Sports, Football, Fall

ACC Power Rankings: Clemson Stays Hot, Florida State Rises In Rankings

1. Clemson (4–0, 2–0 Atlantic Coast) ↔

Clemson began the year, as it frequently does, as a consensus favorite to win the ACC. It survived what will likely prove to be the first of its two biggest tests of the year last week at Wake Forest in a nail-biting contest that took two overtimes to decide. For their effort last week, QB DJ Uiagalelei, running back Will Shipley, and the rest of the Tigers are rewarded with the second of those two tests as the Tigers host NC State on Saturday night. ESPN’s  College GameDay will make a trip to Death Valley for the game. The Tigers are still in contention for a CFP berth if they can survive next week and the rest of their ACC schedule.

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

2. NC State (4–0, 0–0) ↑

The Wolfpack have emerged as a force in the ACC over the past few years, and the formula has largely stayed the same this year. Efficient quarterback play from Devin Leary and an efficient scoring defense have led the Wolfpack to its 4–0 start. But NC State has played an easy slate so far, and its inability to run the ball could prove to be a problem as it goes up against Clemson this Saturday—a team loaded with NFL talent on the defensive line, including Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy. 

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

3. Wake Forest (3–1, 0–1) ↑

Sam Hartman’s return has been a delight to football fans both in Winston-Salem and nationwide, but his heroic effort was not enough to take down Clemson last week. But losing in overtime to the top team in the ACC isn’t enough to say that the Demon Deacons are worse than the rest of their 4–0 ACC foes. Wake Forest’s game against Florida State will lead to a lot of clarity on how the upper tier of ACC teams will finish out this season. Hartman has recorded at least 300 passing yards in each of his three games so far, and the Seminoles haven’t allowed 300 yards through the air yet. Something has to give, and whichever force wins out will likely lead its team to victory and inside positioning to challenge Clemson in the ACC Atlantic.

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

4. Florida State (4–0, 2–0) ↑

The tables have turned in Tallahassee from a year ago. The Seminoles began last season with four losses, and this year they have started with four wins and are already just one win away from last season’s total. Coming off a 30-point demolition of Boston College, the Seminoles carry a lot of momentum from the first third of their season. Jordan Travis, an elite running attack, and a ball-hawking defense have revitalized hope for a team that hasn’t been this hopeful in nearly a decade. They face a gauntlet of Wake Forest, NC State, and Clemson over the next three games, but if the Seminoles can scrape at least a win or two out of that stretch, they’ll have a chance at one of their best seasons since the Jameis Winston era.

Next Up: vs. Wake Forest, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

5. Syracuse (4–0, 2–0)

Nobody really expected the Orange to rank this highly to begin the year. Syracuse needed five field goals from kicker Andre Szmyt to take down Virginia last week, but it got the job done. Quarterback Garrett Shrader and star running back Sean Tucker both put up pedestrian performances against Virginia, but they shouldn’t need to perform much better to take down FCS opponent Wagner this week. A chance to start 5–0 is a rare one for Syracuse, but the Orange have a shot to make it happen. 

Next Up: vs. Wagner, Saturday, 5 p.m.

6. Pittsburgh (3–1, 0–0) ↔

The first ACC Coastal team to make the list, the Panthers have rebounded from their loss against Tennessee in Week Two to win two straight. Israel Abanikanda led the way against Rhode Island with 177 yards on the ground and four scores. Pitt will stay at home and hope to deliver a performance similar to its comfortable three-touchdown win last week against a struggling Georgia Tech team in Week Five.

Next Up: vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday, 8 p.m.

7. Duke (3–1, 0–0) ↔

Duke lost a one-score game in a matchup of two blue-blood basketball programs against Kansas last week. Despite the loss, Riley Leonard has given the Blue Devils the consistent quarterback play that they have been missing over the past few years, and he showed up against the Jayhawks, passing for over 300 yards and completing 69 percent of his passes. Duke will start its ACC season this week against Virginia.

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

8. North Carolina (3–1, 0–0) ↑

The Tar Heels have disappointed many this year, failing to live up to their preseason expectations. But North Carolina’s offense hasn’t been the source of that disappointment. Averaging over 46 points per game, the Tar Heels’ high-powered offense ranks 16th in the nation in total offense. On the other side of the ball, though, North Carolina is also giving up 39.5 points per game, good for 252nd in the nation. The Tar Heels’ last game against Notre Dame ended in their first loss of the year after two close wins against Group of Five teams. How this style of play will translate to an ACC schedule is anyone’s guess, but North Carolina’s defense will have to support Drake Maye and the offense if it wants to contend in a weak ACC Coastal division.

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

9. Louisville (2–2, 0–2)

The Cardinals are 0–2 so far in ACC play, but that didn’t matter as they dominated South Florida last week to the tune of a 41–3 win, more than tripling the Bulls in total yards. Louisville will need to play more like that in its game against BC if it wants to snap its ACC losing streak. Malik Cunningham’s elite running ability will aid the Cardinals in earning their first conference win against a struggling BC run defense.

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

10. Virginia Tech (2–2, 1–0) ↔

The Hokies have had an up-and-down start to their season. Last week was definitely a down week, as Virginia Tech suffered a 23-point loss at the hands of West Virginia. The Hokies struggled to get anything going on the ground, a common theme for them this season. Virginia Tech will need to keep up with North Carolina’s electric offense this week on the road. 

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

11. Virginia (2–2, 0–1) ↑

Virginia almost knocked off Syracuse on the road in its last game, but its potential game-winning drive fizzled out at midfield as time expired. The Cavaliers go on the road this week at Duke, which should be an interesting matchup that features two fairly similar teams located at similar positions in the ACC. Against Duke, Brennan Armstrong will have a chance at redemption after completing just 50 percent of his pass attempts for 138 passing yards last week.

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

12. Miami (2–2, 0–0) ↑

Possibly the biggest disappointment in the ACC this season, the once highly ranked Hurricanes lost by two scores to Middle Tennessee last weekend after being dominated through the air. Miami allowed 507 yards of total offense from the Blue Raiders in the loss. The Hurricanes will have a much-needed bye week in Week Five with a lot of improvements to make. Miami will look to tighten up its pass defense as it faces North Carolina after its bye.

Next up: vs. North Carolina, Oct. 8, 4 p.m.

13. Georgia Tech (1–3, 0–1)

The Yellow Jackets have struggled to replace Jahmyr Gibbs, who transferred to Alabama during the offseason. Georgia Tech’s lone win this season came against Western Carolina, which just lost to Sanford by a bigger margin than it did to Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets will likely struggle to win an ACC game this year, and Pitt on Saturday is not one of their better chances to secure a victory. They’ve scored 10 points over their last two games, which will not be enough to beat the Panthers, who average 36 points per game.

Next Up: at Pitt, Saturday, 8 p.m.

14. Boston College (1–3, 0–2) ↔

Not much is going right for the Eagles four games in. After showing some promise against Maine, any hope was crushed by a 44–14 blowout loss to Florida State in which the Seminoles doubled the Eagles in total offense. BC will need to try to regroup to stop Cunningham and the Cardinals and earn its first ACC win, or else it will be a long season for Eagles fans.

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

September 30, 2022