Sports, Football, Power Rankings

ACC Power Rankings: The Predictable and the Shocking

For pretty much the first time this season, the ACC saw a major shift in its top five teams, as Virginia Tech’s double-digit win over Boston College and North Carolina’s shocking loss to Florida State altered the chemistry of the top of the conference. Unsurprisingly, Clemson finds itself atop the rankings once again, as a 73-7 beatdown of Georgia Tech helped it cement itself as the best team in college football. With another week of bigtime, high-stakes matchups between some of the top teams in the ACC, expect some major changes next week. 

1. Clemson (5-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 1)

With another week in the books, the question remains: Will Clemson lose a single game this season? Going up against a Georgia Tech team that was 2-2 at the time, the Tigers shut down any hope of an underdog victory. Clemson pulled away early, taking a 52-7 lead into halftime. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence had his first 400-yard game as a Tiger, throwing for 404 yards and five touchdown passes—and he didn’t even play the full game. Clemson now holds a +182 point differential over the first five games of the season. 

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

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

Although a 12-7 victory over Louisville could be considered cause for concern, the narrow win is an anomaly for the Irish. Notre Dame dominated time of possession 36:15 to 23:45, ran the ball 49 times for 232 yards, and avoided turnovers and penalties. The Cardinals were up 7-6 at one point—thanks in large part to four sacks on Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book—but Notre Dame held them off for the win. The Fighting Irish are now 4-0, and they will play a Kenny Pickett-less Pittsburgh this week. 

Next Up: at Pittsburgh, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

3. Miami (4-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 11) ↑1

The Miami-Pittsburgh game was much more about the defense than anything. Going up against the Panthers without starting quarterback Pickett, Miami’s defense had three sacks, a fumble recovery, and held the Panthers to four field goals and a single touchdown. A shining aspect of the ’Canes’ defensive game came on the ground, holding Pitt’s rushing attack to 22 yards on 26 rushing attempts, a 0.8 yards per rush average. Quarterback D’Eriq King went 16-for-31, throwing for 222 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Miami will look to continue its momentum next week against a struggling Virginia team. 

Next Up: vs. Virginia, Saturday, 8 p.m.

4. Virginia Tech (3-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 19) ↑2

The Virginia Tech defense generated five turnovers against Boston College in its 40-14 victory. BC was unable to stop quarterback Hendon Hooker and running back Khalil Herbert, the first-ever quarterback and running back duo for Virginia Tech to both run for 100-plus yards. Hooker only completed 11-of-15 passes for 111 yards and one touchdown, doing most of his damage in the run game. 

Next Up: at Wake Forest, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

5. North Carolina (3-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 14) ↓2

After a shocking 31-28 loss to Florida State, North Carolina tanked in the AP Top 25 poll, falling from No. 5 to No. 14. After going into halftime down 31-7, the Tar Heels nearly staged a comeback, but despite holding the Seminoles scoreless after halftime, they fell just short. Despite the loss, UNC gained more yardage than Florida State, with 558 to FSU’s 432. The Tar Heels will look to get back on track next week versus NC State.

Next Up: vs. NC State, Saturday, 12 p.m.

6. North Carolina State (4-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 23) ↑1

Down 20-14 at halftime, NC State scored 17 points in the second half while keeping Duke scoreless to win the game 31-20. The victory means that the Wolfpack is now ranked No. 23 in the AP Top 25 Poll with 199 votes, and it will look to keep the momentum going against No. 14 North Carolina. 

Next Up: at North Carolina, Saturday, 12 p.m.

7. Boston College (3-2, 2-2 Atlantic Coast) ↓2

BC struggled mainly with turnovers, losing the ball on the first two drives within the 30-yard line, with five total giveaways over the course of the game. BC continued to prove itself as a pass-first school, with quarterback Phil Jurkovec passing for 345 yards, two touchdown passes, and two interceptions, while receiver Jaelen Gill broke out with six receptions for 104 yards and his first touchdown at BC. The BC defense struggled to stop the run game as Virginia Tech ran the ball 41 times for 350 yards. The Eagles’ own run game struggled with 25 carries for a total of 90 yards. BC will look forward to facing a Georgia Tech team that was just clobbered by Clemson 73-7.

Next Up: vs Georgia Tech, Saturday, 4 p.m.

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

With quarterback Kenny Pickett out with an injury, Pittsburgh was forced to start redshirt freshman Joey Yellen against No. 13 Miami. After following up three consecutive victories with three straight losses, the Panthers now sit at .500 despite starting the season ranked No. 25 in the country. With a difficult game against No. 3 Notre Dame, the Panthers—10.5-point underdogs—will look toward their defense to put them on top. 

Next Up: vs. Notre Dame, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

9. Georgia Tech (2-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast) ↑1

Even after a 73-7 drubbing at the hands of Clemson, the faltering lower half of the ACC allowed Georgia Tech to continue to climb the rankings this week. There wasn’t really a chance Georgia Tech would win, considering their underdog status to the best team in the country. Georgia Tech has a chance to do better next week, as the Yellow Jackets take on BC as just 3.5-point underdogs.

Next Up: at Boston College, Saturday, 4 p.m.

10. Virginia (1-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) ↓1

After a 40-23 defeat against Wake Forest, this Virginia team is looking for answers. The game was tied at 23-23 up until the fourth quarter, but Virginia allowed Wake Forest to put up two touchdowns and a field goal in the final period. The Cavaliers lost their last three games by an average margin of about 17 points, and the defense needs to lock down if they want to get back to the ACC runner-up status they had last year. 

Next Up: at Miami, Saturday, 8 p.m.

11. Wake Forest (2-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) ↑3

After starting the season 0-2, Wake Forest has come up big in the past two games to bring its record back to .500. Next week, the Demon Deacons will be up against Virginia Tech, with the hope that they’ll be able continue their win streak and make waves in the ACC.

Next Up: vs. Virginia Tech, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. 

12. Florida State (2-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) ↑3

Florida State climbs in the power rankings after pulling off a major upset against then-No. 5 North Carolina. Although UNC fought back in the second half, Florida State was able to hold onto the victory. Quarterback Jordan Travis only went 8-for-19 with 191 yards, one touchdown, and one interception while running for 107 yards. Florida State is looking up and will face Louisville this weekend.

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

13. Louisville (1-4, 0-4 Atlantic Coast) ↓3

A week after losing to Georgia Tech 46-27, Louisville went into Notre Dame as major underdogs. Surprisingly, the Cardinals only lost 12-7, and quarterback Malik Cunningham was efficient, finishing 16-for-19 for 132 yards and one touchdown. Even so, as the Cardinals remain winless in the conference, they continue their slide in the rankings. Louisville now falls to 1-4 overall and will look for its first conference victory next week against fellow ACC bottom feeder Florida State.

Next Up: vs. Florida State, Saturday, 12 p.m.

14. Syracuse (1-4, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) ↓2

In their only non-conference game of the season, the Orange lost to Liberty 38-21, sending them to 1-4 on the season. Quarterback Rex Culpepper went 19-for-40 for 211 yards, but the Syracuse defense couldn’t hold off Liberty quarterback Malik Willis and running back Shedro Louis. Things won’t get any easier for the Orange this week, since they’ll be heavy underdogs against Clemson.

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

15. Duke (1-5, 1-5 Atlantic Coast)

Duke falls to 1-5 on the season after a loss to NC State. Duke, which entered with momentum after a victory against Syracuse, took a lead going into halftime, but NC State came back to score 17 points in the second half. Quarterback Chase Brice threw for 190 yards, as well as one touchdown and three interceptions. A week after running for a total of 363 yards against Syracuse, Duke only had 129 yards on 41 carries, and Brice was the leading rusher. Duke will not have a game this week and afterward will be up against the Charlotte 49ers, the lone non-conference game the Blue Devils will play this season.

Next Up: Bye

Featured Graphic by Emma Healy / Heights Editor

October 22, 2020