about winning this one, but they almost certainly feel upset that they let Duke back into the game with dumb mistakes.

Pitt’s offense really struggled for most of this game. They returned a interception for a touchdown, had touchdown drives of 19 and 7 yards, and had a couple of field goals off of short fields. The defense held their own and gave them every chance to win this game. Pitt should take their upcoming bye week and focus on getting the offensive line set up.

Pitt’s biggest issue is that week 1 loss to Virginia. Given how terrible the Coastal is this year, this team is good enough to win it. Because of that loss they really need a lot of help though. They gotta keep winning AND hope that a couple of teams can knock off the Cavaliers.

Last Week: Win 33-30 at Duke

Next Week: Bye

5 - North Carolina Tar Heels (3-3, 2-1)

For once UNC had a relatively easy game. After 5 weeks of down to the wire craziness the Heels got the relatively comfortable win against the Yellow Jackets. Sam Howell threw for 376 yards and four touchdowns. UNC’s run game was very good, especially with Javonte Williams. The defense shut out GT in the first half. That’s not to say that there weren’t areas of concern. The wide receivers dropped some really easy catches that would have been big plays. The offense kept getting into third and longs (although they seemed to always convert). Georgia Tech in the second half strung together some of their best drives of the season.

This team has a shot to win the Coastal, but they had the poor luck to draw Clemson this year. That started them off with 1 loss. The good news is that they get Virginia at home. That could be a huge game in a few weeks if both teams keep it up. For now the Heels get a bye week before heading to VT in what looks like a trickier game than it did last week.

Last Week: Win 38-22 at Georgia Tech

Next Week: Bye

6 - Florida State Seminoles (3-2, 2-1)

Florida State struggled early in the season, but was starting to look better before their bye week. Unfortunately for them they now head to Clemson and Wake Forest in back to back weeks. If they can win one of those games they’d probably be pretty happy. I give them very little chance against Clemson this week.

Last Week: Bye

This Week: Saturday at 3:30 at Clemson

7 - Duke Blue Devils (3-2, 1-1)

I already talked about this game in the Pitt section. Duke has to be upset about the way this game went down. They thought they had it won after things looked hopeless. Like Pitt, Duke’s defense performed fairly well. Four turnovers should have Duke winning the game. But, the offense did not perform at all. Quarterback Quentin Harris had only 165 yards on 18/43 passing, 1 touchdown, and two picks to go along with three fumbles. Their running backs only had 84 yards on 26 carries. This offense needed to do better in a huge home game. Duke gets Georgia Tech at home this week. This should be a game they can win.

Last Week: Lose 33-30 vs. Pitt

Next Week: Saturday at 12:30 vs. Georgia Tech

8 - Louisville Cardinals (3-2, 1-1)

The Cardinals got a huge 41-39 home win this week against Boston College. It wasn’t exceptionally impressive given that BC hasn’t been great and they lost starting quarterback Anthony Brown in the second quarter. But for this Louisville it’s a huge breakthrough. This team was expected to be terrible, but instead they’ve been alright. A huge step up from last year. Both Malik Cunningham and Evan Conley played at quarterback and both did well. Cunningham had a fantastic 288 yards on 13/18 passing as well as 43 yards rushing on just 6 carries. Javian Hawkins had 25 rushes for 172 yards. Turning over the Eagles twice while remaining turnover-less themselves. With this win they remain in contention for a bowl as they head into the difficult portion of their schedule with Wake, Clemson, and Virginia all coming up.

Last Week: Win 41-39 vs. Boston College

Next Week: Saturday at 7:30 at Wake Forest

9 - Syracuse Orange (3-2, 0-1)

On their bye week the Orange move up two spots. I may be punishing other teams a little too hard on this one. I still don’t like what the Orange have done so far this season. Coming off the bye they face off against NC State. The winner will sigh a breath of relief. The loser may start to enter panic mode.

Last Week: Bye

Next Week: Thursday at 7 at NC State

10 - North Carolina State Wolfpack (3-2, 0-1)

Like the Orange this team moves up by virtue of others falling. This game is a must win if this team wants to turn this season into something worthwhile.

Last Week: Bye

Next Week: Thursday at 7 vs. Syracuse

11 - Virginia Tech Hokies (3-2, 1-2)

The Hokies got off the schneid this week with an unlikely win at Miami. Virginia got off to an early 28-0 largely due to the fact that turned Miami over on their first four possessions and five times in the first half. In the fourth quarter the Hokies still led 35-14. Then the Hurricanes scored a touchdown. And another along with a two-point conversion. And another that should have been a go-ahead score except that Miami missed the extra point so it was tied 35-35. Virginia Tech then scored on a clutch drive to go ahead 42-35 with just 1 minute left. Miami gave it a shot though. They had two shots at a score from the VT 10, but were unable to complete a pass.

This is a huge win for the Hokies. Things were looking very bleak before this. The offense had some spark with new starter Hendon Hooker at quarterback. He had 184 yards on 10/18 passing and three touchdowns as well as 76 yards on the ground on 16 carries. The defense was very hit or miss. They started off with the five turnovers, but gave up four long drives that ended in touchdowns or the end of the game in their last four drives. This defense is more like last year’s defense than a normal Bud Foster defense. Fans have to be frustrated that a plus-five turnover margin led to the barest of victories. VT gets Rhode Island this week in their second FCS game of the season. Hopefully they win this more comfortably than the last.

Last Week: Win 42-35 at Miami

Next Week: Saturday at 4 vs. Rhode Island

12 - Miami Hurricanes (2-3, 0-2)

This was a disaster for the Hurricanes. They really should have won this game. Virginia Tech is not good. Yet, they once again found themselves on the wrong side of a close game. The good news is that they may have found their quarterback in last year’s starter N’Kosi Perry.

Jarren Williams started the game with 7 straight completions. Unfortunately three of those were to the Hokies. He got pulled in favor of Perry who threw a pick on his second drive before sparking the offense. Perry had 422 yards on 28/47 passing and 4 touchdowns. Far better than Williams has been able to do.

There were a lot of downsides other than the turnovers though. The defense was unimpressive against a normally anemic offense. The offensive line gave up seven sacks. The run game never had a chance to get going as they fell behind so early. Manny Diaz needs to find some answers quick. It looks like Perry might be one.

The Hurricanes host Virginia this week in the official “Upset Alert” Friday night game. Somehow Vegas favors the Hurricanes here. I’m not sure about that one.

Last week: Lose 42-35 vs. Virginia Tech

Next Week: Friday at 8 vs. Virginia

13 - Boston College Eagles (3-3, 1-2)

Things were looking up early in the season for Addazio’s squad. Now they look like they’ll need to step it up just to reach a bowl. The loss to Louisville hurts and the loss of Anthony Brown may hurt even more. He picked up a non-contact knee injury which is always scary. If he’s out for a while that hampers this offense.

The offense wasn’t the problem this week. Anthony Brown put up an insane 176 yards on 6/7 passing before his injury. Backup Dennis Grosel only had 111 yards on 9/24 passing. Not great, but it had them in position to win. AJ Dillon had another good game with 118 yards on 22 carries although he did lose a fumble. The real issue in this game was defense. They gave up five touchdown drives of 75 yards or longer (long of 96 yards). BC usually has a stout defense, but that is not the case this year. An improved offense isn’t enough to make up for the drop-off. They have a bye week to figure out their QB situation and defense.

Last Week: Lose 41-39 at Louisville

Next Week: Bye

14 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-4, 0-2)

In this section I’ll give a few areas of positivity. James Graham looked comfortable in the second half. It almost looked like a real offense. The defense forced a lot of third and longs. The team didn’t give up. That’s it for this week’s positivity.

Last Week: Lose 38-22 vs. UNC

Next Week: Saturday at 12:30 at Duke