Football, Sports

ACC Power Rankings Week Three: A Wide-Open ACC

1. Clemson (2–1, 1–0 Atlantic Coast) ↔

The presumptive favorite to win the conference going into the season has not shined as bright as it has in years past through the first three games. This week saw the Tigers barely escape ACC bottom-feeder Wake Forest in a 14–8 battle in which Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei only managed 126 passing yards and no touchdowns. After being consistent national title contenders under quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne, the Tigers are struggling to find their offensive identity.

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

2. North Carolina (2–1, 1–1 Atlantic Coast) ↑1

The Tar Heels scored 59 points for the second straight week—this time against conference opponent Virginia. Receiver Josh Downs recorded eight receptions for 203 yards and two touchdowns. Sam Howell looked sharp, with five touchdowns and a 67 percent completion rate, but UNC’s secondary struggled, conceding 553 passing yards to the Cavaliers. Luckily for the Tar Heels, they are facing a subpar passing team in Georgia Tech this week. 

Next Up: at Georgia Tech, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

3. Boston College (3–0, 0–0 Atlantic Coast) ↑2

The Eagles had another gritty win against a non-Power Five opponent this week. The defense looked stellar, holding Temple to three points and just two red-zone trips. The offense, however, only managed 28 points against a weak defense. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding how the team will survive without quarterback Phil Jurkovec as the Eagles enter the toughest three-game stretch of the season. Backup quarterback Dennis Grosel only managed 34 passing yards with a sub-50 percent completion rate against the Owls. The Eagles will have to lean on receiver Zay Flowers and their loaded backfield to put up points against the ACC’s best defenses in the coming weeks.

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

4. Wake Forest (3–0, 1–0 Atlantic Coast) ↑6

One of two undefeated teams remaining in the ACC, the Demon Deacons have shown both strong offense and defense, boasting a point differential of +78, but like BC, they have not faced a strong test yet. The Demon Deacons beat Old Dominion and Norfolk State handily, but both are FCS teams. Wake Forest’s win this week came over Florida State, a team that is currently in shambles with a winless start to its season. If Wake Forest can remain as strong as it has been as it takes on stronger ACC opponents, the Demon Deacons will enter the conversation as a team to watch in this conference.

Next Up: at Virginia, Friday, 7 p.m.

5. Virginia Tech (2–1, 1–0 Atlantic Coast) ↓3 

The Hokies took their first loss of the season this week against West Virginia. They went down 27–7 in the third quarter and put up a valiant comeback effort, but it came up short on the Mountaineer four-yard line with a minute to go. The Hokies’ run defense could not back up their strong secondary this week, as WVU star running back Leddie Brown amassed 161 yards and put the Mountaineers on the board first with an 80-yard score. Despite a Week One win over UNC, Virginia Tech looks to be sliding. 

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

6. Virginia (2–1, 0–1 Atlantic Coast) ↔

Although the Cavaliers were on the receiving end of a 20-point beating against North Carolina this week, the fact that they put up 39 points—more than UNC allowed in its previous two games—spells good news. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong showed out against a tough Tar Heel defense, putting up an efficient 554 yards, double what UNC had given up to that point in the season. 

Next Up: vs. Wake Forest, Saturday, 7 p.m.

7. North Carolina State (2–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast) ↔

Two of the Wolfpack’s three games so far this season have been practically gimme games, and NC State won both by a combined score of 90–7. But after losing to Mississippi State in Week Two, NC State’s outlook is uncertain. This week, the Wolfpack destroyed Furman on offense and defense, which might provide some hope to Wolfpack fans after a disappointing loss. With Clemson next on the docket, NC State will have to find its identity quickly.

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

8. Louisville (2–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast) ↑3

The Cardinals have long prided themselves on high-powered offenses, and this year is no different. They took Central Florida this week to the tune of a 42–35 win. Quarterback Malik Cunningham put up 268 yards through the air and 99 on the ground with three total touchdowns. While there are certainly valid questions about how the Cardinals’ defense will fare in ACC play, their offense looks to have the ability to keep Louisville any given game.

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

9. Pittsburgh (2–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast) ↓1

The Panthers are certainly among the ranks of ACC teams with potent offenses and subpar defenses. Quarterback Kenny Pickett put up a staggering 382 yards and six touchdowns through the air, but the Panthers fell to Western Michigan, which plays in the Mid-American Conference. This loss will certainly put a damper on the Panthers’ promising season.

Next Up: vs. New Hampshire, Saturday, 12 p.m.

10. Florida State (0–3, 0–1 Atlantic Coast) ↔

If you asked anyone who follows ACC football which would be the only winless team in the conference after Week Three, it’s likely that very few would say the Seminoles. After Wake Forest dominated Florida State this week, the Seminoles are grasping at straws for answers. They also have what might be the toughest remaining schedule of any ACC team this year, so a once foregone conclusion of bowl eligibility might be slipping out of their hands already.

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

11. Duke (2–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast) ↑1

Duke beat Northwestern this week by a touchdown in an overall offensive effort, as the Blue Devils got much of their offensive success from QB Gunnar Holmberg and RB Mataeo Durant. Still, there are many reasonable questions about how well a team that lost to Charlotte will fare in the ACC. Although Duke might seem like a team that proved a lot by beating a Big 10 team this week, they are still fighting the lingering critics from earlier this season. 

Next Up: vs. Kansas, 4 p.m.

12. Georgia Tech (1–2, 0–1 Atlantic Coast) ↑1

The Yellow Jackets put on an impressive performance on defense this past week against Clemson. Had Georgia Tech converted a 4th-and-goal from the two-yard line late in the fourth to win the game, the Yellow Jackets might have jumped even higher. Still, a loss can only be so impressive, so Georgia Tech remains a bottom dweller in a deep conference. An early loss to Northern Illinois casts doubt on the game against Clemson being anything but an anomaly.

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

13. Miami (1–2, 0–0 Atlantic Coast) ↓9

The Hurricanes have not shown a single quality performance yet this year despite coming in with high expectations. They have lost two games by 20-plus points each, and their lone win is by two points over Appalachian State. Miami has a fairly weak schedule down the stretch, so any hopes of top bowl contention are probably gone. At this point, the Hurricanes need to get back on track to compete to be in the top half of the ACC and reach any bowl game at all. As for their game against Michigan State this week, Payton Thorne picked apart their defense, and four turnovers killed the Hurricanes’ offense. 

Next Up: vs. Central Connecticut State, Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

14. Syracuse (2–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast) ↔

The Orange won big against Albany this week, but anything less than domination for an ACC team against an FCS team would be a disappointment. Syracuse amassed nearly 500 more total yards than the winless Great Danes, which is impressive no matter the opponent. Still, the Orange have questions on both sides of the ball, and they haven’t done much answering.

Next Up: vs. Liberty, Friday, 8 p.m.

Featured Graphic by Emma Healy / Heights Editor

September 24, 2021