Three teams in the Top 20 of the national polls isn’t too shabby, but the ACC still remains incredibly unpredictable. After No. 2 Clemson, No. 19 Wake Forest, and No. 20 Virginia, there’s really no telling where it’ll end up—and the Cavaliers are far from perfect, too. North Carolina looks the part of a Coastal contender, Virginia Tech still makes no sense, and Pittsburgh apparently loves to narrowly escape with victories. That and more in this week’s edition of the ACC Power Rankings.
1) Clemson (5-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 2) ↔
Dabo Swinney had a fiery retort to the media about rumors that star quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been playing with a bruised shoulder since the Week 2 matchup against Texas A&M, saying “There’s nothing wrong with Trevor. And I don’t like people trying to create drama.” While the Tigers are unbeaten, there’s several reasons to not buy into another title—and first and foremost is the average play of Lawrence.
Next Up: vs. Florida State (-27), Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
2) Wake Forest (5-0, 1-0, AP No. 19) ↔
After a bye, the Demon Deacons bring their spotless record and top-20 ranking up against a resilient Cardinals side that displayed explosiveness in a win over Boston College. Wake Forest is ranked for the first time since 2008 and has a chance to keep climbing, as it’ll likely be favored in its next two games after Louisville—head coach Dave Clawson’s side hosts both FSU and North Carolina State.
Next Up: vs. Louisville (-6.5), Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
3) Virginia (4-1, 2-0, AP No. 20) ↔
Jumped in the polls by the Demon Deacons despite both teams not playing last week, UVA enters a pivotal game with a Coastal Division opponent in Miami. The Hurricanes are winless in conference play after a tough loss at the hands of Virginia Tech, but Bryce Perkins and Co. aren’t going into Coral Gables as favorites—in fact, Miami boasts a 59.4 percent chance to win, per ESPN’s FPI.
Next Up: at Miami (+2), Friday, 8 p.m.
4) North Carolina (3-3, 2-1) ↑1
The Tar Heels took care of business against Georgia Tech, building a 17-0 halftime lead, en route to a convincing 38-22 win. UNC snapped a three-game losing streak in the process, too, with quarterback Sam Howell completing 38-of-51 passes for 376 yards. The Tar Heels have only lost to Clemson by one point in conference play and could challenge UVA—they will have to get by Virginia Tech and Duke first before that Nov. 2 meeting.
Next Up: Bye
5) Florida State (3-2, 2-1) ↑1
Refreshed after a bye week, the Seminoles get the unenviable task of making the trip to Death Valley. FSU has won two straight, beating Louisville and North Carolina State, but this game—aired on ABC—could go quite poorly. FPI gives the Seminoles just a 6.2 percent chance to pull off the upset, as it sure doesn’t help that FSU ranks 89th in scoring defense while Clemson slots in at No. 9.
Next Up: at No. 2 Clemson (+27), Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
6) Pittsburgh (4-2, 1-1) ↑2
After escaping Delaware in a game where it seemed like everybody was hurt for the Panthers, Pittsburgh got back on track against Duke. While it almost blew a 23-point lead and needed a Kenny Pickett 26-yard touchdown pass to V’Lique Carter with 38 seconds remaining to get a 33-30 victory, it was still a win. Pickett bounced back after missing the week prior and threw for 268 yards and a trio of touchdowns, setting the Panthers up for a strong back half of the schedule.
Next Up: Bye
7) Duke (3-2, 1-1) ↓3
Fresh off a rout of the Hokies, the Blue Devils hosted Pittsburgh and nearly established themselves as potential challengers of Virginia in the Coastal Division before falling, 33-30. Duke erased a 23-point deficit but couldn’t knock off the Panthers, spoiling a chance at a four-game winning streak. Quarterback Quentin Haris completed just 40 percent of his passes and threw three interceptions, though, so the team’s ceiling could be limited.
Next Up: vs. Georgia Tech (-17.5), Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
8) Boston College (3-3, 1-2) ↓1
Back at .500 after consecutive losses, the Eagles get a much-needed bye week. It was a tough trip to Louisville last Saturday, as BC’s defense gave up a program-worst 664 yards and watched a game-winning field goal sail through the uprights with less than two minutes to go. Throw in the fact that quarterback Anthony Brown went down with an injury and the outlook is bleak in Chestnut Hill. Backup Dennis Grosel will likely be the starter from here.
Next Up: Bye
9) Syracuse (3-2, 0-1) ↔
It says a lot that the Orange isn’t favored in this road matchup with the Wolfpack. Coming off a bye, Syracuse has piled up offense against the likes of Western Michigan and Holy Cross in the previous two weeks, but remains a conference enigma. The game might not be the best, but at least Syracuse is wearing its all-orange uniforms while N.C. State is going with all-whites on a Thursday night “color rush” game.
Next Up: at N.C. State (+4.5), Thursday, 8 p.m.
10) Louisville (3-2, 1-1) ↑1
The Cardinals were hoping that the bye week would be enough time to get Micale Cunningham back from injury, and he returned in time for the game with BC. He’d exit with another injury but it ultimately didn’t matter, as backup and third-stringer Evan Conley rose to the occasion in a 41-39 win. Louisville snapped a nine-game conference losing streak in the process and aim to play spoiler against a Demon Deacons side on Saturday in a prime-time matchup.
Next Up: at Wake Forest (+6.5), Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
11) Miami (2-3, 0-2) ↓1
The Hurricanes and Virginia Tech played one of the more entertaining games of the season last week, and it ended—surprisingly—in a Miami loss. The Hokies stormed out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead but the Hurricanes rallied before eventually giving up a touchdown run in the final minute. It was “an absolutely insane football game,” Miami head coach Manny Diaz said after, per AP. The Hurricanes won’t have much of a chance to regroup, though, as they host No. 20 UVA—and will start N’Kosi Perry in lieu of injured quarterback Jarren Williams.
Next Up: vs. No. 20 UVA (-2), Friday, 8 p.m.
12) Virginia Tech (3-2, 1-2) ↑1
The Hokies almost blew a 28-point lead to Miami, but still managed to pull off the win with a Deshawn McClease touchdown run with 1:08 on the clock. That snapped a stretch of 21 points scored by the Hurricanes in a row, and the 42-35 win took at least some of the heat off head coach Justin Fuente. The Hokies will likely roll this weekend against Rhode Island, but will follow that with three difficult games against UNC, Notre Dame, and Wake Forest.
Next Up: vs. Rhode Island (no line), Saturday, 4 p.m.
13) N.C. State (3-2, 0-1) ↓3
The Wolfpack didn’t have the best conference opener, to say the least. After starting the year 3-1, with the only setback against West Virginia, N.C. State went to Tallahassee and was rolled over by FSU in a 31-13 loss. That’s prompted a quarterback change from head coach Dave Doeren, as he’s turning to Bailey Hockman while demoting former starter Matthew McKay to third-string status.
Next Up: vs. Syracuse (-4.5), Thursday, 8 p.m.
14) Georgia Tech (1-4, 0-2) ↔
A long season continued with a 16-point loss to the Tar Heels. Through five games under new head coach Geoff Collins, the Yellow Jackets are 127th in the country in scoring (15.2 points per game). By comparison, Paul Johnson guided Georgia Tech to the No. 33 ranking last season and never finished below 70th in the country.
Next Up: at Duke (+17.5), Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
Featured Graphic by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor