We are here with the first ACC power rankings of the season. Most teams are now preparing for their first game except of course Miami who lost Saturday to Florida in a crazy game that leaves me no closer to figuring out how good they are. Let’s Start.
1 - Georgia Tech
1 - #1 Clemson Tigers (0-0)
Clemson is of course #1 and it’s not even close. The reigning champs bring back a whole lot on offense including quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne and wide receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. They lose their entire starting defensive line including three first round draft picks, but it doesn’t matter that much because they rotate their line so much. They also don’t play any other top teams in the regular season so an undefeated season is well within the realm of possibility.
Next Week: Thursday @ 8 pm vs. Georgia Tech
2 - Virginia Cavaliers (0-0)
Once you get past Clemson you could pick one of about six teams here. I’ll go with Virginia who has improved significantly in the last two seasons under Bronco Mendenhall. I believe his team is in line for another improvement this year which could very well lead to an ACC Coastal title (which would make 7 different winners in 7 years) and maybe even beat Virginia Tech. They lose plenty of production, but bring back QB Bryce Perkins who is probably the second best QB in the conference. The defense should be very good this year and keep them in contention all year. Week 1 they play Pittsburgh in a hugely important game for the ACC Coastal standings.
Next Week: Saturday @ 7:30 pm at Pittsburgh
3 - #22 Syracuse Orange (0-0)
Syracuse had a huge year last year. They won 10 games for the first time in nearly two decades. Like Mendenhall, Cuse coach Dino Babers has seen his team improve significantly the last two years. Syracuse keeps most of their productive players from last season with the notable exception of quarterback Eric Dungey. Replacing him is Tommy DeVito who got some play time last year and was wildly inconsistent. If he replaces Dungey then this team could see another improvement. I would note that computer rankings were generally less impressed with Syracuse last year than you’d expect. They start week 1 playing at Liberty for some reason.
Next Week: Saturday @ 6 pm at Liberty
4 - Florida State (0-0)
Ok, Florida State wasn’t good at all last year. At all. And ok, I’m not a huge fan of Willie Taggart. But, I’m a believer in a big improvement this year. The offensive line was so bad last year that it has to improve this year and small improvements can lead to big changes in results. The Seminoles also brought in a new offensive coordinator in Kendall Briles who is both a major part of Baylor’s scandals and a great offensive coordinator. They bring back a lot of defense and should see big improvements there. They have a decently tough schedule starting with Boise State in week one.
Next Week: Saturday @ 7 pm vs. Boise State in Jacksonville
5 - Virginia Tech (0-0)
Justin Fuente’s team has gotten worse every year since he’s been there finishing with just 6 wins last year after upsetting Virginia in the final week and then beating Marshall in a make-up just to make a bowl. That being said this year’s team should be a lot better. Pretty much the whole defense returns and you have to believe that Bud Foster will get them shaped up after last year’s disaster. I’m also a believer in quarterback Ryan Willis. They start on the road against Boston College in what feels like a must win. If they lose that one, this team will plummet down the rankings.
Next Week: Saturday @ 4 pm at Boston College
6 - Miami Hurricanes (0-1)
Going into Miami’s game against Florida yesterday I expected the Hurricanes to have a strong defense, terrible offensive line, and questionable quarterback play. Miami had a strong defense, a terrible offensive line, and questionable quarterback play. Sure, they held very close to a top-10 team at a neutral site, but it didn’t feel like it. They had great turnover luck including recovering what felt like a thousand of their own fumbles and Florida kept making dumb plays giving them chances to win. Miami wasn’t able to finish. This game was sloppy with the Hurricanes taking several delay of game penalties. You expect them to clean some things up as they go forward, but every team from now on will be targeting that offensive line. They now have a week off before they get a home game against North Carolina.
Last Week: Lost to #8 Florida 24-20 in Orlando
Next Week: BYE
7 - North Carolina State Wolfpack (0-0)
The Pack have had a solid run with head coach Dave Doeren, but I expect a drop off this year. They lose quarterback Ryan Finley and have a competition to replace him with redshirt freshman Devin Leary the most likely to replace him. They were bad at running the ball and I don’t expect them to get much better. The defense has had a ton of talent in recent years, but has been unable to turn that into consistently good defenses. Once again the defense looks good individually, but can they actually make a great defense this year? Count me skeptical. NC State opens the year against the woeful East Carolina Pirates.
Next Week: Saturday @ noon vs. East Carolina
8 - Wake Forest Demon Deacons (0-0)
I love the job that Dave Clawson has done at Wake Forest. He’s taken a team team that routinely would throw up sub-4 win seasons to one that is consistently putting out bowl eligible seasons. Sure, they don’t look like they’ll compete for an ACC title again, but it is Wake Forest. This offense loses star receiver Greg Dortch and several offensive linemen. Other than that the Demon Deacons look to be in good shape both offensively and defensively. The defense wasn’t fantastic last year, but they were a lot better in the second half of the year and I trust Clawson to get them going again. The deacons have a decently tough schedule including a non-conference game against UNC (yes that’s right) and a home opener against Utah State.
Next Week: Saturday @ 8 pm vs. Utah State
9 - Pittsburgh Panthers (0-0)
I don’t think Pitt was that good last year. Yes, they did win the ACC Coastal, but they only went 7-5 and the computers think they weren’t that good either. S&P+ had them as the 61st best team last year. They bring back all of the units that struggled last year (passing game and secondary) while losing the units that were a strength (running backs and offensive line). It all comes down to whether or not you trust Pat Narduzzi to help this team improve. I do not. Pitt should have a lot of close games this year starting in week 1 with a home game against ACC Coastal favorites Virginia. A win here could change my mind.
Next Week: Saturday @ 7:30 pm vs. Virginia
10 - Duke Blue Devils (0-0)
Duke loses the #6 pick in the NFL draft, quarterback Daniel Jones. Despite being such a high pick Jones didn’t exactly light the world on fire at Duke. He was a solid quarterback, but inconsistent. If Duke can average quarterback play then they’ll be good yet again and rise in these rankings. It hurts them that they also lose pretty much their entire receiving corps. That’s gonna hurt, but I once again expect David Cutcliffe’s defense to be good and maybe even very good. They have a very mixed non-conference schedule (good luck against Alabama or Notre Dame, MTSU and NC A&T should be freebies). Week 1 they look forward to getting blasted by #2 Alabama in Atlanta.
Next Week: Saturday @ 3:30 vs. Alabama in Atlanta
11 - Boston College Eagles (0-0)
6 out of 7 Steve Addazio BC seasons have ended up with the Eagles winning 7 games. Most of those seasons have followed similar paths. A stifling defense paired with an anemic offense and enough easy games to make a bowl. This year might be a little different, but could still achieve the same result. They lose most of their best defensive players while returning a ton of skill on offense including star rusher AJ Dillon and quarterback Anthony Brown. If you trust this BC to maintain it’s defensive level and improve the offense with experience this could be a great year for them, but if the defense doesn’t perform and you don’t trust the offense to improve this could go downhill quickly. BC opens the season at home against Virginia Tech.
Next Week: Saturday @ 4 pm vs. Virginia Tech
12 - North Carolina Tar Heels (0-0)
I really liked the Larry Fedora hire. I thought he was going to turn UNC into one of the top contenders for the Coastal year after year. That...did not happen. He only won 5 games combined in the last two years so here comes Mack Brown looking to prove he still has it after Texas stagnated in his final years there. There’s a lot to like for this year. Brown has hired some well regarded assistants including offensive coordinator Phil Longo who had some high flying offenses at Ole Miss. They also return so much of their production that they’re bound to improve. They could also improve and still start 0-5. They open the season against South Carolina in Charlotte. A win here would be huge and skyrocket UNC up the rankings.
Next Week: Saturday @ 3:30 pm vs. South Carolina in Charlotte
13 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (0-0)
We finally get to the Yellow Jackets. The change from the triple option leaves Tech languishing near the bottom of the opening power rankings. You know all about this team by now so I’ll keep it short. If this team surprises this year, you probably won’t see many signs of it in the opener against Clemson. We are now to the teams that I’d be shocked to see succeed this year.
Next Week: Thursday @ 8 pm at Clemson
14 - Louisville Cardinals (0-0)
Louisville was really, really bad last year. Horrendously bad. Egregiously bad. They will be better this year, but maybe not by a whole ton. The Cards got rid of Bobby Petrino and made a strong hire in Scott Satterfield. The offense has some potential, but would require a lot of things to go right to actually be good. The defense should take a step up this year, but will still most likely be pretty bad. This team has a long way to go. They are getting thrown into the fire to start with an opener against #9 Notre Dame.
Next Week: Monday (9/2) @ 8 pm vs. Notre Dame.