NCAA football is approaching its fifth week of action, and the ACC is heading into its third. Already, the conference has grabbed national attention. Five teams sit inside the AP Top 25, with national runner-up Clemson and newly joined Notre Dame coming in at No. 1 and No. 5 respectively. No. 8 Miami, No. 12 North Carolina, and No. 24 Pittsburgh are the three remaining ranked ACC teams. Now that the Big Ten and Pac 12 reversed their postponement of football this fall, powerhouses such as Ohio State and Oregon re-entered the rankings this week. With conference-only play from here on out, it will be a dog fight to the very end to the College Football Playoff.
1. Clemson (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 1) ↔
After an idle week for the Tigers, Trevor Lawrence and company will face Virgina in Death Valley for a rematch of last year’s ACC Championship game. This year is likely a championship-or-bust season for Dabo Swinney’s squad, as weapons such as Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne will begin to play on Sundays come next season.
2. Notre Dame (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 5) ↔
Like Clemson, Notre Dame had a bye this week, but not for rest. With COVID-19 numbers growing—the Fighting Irish have 39 total in isolation or quarantine—it simply is not safe for the team from South Bend to be playing football right now. The team is stacked with experience—head coach Brian Kelly has been with Notre Dame for a decade, and quarterback Ian Book has been around for half of that time—so look for the Irish to make a statement when they do return to the gridiron.
3. Miami (3-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 8) ↔
College football fans have been asking themselves whether or not “The U” is back ever since the Hurricanes dominated in the early 2000s. But that level of success came when Miami was in the Big East. Now, Manny Diaz and D’Eriq King are on their way toward ACC success after dismantling their in-state rival Florida State this past weekend.
4. North Carolina (1-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 12) ↔
UNC is not just a hoops school anymore, and the Tar Heels can thank head coach Mack Brown for that. In Boston College football head coach Jeff Hafley’s press conference on Tuesday, he sang Brown’s praises ahead of the teams’ Saturday matchup. Led by true sophomore Sam Howell at quarterback, the Tar Heels are back in the national spotlight after showing promise last year, including a one-point loss to Clemson in 2019. Even with two idle weeks behind them, the Tar Heels played well enough in their opener against Syracuse to maintain their ranking.
5. Pittsburgh (3-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 24) ↔
The top five spots hold from last week, as the Panthers staved off then-No. 24 Louisville this weekend. With the win, Pitt secured a spot in the AP Top 25 despite the emergence of other conferences. They’ll look to keep their undefeated record intact as they face off against NC State at home.
6. Virginia (1-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) ↑2
After a coronavirus-related delay, the 2020 ACC runner up Virginia welcomed Duke in its season opener. The Cavaliers bested the Blue Devils 38-20, but they will be tasked with taking on Clemson next week, on the road no less.
7. Boston College (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) ↑2
A win is a win, according to Hafley. Although he and the Eagles were three-touchdown favorites over Texas State, they only led for three seconds of the entire game. Thankfully for the Eagles, it was the last three. Phil Jurkovec showed poise and composure in the clutch, finding Hunter Long in the back of the end zone to tie the game at 21 apiece with 1:11 remaining in the game. Another Jurkovec-led drive set up a 36-yard field goal attempt for kicker Aaron Boumerhi. Texas State head coach Jake Spavital used all three of his second-half timeouts right before Boumerhi brought the ice in September with a game-winning kick.
8. Virginia Tech (1-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) ↔
Like their in-state foes in Charlottesville, the Hokies had to wait before they could kick off their season. When Virginia Tech finally took the field, it cruised to a comfortable three-touchdown win over NC State. The Hokies will look to continue that momentum at Duke this weekend.
9. Louisville (1-2, 0-2 Atlantic Coast) ↓3
Despite a close loss to ranked Pitt, the Cards now fall to 0-2 in the ACC and fall in the rankings—both ACC and AP—as a result. The good news for the Cardinals, though, is that they travel to Atlanta to face one of the ACC’s bottom feeders, Georgia Tech. Barring an upset, Louisville will look to get back on the upswing.
10. NC State (1-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast) ↓3
Following a shootout victory against Wake Forest, the Wolfpack fell to Virginia Tech by three scores. It doesn’t get easier for them, as they travel to Pittsburgh for a noon showdown against the ranked Panthers.
11. Syracuse (1-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) ↑4
The Orange were blown out in their opener against UNC and followed it with a quality loss to Pitt on the road. ’Cuse finally has a check in the win column after last week, with a victory over Georgia Tech for Dino Barbers and his squad. Up next is a bye week, then Syracuse takes on Duke at home.
12. Georgia Tech (1-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast) ↓1
The Yellow Jackets could not keep their unbeaten ACC record, as they were embarrassed by previously last-ranked Syracuse. And just like the Orange, Georgia Tech will have a bye week before hosting Louisville.
13. Wake Forest (0-2, 0-2 Atlantic Coast) ↓1
Wake Forest had a bye week last week due to Notre Dame’s COVID-19 concerns. The Demon Deacons came out on the wrong side of a barn burner the week before, losing to NC State by a field goal. It gets easier for the Demon Deacs this week, as they face the winless Campbell of the Big South Conference at home.
14. Florida State (0-2, 0-2 Atlantic Coast) ↓1
The glory days of the Seminoles appear to be in their rearview mirror, as coaching change after coaching change has not solved their woes. They were utterly demolished by in-state rival Miami last week, as Miami is on the hunt to prove itself as the top team in Florida. They’ll host Jacksonville State as they look for a much needed W.
15. Duke (0-3, 0-3 Atlantic Coast) ↓1
The Blue Devils are now 0-3, with all three losses coming by multiple touchdowns. David Cutcliffe has yet to fully utilize Clemson transfer Chase Brice, but the quarterback-whispering coach will look to turn things around as Duke hosts Virginia Tech at home.
Featured Graphic by Emma Healy / Heights Editor