ACC Power Rankings, Sports, Football

ACC Power Rankings: Bye Weeks Aplenty, Few Shifts Abound

The majority of ACC football teams took a break last weekend. COVID-19 cancellations and bye weeks caused just six out of 14 teams to play while the others sat out resting and getting ready for Thanksgiving weekend matchups. Though no ACC teams played on Turkey Day, most will on either the Friday or Saturday. There are few traditions more American than turkey, pumpkin pie, and football. The turkey will be leftover and the stuffing might be stale, but the ACC will provide plenty of football this Thanksgiving weekend.

1. Notre Dame (8-0, 7-0 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 2) ↔

Notre Dame remains atop the ACC and No. 2 in the nation following a bye week. The Fighting Irish have put together an undefeated season and show no signs of slowing down with the College Football Playoff looming. According to the Allstate Playoff Predictor, Notre Dame currently has a 59.3 percent chance of making the playoffs—the highest in the ACC. Notre Dame boasts a well-balanced team with a cornucopia of talent on both sides of the ball, but Heisman candidate quarterback Ian Book has shined this year for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame will face North Carolina on Saturday in its first matchup against a ranked opponent since its week 10 victory over Clemson. 

Next Up: at North Carolina, Friday, 3:30 p.m.

2. Clemson (7-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 4) ↔

Clemson’s originally scheduled game against Florida State was postponed cold turkey Saturday after a Clemson player tested positive for COVID-19. The Tigers blamed FSU for canceling, arguing that the Seminoles used the COVID case as an excuse to avoid a loss. FSU will now host Clemson on Dec. 12. The Tigers will head into Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh with two weeks of rest following their loss to Notre Dame. 

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

3. Miami (7-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 10) ↔

Miami’s games against Georgia Tech and Wake Forest were delayed due to COVID-19 precautions, granting the Hurricanes a bye last weekend and another this Saturday. Miami has lost just once this season, but wins have not come easily. The Hurricanes beat all of their last three opponents by five or fewer points, and they still have to face No. 25 North Carolina before the end of the season. 

Next Up: Bye

4. North Carolina (6-2, 6-2 Atlantic Coast, AP No. 25) ↔

Despite not taking the field last weekend due to a bye week, North Carolina broke back into the AP Top 25. The Tar Heels will have to fight hard to keep that spot Friday against No. 2 Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish and Tar Heels have gone toe to toe 20 times, 18 of which were victories for Notre Dame. To come away with a win, UNC’s offense will have to play like it did two weeks ago when it gobbled up Wake Forest’s defense in a 59-53 win. Such a feat will be difficult against Notre Dame, however, as Irish defense is ranked No. 11 for fewest yards per game. The Tar Heels have lost disappointing games to Virgnina and Florida State, but they have a chance to make a statement with remaining games against ranked Notre Dame and Miami. 

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

5. North Carolina State (6-3, 5-3 Atlantic Coast) ↔

After losing consecutive games against North Carolina and Miami, North Carolina State is back. The Wolfpack beat Florida State by 16 points two weeks ago and managed to come back to defeat No. 21 Liberty 15-14 on Saturday. The NC State defense forced three interceptions against the Flames, but Wolfpack quarterback Bailey Hockman was held to just 154 yards and a dismal quarterback rating of 13.6. The remainder of NC State’s schedule should be as easy as pie, featuring games against ACC bottom feeders Syracuse and Georgia Tech.

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

6. Wake Forest (4-3, 3-3 Atlantic Coast) ↔

Wake Forest is in the middle of a two-week sabbatical leading up to games against Miami and Notre Dame. The Demon Deacons have played surprisingly well after losing their first two games of the season, though their four-game win streak was snapped two weeks ago by a 59-53 offense-heavy loss to North Carolina. Though it was not enough to win, Wake Forest’s offense proved its ability to compete against high-level opponents. Demon Deacon quarterback Sam Hartman threw for an impressive 429 yards, dishing out four touchdowns in the process while wide receiver Donavon Greene tallied a season-high 170 yards and two touchdowns. Wake Forest will take this weekend to rest and prepare for tough upcoming matchups. 

Next Up: Bye

7. Boston College (5-4, 4-4 Atlantic Coast) ↔

Boston College comes into this week’s game against Louisville after an eventful bye week of schedule changes. Originally set for this Friday, the Louisville game was switched to Dec. 5 before moving again to this Saturday. Despite BC’s superior record, it is only a one-and-a-half point favorite heading into Saturday’s game. Though the Eagles have an even record against ACC teams, all four losses came against ranked teams. After losing to Notre Dame two weeks ago, BC head coach Jeff Hafley announced that quarterback Phil Jurkovec had separated his shoulder against Clemson and played through the injury. Jurkovec struggled against Syracuse but appeared to regain some of his accuracy against Notre Dame, throwing for 272 yards and two touchdowns. Hafley described the QB’s condition as “great” during his press conference this week. BC should be well rested after its loss two weeks ago and ready to close out its home slate against Louisville on Saturday.

Next Up: vs. Louisville, Saturday, 4:00 p.m.

8. Pittsburgh (5-4, 4-4 Atlantic Coast) ↑2

Pittsburgh is 5-2 with Kenny Pickett at quarterback this season. Both losses were by one point, one of which was in overtime. The senior quarterback is a difference maker on the Pitt offense, and his 404-yard, two touchdown performance Saturday led the Panthers to a 47-14 turkey-shoot victory over Virginia Tech. Pitt has scored over 41 points in two consecutive games, but the Panthers will have to count their blessings heading into Saturday’s game at Clemson.

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

9. Virginia (4-4, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) ↔

After losing four straight games earlier this season, Virginia won its last three. The Cavaliers beat Abilene Christian on Saturday 55-15 in a game that they were strongly favored in, but it was still a dominant win nonetheless. UVA quarterback Brennan Armstrong threw for 383 yards and four touchdowns, earning a season-high quarterback rating of 90.9. Virginia is hot, and it will look to build on its momentum on Saturday against a struggling Florida State.

Next Up: at Florida State, Saturday, 8:00 p.m.

10. Virginia Tech (4-5, 4-4 Atlantic Coast) ↓2

Virginia Tech reached the height of its season in week four when it was ranked No. 20. Since then, it has lost five out of seven games. Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh was a chance for the Hokies to turn their season around, but it instead resulted in a 33-point loss, their biggest of the season. With Clemson on the horizon, Virginia Tech will get a breath of fresh air this weekend.

Next Up: Bye

11. Louisville (3-6, 2-6 Atlantic Coast) ↔

Louisville shut Syracuse out last week in a 30-0 victory. The Cardinals had their best performance of the season, forcing three turnovers while allowing just seven first downs and 137 yards. Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham repeatedly paraded down the field and floated a touchdown pass, but he also delivered two interceptions. To beat BC this weekend, Louisville’s offense will need to limit turnovers and continue its defensive dominance. 

Next Up: at Boston College, Saturday, 4:00 p.m.

12. Georgia Tech (2-5, 2-4 Atlantic Coast) ↔

Georgia Tech enjoyed its third-straight bye week last weekend after two COVID-19-related schedule changes and one regularly scheduled bye week. The Yellow Jackets will hope to snap a three-game losing streak on Saturday against Duke, but three weeks away from competitive play might prove to have been a mixed blessing for a potentially rusty Georgia Tech. 

Next Up: vs. Duke, Saturday, 7:00 p.m.

13. Florida State (2-6, 1-6 Atlantic Coast) ↔

Though the Seminoles did not play last weekend, Florida State received plenty of attention for postponing its game against Clemson just three hours before kickoff after an opposing player tested positive for COVID-19. The Seminoles have struggled this year since upsetting North Carolina on Oct. 17, but they should have a chance at adding a third win in the final leg of their season. 

Next Up: vs. Virginia, Saturday, 8:00 p.m.

14. Duke (2-6, 1-6 Atlantic Coast) ↔

Duke took this weekend off, enjoying a second straight week of rest due to a bye and a postponement. After losing their first four games of the season, the Blue Devils have won two of their last four matchups. Duke has harvested at least 20 points in its last six games, but its defense has allowed an average of 34 points per game over the same stretch. 

Next Up: at Georgia Tech, Saturday, 7:00 p.m.

15. Syracuse (1-8, 1-7 Atlantic Coast) ↔

It’s hard to win a football game with seven first downs. It’s even harder with three turnovers. Syracuse suffered another dismal loss to Louisville on Saturday, its eighth of the season. Its offense was completely stuffed and unable to score a single point, and its defense allowed 30. The Orange showed a glimmer of hope after losing to BC by three and putting up 21 points against Clemson, but its performance against Louisville indicates that the Orange will not make a resurgence in 2020. 

Next Up: vs. North Carolina State, Saturday, 12 p.m.

Featured Graphic by Emma Healy / Heights Editor

November 27, 2020