Sports, Football, ACC Power Rankings

ACC Power Rankings: Can Anybody Catch Wake Forest?

  1. Wake Forest (9–1, 6–0 Atlantic Coast)

Despite a one-point drop in the AP Top 25 rankings from No. 12 to No. 13, Wake Forest bounced back from its first loss to stay at the top of the ACC. The Demon Deacons fell to North Carolina in a Week 9 upset but earned a tight Week 10 victory against No. 16 NC State. Mistakes, drops, and air-mail throws present against North Carolina carried over into Week 10 for Wake Forest, but quarterback Sam Hartman pieced together a solid outing despite the flaws. The defense still poses lingering concerns that have only arisen in tougher conference matchups. In Wake Forest’s last five games, it allowed 46.8 points per game on average.

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

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

Quarterback Kenny Pickett threw a late-game interception against North Carolina last week that nearly jeopardized the game. Following his rare mistake, Pickett lofted one downfield to tight end Lucas Krull in the first overtime possession. Pitt’s defense suffocated Tar Heel quarterback Sam Howell on a tormenting fourth-down malfunction on the next set of downs, and the ball fell into the hands of Pittsburgh defensive back M.J. Devonshire to seal the game. Surpassing Alex Van Pelt’s 11,267 career yards, Pickett became the program’s all-time passing leader. Pitt sits at No. 20 in the AP Poll.

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

  1. North Carolina State (7–3, 4–2 Atlantic Coast) ↓1

With losses at the hands of No. 12 Wake Forest in last week’s matchup and at unranked Miami just three weeks prior, NC State has slid nine spots to No. 25 in the AP Poll. NC State lost contention for the ACC title with its most recent loss and two-regular season games left to play. Quarterback Devin Leary threw for 408 yards and four touchdowns against Wake Forest, a season high for the sophomore phenom. Leary has amassed 2,883 yards with 29 touchdowns on a 65.4 completion percentage in conference play.

Next Up: vs. Syracuse, Saturday, 4 p.m. 

  1. Clemson (7–3, 5–2 Atlantic Coast)

Clemson was unnerved in its second loss of the season to NC State, which dismantled the Tigers’ chances of winning an ACC title for the seventh straight year. With the exception of a Week 7 loss to Pitt, Clemson is trending upward. Despite quarterback struggles under DJ Uiagalelei, the Tigers’ defense is a worthy device, proven against legitimate contenders including then-No. 5 Georgia in Week 1. This week’s matchup against No. 13 Wake Forest will be a persuasive telling of how much the Tigers can handle against a flaming hot Demon Deacons offense. 

Next Up: vs. Wake Forest, Saturday, 12 p.m. 

  1. North Carolina (5–5, 3–4 Atlantic Coast) ↑1

After a 58–55, come-from-behind victory over Wake Forest in Week 9 and a 45–42 win over Miami in Week 7, North Carolina has proven it can contend with top teams. The Tar Heels nearly managed an upset win over then-No. 25 Pittsburgh last week, but the Panthers narrowly escaped in overtime. The Tar Heels are fearsome when the offensive line can give Howell the time he needs with the ball, but those opportunities are rare. In his most recent press conference, head coach Mack Brown said that Howell had been dealing with an upper-body injury and is at risk of missing his final home game against Wofford. Without Howell, the Tar Heels will face a tall task.

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

  1. Virginia (6–4, 4–2 Atlantic Coast) ↑1

Two back-to-back losses for Virginia came by means of gritty out-of-conference matchups against ranked opponents in No. 14 BYU and No. 6 Notre Dame. The Cavaliers keep pace in the ACC though. Virginia has matured this year thanks to quarterback Brennan Armstrong, who was sidelined with injury for Notre Dame. Armstrong ranks third in total passing yards in all of FBS this year, breaking the team’s single-season passing yardage record, and he is 11th in passing touchdowns with 27. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a press conference this week that Armstrong’s injury status is day-to-day heading into a matchup with Pittsburgh.

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

  1. Miami (5–5, 3–3 Atlantic Coast) ↓2

Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke emerged and grew into a starting role for the ’Canes, where the redshirt freshman feels right at home. The strong-armed quarterback was sentenced to bench time early in the 2021 season, shadowing D’Eriq King. King, however, suffered a right shoulder injury in a 38–17 home loss to Michigan State in Week 3 of this season, and Van Dyke took over. Under Van Dyke, Miami suffered losses to Virginia and North Carolina but ran through NC State and Pittsburgh. 

Next Up: vs. Virginia Tech, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. 

  1. Boston College (6–4, 2–4 Atlantic Coast) ↑2

After dropping four games in a row, it took the return of quarterback Phil Jurkovec to salvage bowl contention. In back-to-back weeks, BC shined, and Jurkovec appears to have found even more success in the rush attack on designed runs than from before suffering a wrist injury. Jurkovec accounted for five total touchdowns In BC’s 41–30 win over Georgia Tech last week, earning him ACC Player of the Week honors. Running back Pat Garwo III is approaching a 1,000-yard season in addition to Jurkovec’s stellar play. Defensive back Josh DeBerry has been consistent all year across coverage schemes and flanking wideouts on deeper routes. 

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

  1. Louisville (5–5, 3–4 Atlantic Coast) ↓1

After crushing blows in back-to-back losses against NC State and Clemson, the Cardinals pulled off a hard-fought 41–3 win against an agitated Syracuse on Saturday. Louisville retired the jersey of former Cardinal and Heisman winner Lamar Jackson before the game in what turned out to be an emotional night for the star. This season, dual-threat quarterback Malik Cunningham has relished in some games and deferred his talent in others, but he totals 16 touchdowns from the ground, more than any other FBS quarterback.

Next Up: at Duke, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. 

  1. Syracuse (5–5, 2–4 Atlantic Coast) ↓1

Syracuse’s offensive tandem of running back Sean Tucker and quarterback Garrett Shrader were bottled up in last week’s matchup with Louisville. Tucker, the nation’s second-leading rusher, was limited to just 95 yards on 19 carries. Tucker averaged nearly 141 yards per game prior to the loss. Shrader threw for just 46 yards on 10-of-18 passing, and he was sacked four times. The sophomore quarterback has encountered consistent issues with distributing the ball over a spread. ’Cuse travels south to take on NC State this week. 

Up Next: at NC State, Saturday, 4 p.m.

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

After six years with the program, Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente was fired mid-season with a career record of 43–31. Rumors of Fuente’s firing have been swirling all season, and a 48–17 win over Duke wasn’t enough to keep him off the hot seat. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister, who Fuente praised for his progression over the offseason, threw for 215 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, keeping Duke winless in conference play. The Virginia Tech coaching buzz is already beginning to circulate with two weeks left in the season.

Next Up: at Miami, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. 

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

The Seminoles delivered an upset strike against Miami for a 31–28, come-from-behind victory. With 26 seconds left in the game, quarterback Jordan Travis ran the ball into the endzone from the 1-yard line just moments after a 4th-and-14 conversion on a slot pass to Andrew Parchment that kept the game alive. Travis passed for a career-high 274 yards on 18-of-26 passing, in addition to garnering 62 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. It’s been a bumpy road for the Seminoles, who started the season dropping four games straight, only to win the next three.

Next Up: at Boston College, Saturday, 12 p.m.

  1. Georgia Tech (3–7, 2–6 Atlantic Coast)

It’s been a rollercoaster year for Georgia Tech. Quarterback Jeff Sims was out for last week’s matchup at home for undisclosed reasons pertaining to an injury, but backup Jordan Yates fell into the role and recorded two total touchdowns in Sims’ replacement. Yates showed glimpses of fiery mobility and a strong arm on the run. Running back and returner Jahmyr Gibbs played with a similar vengeance, rushing for 96 yards on 19 carries in addition to a 98-yard kickoff return for the Yellow Jackets’ first score. Looking ahead, Georgia Tech faces No. 8 Notre Dame and No. 1 Georgia.

Next Up: at Notre Dame, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.  

  1. Duke (3–7, 0–6 Atlantic Coast)

The Blue Devils dropped their sixth game in a row at Virginia Tech, riding a streak of 11 consecutive conference losses dating back to last season. With upcoming games against Louisville and Miami, the schedule doesn’t get any sunnier. Quarterback Gunnar Holmberg, who has battled silently for the Devils with a 140.1 quarterback rating, had started every game for Duke up until Virginia Tech, where his backups combined on 13-of-28 passing for 147 yards passing. 

Next Up: vs. Louisville, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

Featured Graphic by Ethan Ott / Heights Editor

November 18, 2021

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