Sports, Football, ACC Power Rankings

ACC Power Rankings: The Calm Before the Storm

For the first time this season, every ACC team is slated to take the field this week, barring any unforeseen COVID-19 outbreaks. With five teams—Clemson, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Miami, and Virginia Tech—ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll and two teams—North Carolina State and Boston College—receiving over 40 votes this week, the ACC has established itself as one of the top conferences in the FBS. Even though the conference’s best four teams have all but cemented their positions at the top, there was a lot of movement this week due to Miami’s tough loss to Clemson, North Carolina and Boston College’s crucial victories, and Duke’s first win of the season. Plus, with some high-stakes matchups coming up this week, the ACC could be in the calm before the storm.

1.  Clemson (4-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 1) ↔

Clemson continues to show why it is not only the best team in the ACC, but the best team in the entire country. In a game that gathered plenty of hype throughout the week, Clemson shot down the hopeful Miami Hurricanes—ranked seventh in the country at the time—by a whopping score of 42-17. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence continues to shine, as he tallied over 300 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns against the normally stout Miami defense. Clemson will look to continue its dominance on the road against Georgia Tech next week.

Next Up: at Georgia Tech, Saturday, 12 p.m.

2. Notre Dame (3-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 4) ↔ 

In their first contest since Sept. 19, the Fighting Irish had a rocky start. At one point, they found themselves down 17-14 against Florida State, a team that is winless in conference play. But after that rough first quarter, Notre Dame’s offense got going and outscored the Seminoles 25-12 in the final three quarters, cruising to a 42-26 victory. Head coach Brian Kelly’s team will look to remain undefeated next week against a struggling Louisville team.

Next Up: vs. Louisville, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

3. North Carolina (3-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 5) ↑1

After a narrow victory against BC, North Carolina’s game against Virginia Tech was much different. In a heavy-hitting offensive shootout, the Tar Heels ran for 408 yards, with two touchdowns from each of their running backs. The great ground game gave sophomore quarterback sensation Sam Howell a more meager stat line than fans would expect—257 yards and three touchdowns—in a game where his team scored 56 points. Even though UNC’s game this week wasn’t nearly as close as last week’s against BC, the Tar Heels escaped another tough test to remain undefeated on the year. North Carolina will look to win more comfortably next week at Florida State as it goes for a 4-0 start.

Next Up: at Florida State, Saturday, 7 p.m.

4. Miami (3-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 13) ↓1  

Miami had the chance to shock the world and upset Clemson in Death Valley, but come game time, the ’Canes were simply outclassed by the best team in college football. The Hurricanes never had a lead against the Tigers, and as a result, Miami fell six spots in the AP Poll. Quarterback D’Eriq King only mustered 121 yards in the air in the 42-17 defeat. The Hurricanes look to get back in the win column and move back up the polls next week against Pittsburgh, which is coming off a heartbreaking loss of its own.

Next Up: vs. Pittsburgh, Saturday, 12 p.m.

5. Boston College (3-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) ↑3

Boston College found itself on the right side of a heartbreaker this week, beating Pittsburgh 31-30 in overtime on a missed extra point attempt by Alex Kessman. The Eagles’ offense—led by ACC Co-Quarterback of the Week Phil Jurkovec and ACC Wide Receiver of the Week Zay Flowers—proved itself as a passing powerhouse, notching three touchdowns through the air. BC will look to take down Virginia Tech on the road as the Eagles continue the hunt for a national ranking.

Next Up: at Virginia Tech, Saturday, 8 p.m.

6. Virginia Tech (2-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 23) ↓1

After nearly battling back from a 21-point deficit against North Carolina, the No. 23 Hokies will host a surging BC team. A win against Jeff Hafley’s squad would most likely keep the Hokies from falling out of the Top 25, but a loss almost guarantees a drop out of the national rankings. 

 Next Up: vs. Boston College, Saturday, 8 p.m.

7. North Carolina State (3-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast) ↓1

NC State picked up its second win a row this week against Virginia, earning the Wolfpack 86 votes toward this week’s AP Poll. Facing one-win Duke this week, NC State will look to keep its unbeaten streak alive.

Next Up: vs. Duke, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. 

8. Pittsburgh (3-2, 2-2 Atlantic Coast) ↓1

In its first week after falling out of the Top 25, Pittsburgh came so close to a critical rebound win in Chestnut Hill. Kessman nailed a 58-yard field goal to tie up the score and send the game to overtime, but he failed to convert on the game-tying extra point attempt in overtime. Pittsburgh has tumbled in the ACC power rankings the past few weeks, but the Panthers will look to get back on track and upset the Hurricanes in Miami next week. 

Next Up: at Miami, Saturday, 12 p.m.

9. Virginia (1-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) ↔ 

After yet another double-digit loss, this time at the hands of NC State, Virginia will look to rebound this week on the road against Wake Forest. The Cavaliers will need to play much better defensively if they want to return to the win column, as they’ve allowed at least 38 points against them in each of their last two contests.

Next Up: at Wake Forest, Saturday, 4 p.m.

10. Georgia Tech (2-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) ↑2         

The Yellow Jackets put up an impressive offensive display in their major victory over Louisville this week. Georgia Tech finds itself much higher in the power rankings than it did in the preseason poll, which predicted the Yellow Jackets to fall at the very bottom of the conference. Georgia Tech will take on Clemson at home next week, a game in which the Yellow Jackets are major underdogs.

Next Up: vs. Clemson, Saturday, 12 p.m.

11. Louisville (1-3, 0-3 Atlantic Coast) ↓1

Louisville suffered its third-straight defeat this week at Georgia Tech, falling to 0-3 in conference play. The road will not get any easier for the Cardinals when they take on Notre Dame in South Bend next week.

Next Up: at Notre Dame, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

12. Syracuse (1-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) ↔ 

After a dominant victory over Georgia Tech two weeks ago, Syracuse disappointingly fell to the previously winless Duke at home last week. The Orange defense struggled to stop both the aerial and ground attack of the Blue Devils’ offense in the 38-24 defeat.  Syracuse will look to get back in the win column in its only non-conference contest against Liberty this week.

 Next Up: vs. Liberty, Saturday, 12 p.m.

 13. Duke (1-4, 1-4 Atlantic Coast) ↑2

Duke finally earned its first victory this week against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. The Blue Devils’ run game dominated the Orange defense, totaling 363 yards on the ground. Duke will look to win its second game in a row in a tough test at NC State this week.

 Next Up: at NC State, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

14. Wake Forest (1-2, 0-2 Atlantic Coast) ↔

Coming off its bye week, Wake Forest will take on Virginia at home in Winston-Salem on Saturday. The Demon Deacons will look to reach an even .500 record and move up the power rankings against a struggling Cavaliers team. 

 Next Up: vs. Virginia, Saturday, 4 p.m. 

15. Florida State (1-3, 0-3 Atlantic Coast) ↓2

Florida State, formerly an ACC juggernaut, has struggled to start the year. The Seminoles suffered their third conference loss this week at the hands of Notre Dame, and their schedule will not let up for this week. The Seminoles will be heavy underdogs against an undefeated North Carolina team this weekend.

 Next Up: vs. North Carolina, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Featured Graphic by Emma Healy / Heights Editor

October 14, 2020