Sports, Football, ACC Power Rankings

ACC Power Rankings: Top Teams Maintain Dominance

1. Wake Forest (8–1, 5–1 Atlantic Coast) 

The Demon Deacons currently sit at No. 12 in the latest AP Top 25 poll, only dropping three spots after suffering their first defeat of the season to North Carolina in a 58–55 shootout. The loss to UNC does raise some concerns, as the Wake Forest defense allowed the Tar Heels to accumulate 24 points in the fourth quarter after holding a lead for the majority of the game. The Demon Deacons have yet to achieve a big win, with all of their victories coming against teams that have been unranked for the entire season. Still, with Wake Forest’s potent offense behind dark horse Heisman candidate quarterback Sam Hartman, the Demon Deacons have yet to score fewer than 35 points in any game this season. Wake Forest will look to remain a one-loss team to chase a top bowl game, but its final three matchups—NC State, Clemson, and Boston College—will certainly be its toughest challenge yet. 

Next Up: vs. NC State, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

2. North Carolina State (7-2, 4-1 Atlantic Coast)

A big win against then-No. 9 Clemson in Week 4 propelled NC State into the Top 25, the Wolfpack has been fairly consistent since, working its way up to No. 16 in the AP Poll that week and No. 21 this week. The Wolfpack’s two losses came at the hands of unranked Mississippi State in Week 2 and unranked Miami more recently. NC State has refocused after a one-point loss to Miami, picking up comfortable victories over Louisville and Florida State. No. 12 Wake Forest is next on the Wolfpack’s schedule. A matchup between the top two ACC teams seems appropriate for this coming week in the home stretch of the season, and it could determine who earns a spot in the ACC title game.

Next Up: at Wake Forest, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

3. Pittsburgh (8–2, 5–1 Atlantic Coast)

Quarterback Kenny Pickett has carried his team to success this season with a statline of 3,171 yards, 33 total touchdowns, and a 68.7 completion percentage. No. 25 Pittsburgh has losses to Western Michigan and Miami by three and four points, respectively. The Panthers fell to Miami 38–34 in a similar fashion to NC State, showing holes in the defense. The Panthers additionally surrendered 29 points to a depleted Duke team last week in Pitt’s blowout 54–29 win over the Blue Devils. Pitt took on North Carolina in a Thursday night matchup this week, winning 30–23 to command its spot in the conference’s top three.

Next Up: vs. Virginia, Saturday (Nov. 20), TBD

4. Clemson (6–3, 5–2 Atlantic Coast)

Clemson sits with a 6–3 record, and although all three of its losses have come against currently ranked teams, the Tigers have not looked the same as they have in recent years, particularly on offense. The losses of star quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne, both of whom were drafted in the first round in the 2020 NFL Draft, have hit Clemson hard. The Tigers have taken care of business when they have needed to, but a majority of their victories have been close, including one-score games against Georgia Tech, BC, Syracuse, and Louisville. With a gimme game against UConn next, Clemson will have time to prepare to face No. 12 Wake Forest two weeks from now in hopes of reviving the team’s relevance.

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

5. Miami (5–4, 3–2 Atlantic Coast)

After starting the season 2–4 with losses to Alabama, Michigan State, North Carolina, and Virginia, Miami has cruised to three straight wins, two against ranked teams. Miami has had one of the most difficult schedules in the ACC and lost starting quarterback D’Eriq King to injury. Backup Tyler Van Dyke has started to find his groove, posting a flurry of dominant performances in Miami’s current three-game win streak. After knocking off two of the hottest teams in the ACC in NC State and Pittsburgh, Miami has boosted its way back up to the top half of the ACC. 

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

6. North Carolina (5–4, 4–3 Atlantic Coast)

The Tar Heels have proven themselves to be the least consistent team in the ACC, exhibited by an astonishing come-from-behind upset win over previously undefeated Wake Forest in which North Carolina outscored the Demon Deacons 24–7 in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Sam Howell, who was in Heisman talks entering the season has been just as inconsistent as his team. Losses to Georgia Tech and Florida State put a hole in the Tar Heels’ resume, but North Carolina will have another chance to prove itself with games against Pitt and NC State on the road coming up.

Next Up: vs. Wofford, Saturday (Nov. 20), 12 p.m.

7. Virginia (6–3, 4–2 Atlantic Coast)

The Cavaliers have boasted some dominant offensive performances this season and have played well against ACC teams. The team’s losses have all been to formidable opponents: North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Brigham Young, all of which are or were previously ranked. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong has allowed the Cavaliers to keep up in most games, but the defense has been lackluster and has failed to stop or slow most offenses. Coming off of a 66–49 beatdown at the hands of BYU two weeks ago, the Cavaliers will look to bounce back after their bye week, hosting No. 9 Notre Dame under the lights.

Next Up: at Notre Dame, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

8. Louisville (4–5, 2–4 Atlantic Coast)

The Cardinals enter Week 11 having dropped four of their last five games, all against ACC opponents. Dual threat quarterback Malik Cunningham has been up and down, but he is a productive force in the Cardinal offense, leading the team in passing and rushing yards. Cunningham has recorded 24 total touchdowns, 15 of which coming on the ground. Louisville has had a tough stretch of games in the middle of the season, and all five of its losses come against teams with winning records. The Cardinals have kept most of their losses close, but the team will get a break with three lower-tier matchups to close out the season.

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

9. Syracuse (5–4, 2–3 Atlantic Coast)

Syracuse, a team that many took lightly at the start of the season, has exceeded expectations, heading into the home stretch with a winning record. Playing top ACC teams Wake Forest and Clemson to close losses is a welcome upside for ’Cuse fans. After dropping three conference matchups all by just three points, the Orange took home back-to-back wins at Virginia Tech and against BC. Syracuse will look to build on its momentum as the team travels to Louisville following a bye week. 

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

10. Boston College (5–4, 1–4 Atlantic Coast)

With starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec’s surprise return from a wrist injury, BC dominated Virginia Tech at home 17–3 to snap the Eagles’ four-game losing streak. After opening the season at 4–0 and being one of two remaining undefeated teams in the ACC, the Eagles lost four in a row, and backup quarterback Dennis Grosel’s limitations came to the forefront. With Jurkovec back under center as a main piece of the offense, BC will look to build momentum in two matchups at Georgia Tech and at home against Florida State, and then put it all out on the field hosting currently ranked Wake Forest to conclude its season.

Next Up: at Georgia Tech, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

11. Virginia Tech (4–5, 2–3 Atlantic Coast)

A Hokies team with promising expectations to start the season, especially after upsetting then-No. 10 North Carolina in its first game, has fallen apart recently. After starting the season 3–1, Virginia Tech has dropped four of its last five and is coming off of a touchdownless 17–3 loss to BC. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister exited the game with an undisclosed injury after attempting just one pass, but he has struggled along with the Hokies all season, posting a measly 54.1 completion percentage on the season. Virginia Tech will look to reverse its luck against Duke this weekend.

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

12. Florida State (3–6, 2–4 Atlantic Coast)

Former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston just suffered a season-ending injury in his first stint as full-time starter for the Saints in the NFL, and his former college team has been sharing his misfortune with major struggles all season long. The Seminoles have faced a flurry of tough ACC opponents, but neither the offense nor the defense has looked organized in any performance this season. Florida State’s most notable win of the season came in a 35–25 victory at North Carolina. With little to no chance at bowl contention, Florida State will look to build on its lackluster 2021 season heading into next year.

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

13. Georgia Tech (3–6, 2–5 Atlantic Coast)

Georgia Tech dropped a heartbreaker to Miami 33–30 after the Hurricanes made a late comeback effort, following a pattern of heartbreak for the Yellow Jackets this season. Teams have been taking advantage of the gaping holes in the Yellow Jackets’ defense that gives up an average of 29 points per game. Dual threat quarterback Jeff Sims has been a highlight for this bottom-of-the-barrel team this season, posting 16 total touchdowns and accounting for much of Georgia Tech’s rushing game.

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

14. Duke (3–6, 0–5 Atlantic Coast)

Duke’s season has been somewhat disastrous, and the team just dropped its fifth game in a row in a 54–29 blowout at the hands of Pitt. After starting the season 3–1 in non-conference play, the Blue Devils showed promise. But five straight losses to ACC opponents, in which four were lopsided, immediately erased this facade. In three of those games, the Blue Devils’ defense surrendered 45 points or more. Quarterback Gunnar Holmberg has quietly performed well, boasting a 69.3 completion percentage and 13 total touchdowns while starting every game thus far for the desperate Blue Devils.

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

Featured Graphic by Ethan Ott / Heights Editor

November 13, 2021