Sports, Football

ACC Power Rankings: Dramatic Losses Shake Up Rankings as Clemson, UNC Tumble

1. North Carolina State (3–1, 1–0 Atlantic Coast) ↑6

The Wolfpack earned itself the No. 1 spot in the ACC power rankings this week by taking down one of the biggest brands in college football, Clemson, in a double-overtime thriller. The NC State defense stifled a struggling Clemson offense, holding DJ Uiagalelei to just 111 yards on 12-of-26 passing. Although Clemson tied it up at 14 apiece in the fourth quarter and struck first in overtime, the Wolfpack proved to be relentless. The Tigers could not manage a second OT score, and NC State fans rushed their home field in a 27–21 victory. Devin Leary shredded through Clemson’s top-ranked D, throwing for 238 yards and four touchdowns on 32-of-44 passing, and the sophomore appears to be settling in nicely. Despite an early loss to Mississippi State, the Wolfpack proved itself as a force to be reckoned with, earning the No. 23 spot in the AP Top 25 this week.

Next up: vs. Louisiana Tech, Saturday, 6 p.m.

2. Boston College (4–0, 0–0 Atlantic Coast) ↑1

After three weeks of non-threatening opponents that didn’t pose much of a challenge, Boston College finally achieved the satisfying victory it was looking for, coming in the fashion of a 41–34 overtime victory over Missouri at home. An interception in the endzone by Brandon Sebastian sealed the win and had BC fans pouring onto the field of Alumni Stadium. The run game is what has been truly propelling the offense in quarterback Phil Jurkovec’s absence, amassing 275 yards on the ground compared to Mizzou’s 88. Pat Garwo III has emerged as a top running back in the ACC, posting yet another monster performance of 25 carries, 175 yards, and two touchdowns against Missouri. BC looks to make a case to push itself into the AP Top 25 after collecting 55 votes this week, going on the road with momentum and hoping to take advantage of a struggling Clemson. The last time BC football started a season 4–0 was 14 years ago, and it finished that season ranked No. 10. 

Next up: at Clemson, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

3. Wake Forest (4–0, 2–0 Atlantic Coast) ↑1

Following two consecutive blowouts over ACC opponents Florida State and Virginia, Wake Forest finds itself in the No. 24 spot of the AP poll. To the Demon Deacons’ credit, they have been easily handling their opponents and have looked sharp while doing it, this week trampling Virginia 37–17. The offense boasts a scary 38.8 points per game, and the team has shined in both conference and non-conference play. With a fairly favorable schedule, especially for the first half of the season, Wake Forest could shoot up the rankings, but it could just as easily exit the discussion with a loss or two. BC and Wake Forest remain the only ACC teams without a loss.

Next up: vs. Louisville, Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

4. Clemson (2–2, 1–1 Atlantic Coast) ↓3

Clemson finds itself in its biggest hole in quite some time, as the Tigers are now in jeopardy of falling out of the AP Poll following a 27–21 loss to NC State in double overtime. The team barely scraped by this week, clinging onto the No. 25 spot, but its streak of 107 consecutive weeks ranked could be at risk this season if the offense’s play does not improve. Quarterback Uiagalelei has struggled this season and saw his worst statistical performance thus far at NC State, posting a 46.2 completion percentage with only 111 yards. The gradual dropoff of the Tigers now leaves the ACC title wide open with no clear frontrunner. 

Next up: vs. Boston College, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

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

The Hokies have been fairly quiet ever since a statement Week One win over then-No. 10 North Carolina. After making its way into the AP Poll, VT dropped out quickly after an upset loss to West Virginia. Its 21–10 victory last week over Richmond wasn’t exactly reassuring that the team is back on track. Virginia Tech faces what very well might be its biggest challenge of the season next in No. 9 Notre Dame two weeks from now, as it looks to pull off another staggering upset and make a push for the ACC title.

Next up: Bye

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

The Cardinals have very quietly worked their way into the thick of the ACC after recovering from a Week One loss to Ole Miss, who now sits at No. 12 in the AP Poll. Louisville rode the momentum of a game-winning pick six over UCF into a road trip to Florida State, where it took home a 31–23 victory. Malik Cunningham threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns on 25-of-39 passing in the win, while also adding 56 yards on the ground and two rushing scores. 

Next up: at Wake Forest, Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

7. Georgia Tech (2–2, 1–1 Atlantic Coast) ↑6

Just a week after holding Clemson to 14 points, the Yellow Jackets stunned the college football world again with a 45–22 demolition of No. 21 North Carolina. In one of his best games to date, dual threat quarterback Jeff Sims rushed for 128 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries while also completing 10-of-13 passes for 112 yards and a score. With a tough slate of ACC opponents to come, Georgia Tech will look to build off the upset and gain more recognition, though it will not be easy. 

Next up: vs. Pittsburgh, Saturday, 12:00 p.m.

8. Miami (2–2, 0–0 Atlantic Coast) ↑5

Miami’s roller coaster start to the season has been underwhelming, but its 69–0 blowout over Central Connecticut State should help reestablish the team’s confidence. After being blown out by Alabama and Michigan State and barely hanging on to defeat Appalachian State, the Hurricanes have finally achieved a definitive victory. With a slew of ACC opponents coming up, Miami will look to build on its recent win and climb back into the AP Top 25.

Next up: vs. Virginia, Friday, 7:30 p.m.

9. North Carolina (2–2, 1–2 Atlantic Coast) ↓7

This week, UNC tumbles to the bottom half of the ACC after an embarrassing 45–22 loss to Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels have been inconsistent, as has their quarterback Sam Howell.The Tar Heels have looked explosive in both of their wins this season, putting exactly 59 points on the scoreboard in each contest. Their low points, however, have been devastating as the offense was stopped in its tracks against both Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. The running game only managed 63 yards in its most recent matchup, and the lack of production cost UNC its spot in the AP Poll.

Next up: vs. Duke, Saturday, 12:00 p.m.

10. Virginia (2–2, 0–2 Atlantic Coast) ↓4

The Cavaliers had a strong start to their season with two easy victories, but their luck has since changed as UVA dropped its two most recent matchups to fall back to reality and an even .500 record. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong continues to be a high point of the Virginia offense, posting his third straight 400+ passing yards performance last weekend. He is currently 2nd in the NCAA in passing yards with 1,705. UVA was blown out by the emerging Wake Forest 37–17 on Saturday despite Armstrong’s efforts, and any initial hopes for this team seem to have been diminished.

Next up: at Miami, Friday, 7:30 p.m.

11. Duke (3–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast) ↔

Following a close Week One loss to Charlotte, the Blue Devils are rolling with three straight wins, the most recent being a 52–33 rout of Kansas. Their competition has not been a cakewalk either, featuring Big 10 and Big 12 matchups in Northwestern and Kansas. With much of the ACC trending downward, Duke could be a sneaky team to watch as quarterback Gunnar Holmberg continues to dazzle, posting five total touchdowns against Kansas.

Next up: at North Carolina, Saturday, 12:00 p.m.

12. Pittsburgh (3–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast) ↓3

Pittsburgh finds itself toward the bottom of this week’s rankings even after a 77–7 rout of New Hampshire to bounce back from a close loss two weeks ago. This comes as a result of dynamic performances from Duke, Miami, and Georgia Tech and is not an indicator of poor performance by the Panthers. The aforementioned games simply held more value than this expected Pittsburgh blowout. Quarterback Kenny Pickett continued to shine for the Panthers, racking up 403 yards and six total touchdowns on 24-of-28 passing in the win. At long last, Pitt will face its first conference opponent in Georgia Tech over the weekend with a shot to show it can compete in the ACC.

Next up: at Georgia Tech, Saturday, 12:00 p.m.

13. Syracuse (3–1, 0–0 Atlantic Coast) ↔

Syracuse barely pushed past Liberty over the weekend on a game-winning field goal for a 24–21 win. Both the offense and the defense continue to show signs of confusion and miscommunication, and if it is not patched up by the time the Orange starts facing tougher ACC opponents, the Syracuse players could be in for a rude awakening.

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

14. Florida State (0–4, 0–2 Atlantic Coast) ↓3

The 0–4 start is less than ideal for the Seminoles, as they remain the only team in the ACC that has yet to earn a win. This time, FSU dropped a contest to Louisville 31–23. With the exception of Jacksonville State, the competition for the Seminoles has been anything but easy as the team desperately tries to execute its first victory. Hosting Syracuse this weekend might be exactly what this struggling Florida State team needs.

Next up: vs. Syracuse, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Featured Graphic by Emma Healy / Heights Editor

October 1, 2021