Sports, Football, ACC Power Rankings

ACC Power Rankings: Parity Still Defines the Conference

Clemson stopped sliding in the AP Poll, thanks to an emphatic win over Boston College, but Week 8 was once again a reminder that parity is king in the ACC. Louisville took down Virginia, while Pittsburgh, which was riding high on a four-game win streak, suffered a bizarre loss to Miami. That makes for difficulty telling which teams are the class of the conference—aside from the Tigers, of course—but also sets the stage for an entertaining slate of games this week

1. Clemson (8-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 4) ↔

The Tigers just kept on rolling, winning their 23rd straight game with a 59-7 beatdown of BC, a victory in which they removed most of their starters midway through the third quarter. The Tigers have dropped three spots in the national rankings since the beginning of the year despite not losing a game, but with Trevor Lawrence—who completed an astonishing 84.5 percent of his passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns against the Eagles—finding his groove, there’s not a team in the country Clemson can’t beat.

Next up: vs. Wofford (-47), Saturday, 4 p.m.

2. Wake Forest (6-1, 2-1 ACC, AP No. 23) ↔

After barely escaping a Saturday night contest against Florida State, the Demon Deacons got a week to rest up and recover before playing host to North Carolina State. Questions still surround the starting quarterback position—the depth chart lists Sam Hartman or Jamie Newman, who is still recovering from a shoulder injury—but head coach Dave Clawson will likely be confident in whoever gets the nod. After all, Wake Forest just keeps winning. 

Next up: vs. N.C. State (-7.5), Saturday, 12 p.m.

3. Louisville (5-3, 3-2) ↑3

The Cardinals rebounded from a decisive loss to Clemson by rallying from a seven-point halftime deficit to slip by UVA, 28-21. Micale Cunningham and Javian Hawkins both accounted for two touchdowns with Heisman Trophy winner and former Louisville great Lamar Jackson in the house, and the Cardinals were able to move within one win of bowl eligibility with four games still to play. The hiring of head coach Scott Satterfield continues to pay huge dividends. 

Next up: Bye

4. Virginia (5-3, 3-2) ↓1

The Cavaliers have now lost three of four after dropping their second conference game of the year at Louisville. UVA still has the 18th-best defense in the country by Bill Connelly’s SP+, but an inconsistent offense—which has scored 21 points or fewer in three of its last four games—has held the Cavaliers back from reaching their full potential for much of the conference slate. 

Next up: at North Carolina (+2), Saturday, 7:30 p.m. 

5. North Carolina (4-4, 3-2) ↔

A win over your biggest rival is a great way to erase a heartbreaking, six-overtime loss, and the Tar Heels did just that, beating Duke, 20-17, courtesy of a goal line interception from Chazz Surratt with just 14 seconds left. UNC now faces its biggest game of the season Saturday, as UVA comes to town in a contest that gives the winner the inside track to the Coastal Division title.

Next up: vs. UVA (-2), Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

6. Pittsburgh (5-3, 2-2) ↓2

The Panthers have made a habit of winning close games this season—their last four wins (all in a row) came by seven points or fewer—but their luck finally ran out against Miami. Kenny Pickett tossed two interceptions, Pittsburgh lost another fumble, and the Hurricanes’ Jarren Williams—who replaced starting QB N’Kosi Perry in the fourth quarter—led a nine-play, 62-yard game-winning touchdown drive on Miami’s final possession of the night to hand the Panthers a 16-12 defeat. On the bright side, it’s clear that head coach Pat Narduzzi can still coach a great defense, as Pittsburgh has held four consecutive opponents to 20 points or less.

Next up: at Georgia Tech (-7.5), Saturday, 4 p.m.

7. Virginia Tech (5-2, 2-2) ↑1

The talk around Justin Fuente’s job security has quieted and the Hokies are somehow 5-2 coming off a bye week and a wild six-overtime win against UNC that kept a possible Coastal Division title alive. Fuente was silent on whether Hendon Hooker, who started against the Tar Heels before leaving with a knee injury, would make it back in time to face No. 16 Notre Dame, but the Hokies look to have a capable replacement in Quincy Patterson—who rushed for 122 yards against UNC—should Hooker not make it back in time.

Next up: at Notre Dame (+17.5), Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

8. Duke (4-4, 2-3) ↑1

The Blue Devils came agonizingly close to knocking off the Tar Heels but lost after calling a questionable trick play at the goal line that ended in an interception rather than a game-winning touchdown. That pick was the most costly of four Duke turnovers, and head coach David Cutcliffe has to be concerned that his team has been too careless with the ball this season. The Blue Devils have 19 turnovers so far—just five FBS teams have committed more in 2019.

Next up: Bye

9. Florida State (4-4, 3-3) ↑2

After falling just short of knocking off Wake Forest, the Seminoles picked up an important win against Syracuse, keeping the Orange winless in conference with a 35-17 victory. FSU also unveiled a new wrinkle to its offense, putting star tailback Cam Akers in the wildcat formation for some of the game, and it worked to great effect. The junior, who spent some time running a wildcat offense in high school, rushed for 144 yards and four touchdowns, and also completed a pair of passes for 26 yards. 

Next up: vs. Miami (-3), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. 

10. Boston College (4-4, 2-3) ↓3

Any dreams the Eagles had of pulling off the upset of the season in Death Valley were quickly squashed by Clemson, which raced out to a 38-7 halftime lead and never looked back. BC has serious defensive problems—it gave up a program-worst 674 yards of offense to the Tigers—and with Dennis Grosel now the starting quarterback for the rest of the season, a unit that porous simply won’t give the Eagles a chance to win many games. The lone bright spot? AJ Dillon now has the most rushing yards in program history after a 75-yard performance against Clemson.

Next up: at Syracuse (+3), Saturday, 12 p.m.

11. N.C. State (4-3, 1-2) ↓1

The Wolfpack had a week off to reflect after giving up 429 rushing yards to BC and will hope the defense can make enough adjustments to give redshirt freshman Devin Leary—who is making his first career start—a chance to keep up with Wake Forest’s explosive offense. Leary did throw for 259 yards and three touchdowns against the Eagles, and will likely have to top that if head coach Dave Doeren’s team wants to pull off an upset of the Demon Deacons. 

Next up: at Wake Forest (+7.5), Saturday, 12 p.m.

12. Miami (4-4, 2-3) ↑1

An up-and-down first year of head coach Manny Diaz’s tenure continued for Miami, which scraped past Pittsburgh, 16-12, with a late touchdown pass from Williams. The Hurricanes definitely have offensive issues to sort out ahead of a rivalry game with FSU, and Diaz not knowing who his starting quarterback certainly isn’t helping matters.

Next up: at Florida State (+3), Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

13. Georgia Tech (2-5, 1-3) ↑1

For the first time all season, the Yellow Jackets aren’t on the bottom of our Power Rankings, thanks to the continued struggles of the Orange. Georgia Tech is still in the midst of a rebuild under first-year head coach Geoff Collins, but at least it has a conference win—something Dino Babers and his team can’t say.

Next up: vs. Pittsburgh (+7.5), Saturday, 4 p.m.

14. Syracuse (3-5, 0-4) ↓2

Babers and Co. had no answer for Akers and are still the only team in the ACC without a win in conference play (or against a Power Five opponent, for that matter). FSU had a field day against a weak Syracuse offensive line, recording seven sacks to up the total allowed by the Orange in 2019 to 42—the most in the country. Syracuse’s 10-win campaign of a season ago feels like a distant memory at this point. 

Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor

October 31, 2019