1. Louisville Cardinals: The Cardinals sent a national message Saturday, when they defeated then No. 2 FSU, 63-20. The memo from Louisville was, "Not only are we an ACC power, we are a national championship contender." Lamar Jackson is an absolute horror story for defensive coordinators. He had another great game, passing for 216 yards, one TD, and one INT. He rushed 17 times for 146 yards and added four TDs. Brandon Radcliff added 118 yards, on the ground, over 14 carries, and had two of his own TDs. The Cards have weapons on offense, but let’s not forget their fantastic special teams and defensive play. Alexander scored on a 69-yard punt return, and also had another long, 61-yard punt return, which was saved at the FSU 17-yardline. The defense shut down the Seminole passing attack allowing only 8-24 and 113 total yards between Francois and Cosentino. Louisville held Heisman hopeful, Dalvin Cook, to 54 yards on 16 carries. Not only did the defense never allow Cook to get underway, the Cardinals offense kept the team so far ahead that FSU was always playing behind by multiple scores. This game was complete and total domination against the No. 2 team in the nation. At the completion of week three there is no team, in the entirety of the FBS, that I don’t think Louisville could not defeat. That being said… they are "new money" winners. Meaning, being this high in the rankings, being the dangerous team on the block, is new to them. Being No. 3 in the polls ties their all-time highest ranking. It is important that they maintain focus and not trip on a team like Marshall, next week, while staring down the October 1 meeting with Clemson. Also… I TOLD YOU THESE BOYS WERE LEGIT.
2. Clemson Tigers: A 59-0 victory over South Carolina State is nothing to brag about. Clemson should devastate a team like the Bulldogs. But, perhaps this game has provided an opportunity for Clemson to focus and return to the form we expect from the defending ACC Champions – a form that was distinctly lacking during the first two Clemson games. If that hadn’t already put the Tigers on notice, the nightmarish destruction of FSU at the hands of Louisville, a team they will face in two weeks, should concern Clemson. Before a potential top five matchup can occur, the Tigers must face the 3-0 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. GT doesn’t have a particularly awesome win to show, but Clemson has only squeaked by the FBS competition they’ve faced this year. The Tigers cannot overlook the Yellow Jackets. I think Clemson will win, and the ACC will have another meeting between top ten ranked conference foes. What does the ACC think this is? The SEC?
3. Florida State Seminoles: That was absolutely devastating. That is the kind of loss that can make a program question itself. It’s a harsh reality, but the Seminoles were the canvas on which the Cardinals painted their message to the CFB playoff committee and pollsters. It’s too early in the season to say that FSU is completely out of the fight, but Jimbo Fisher is going to have his hands full keeping the team motivated and poised after such a confidence shattering defeat. The South Florida Bulls present a fantastic opportunity to do just that! I expect the Seminoles to get the cool back in their walk with a win over the Bulls, before having to host the Tar Heels. Though FSU suffered a beat down, the Seminoles are still a good football team, there is a lot of season left, and they will remain in the discussion for the ACC and the post season.
4. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: As expected, Wake Forest defeated Delaware, 38-21, and improved to 3-0 on the season. WF has already equaled their total victories from last year in the first three games of the 2016 season. The Demon Deacons surprised me with their win over Duke, perhaps they will surprise again when they face Indiana this weekend. Last year, the Hoosiers beat Wake, 24-31. But, I feel like Wake’s effort and incremental improvement is starting to pay off, and the Demon Deacons will, at a minimum, be in the game, if not outright win the match against Indiana.
5. NC State Wolfpack: NCSU defeated ODU, 49-22. **Yawn** The 2-1 Wolfpack have the week off before hosting Wake Forest on October 1. I will talk about that matchup more next week, after we see how WF performs against Indiana.
6. Boston College Eagles: BC was overwhelmed by the Virginia Tech Hokies, 0-49. Scot Loeffler, the former offensive coordinator for VT, failed to generate any points, and only managed 124 yards of total offense. It’s hard to determine if the Eagle defense is a shell of its former self, or if the Hokie offense was simply executing well. The Eagles are above Syracuse, because their sole victory came against an FBS team. Boston College faces Wagner this weekend.
7. Syracuse Orange: It looks like the Orange have a bit more work to do. They were handled, pretty easily, by USF, and lost at home, 20-45. There were some flashes though. The Orange jumped out to an early 17-0 lead after the first quarter. QB, Eric Dungey, was 32-48, 350 yards, two TDs, and two INTs. Dontae Strickland had 30 carries (wow!) for 127 yards. The Syracuse offense generated a total of 549 yards and dominated time of possession with 37:48, but there were simply too many miscues to overcome. Ten total penalties, three turnovers, and an 83-yard punt return for a score. Those miscues, coupled with an inability for the defense to stop the run (239 yards, 6.8 yards per carry, 4 TDs), spelled disaster for Syracuse. I fully expect Syracuse and Boston College to battle it out, all season, for the bottom of the Atlantic. They face Connecticut next weekend, and I hope they find a way to win… because I want UVA to feel even worse about their loss to the Huskies, but more on that later.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels: Miami might be better than UNC, but neither team has a signature win or argument to say one way or another. The Tar Heels allowed JMU to feel dangerous for a quarter before running away with the game, 56-28. Their next game, against Pittsburgh, will do a lot to start sorting out the murky Coastal.
2. Miami-Florida Hurricanes: They definitely didn’t overlook App St, and hung 21 on the Mountaineers by the end of the first quarter. The game finished with a Hurricane victory, 45-10. Miami still hasn’t been tested this season, but they can expect more of a challenge when Georgia Tech comes a calling.
3. Virginia Tech Hokies: Boston College isn’t a great team, but their defense from last year was one the best in the NCAA, and it was expected to maintain its elite status this year. The Hokies put 49 points on the Eagle’s vaunted defense. On top of that, Virginia Tech drastically reduced their self-destructive tendencies. The Hokies only turned the ball over one time and only had 55 penalty yards. VPI’s balanced attack produced 253 yards passing and 223 yards rushing, while the Gobbler defense held BC to 124 total yards. The Hokies hadn’t blanked a team since they defeated Bowling Green, 37-0, during the woeful 2012 season. Currently the Hokies have the No. 49 offense in the nation and are back with the elite defenses, rocking the No. 2 overall defense (No. 1 passing defense – only allowing 80.3 yards a game). The Hokies played a complete game. I am confident that week three Virginia Tech would have soundly defeated Tennessee. As long as they maintain this high level of play, and avoid significant injuries, the Hokies are a legitimate Coastal contender.
4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: GT is 3-0, but they struggled to defeat BC, 17-14, and victories over Mercer and Vandy don’t do much to impress. Georgia Tech has to play a Clemson team that seemed off the pace throughout weeks one and two, but look to have found their stride with a confidence game against South Carolina State. The Jackets have a pretty difficult schedule ahead of them. After Clemson they host Miami and then travel to Pittsburgh. The Yellow Jackets certainly aren’t out of the Coastal running, but don’t have the body of work to justify a higher ranking.
5. Pittsburgh Panthers: Pitt was almost able to come back on Oklahoma State, but in the end the defense allowed 45 points, and the Pitt offense couldn’t keep up. The game wasn’t finished until the end of the fourth quarter when Pitt QB, Nathan Peterman, threw an interception. The Panthers next face the Tar Heels. If they are to have a chance against UNC their defense must step up and halt the hemorrhaging.
6. Duke Blue Devils: It might be a little early, but unless something significant occurs the loss to Northwestern, 13-24, likely ends any hope the Blue Devils had of returning to a bowl game. Notre Dame will host the Blue Devils as they lick their wounds after two difficult losses in the first three weeks. Unfortunately, a team like Duke is exactly what the doctor ordered for ND.
7. Virginia Cavaliers: The manner in which the Hoos lost to the Huskies, 10-13, is stupefying. Third and goal and you elect to run it up the middle with 20ish seconds left, with no timeouts, and then try to send your FG unit onto the field and set up for a kick? Are you serious? The Cavaliers are bad, and Mendenhall is already at risk of losing the locker room, if he hasn’t already. At 0-3, Virginia is one of six FBS teams that have yet to manage a win. The lack of on field performance and coaching buffoonery make it very possible that the Cavaliers go completely defeated. At $3.25 million a year Bronco is making way too much money to be this horrible against mediocre competition. His buyout is $3 million. If the Hoos go defeated, do they buy him out and start over? Next week UVA faces Central Michigan. CMU has a 76.6% probability to defeat UVA based on ESPN’s Football Power Index. Currently, there isn’t a single team, remaining on the UVA schedule, with less than a 75% probability of victory. That includes Duke. From top to bottom this team is poor.
Overall ACC Rankings – Week Three:
1. (No. 3 AP / No. 4 Coaches) Louisville Cardinals (3-0)
2. (No. 5 / No. 3) Clemson Tigers (3-0)
3. (No. 13 / No. 14) Florida State Seminoles (2-1)
4. North Carolina Tar Heels (2-1)
5. (No. 15 / No. 19) Miami-Florida Hurricanes (3-0)
6. Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1)
7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-0)
8. Pittsburgh Panthers (2-1)
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-0)
10. NC State Wolfpack (2-1)
11. Boston College Eagles (1-2)
12. Duke Blue Devils (1-2)
13. Syracuse Orange (1-2)
14. Virginia Cavaliers (0-3)
Previous Week Overall ACC Rankings:
1. (No.2 – AP / No. 2 Coaches) Florida State Seminoles (2-0)
2. (No. 10 / No.10) Louisville Cardinals (2-0)
3. (No. 5 / No. 3) Clemson Tigers (2-0)
4. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-1)
5. (No. 25 / No. 25) Miami-Florida Hurricanes (2-0)
6. Pittsburgh Panthers (2-0)
7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-0)
8. Virginia Tech Hokies (1-1)
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-0)
10. Boston College Eagles (1-1)
11. Duke Blue Devils (1-1)
12. Syracuse Orange (1-1)
13. N.C. State Wolfpack (1-1)
14. Virginia Cavaliers (0-2)