1. Louisville Cardinals: The Cardinals followed up their national statement against FSU with another stellar performance from their offense and super hero, Lamar Jackson. The Louisville QB threw 22 - 44, 417 yards, five TDs, and only one INT. He piled on another two scores with rushing TDs and 62 yards on the ground. Looking at the Louisville offense it seems that they simply play their game, regardless of their competition. 70 points against Charlotte (an FCS squad), 62 points against Syracuse (a rebuilding ACC team), 63 points against Florida State (an elite top five team), and this week 59 points against Marshall (a strong mid-major squad). It doesn’t seem to matter what the competition presents; Louisville will score eight or more TDs. Until a team is able to consistently disrupt at least some of Louisville’s offensive weapons and overcome a defense that stalled a Heisman hopeful, then the Cards will simply continue to execute their game without a worry about opposing defenses. As long as Jackson stays healthy it is hard to imagine that the Cardinals are not in the CFB Playoff.
2. Clemson Tigers: The Tigers defense was able to absolutely stonewall the GT triple option attack. The Clemson offense seemed to be back to full speed… for the first half of the game, but only managed a single field goal in the second half. This coming week the Tigers will face the Cardinals in another ACC top ten matchup. Clemson is winning, but hasn’t looked impressive against FBS opponents. Is Clemson’s defense up to the task of at least slowing down the Louisville offense? Louisville has scored 34 offensive touchdowns. Clemson has only scored 15 offensive touchdowns. Even if the Tigers do find a way to slow the Cardinals somewhat they must put points up, and the Clemson offense simply hasn’t looked great. Not to mention, Louisville’s defense isn’t a pushover. This is going to be a great game, and it is exciting seeing such matchups in the ACC.
3. Florida State Seminoles: FSU looked like they might let the Bulls into the game during the first four minutes of the game when South Florida twice marched down the field with little resistance. But, that was the end of that and the Seminoles ripped off 31 unanswered points and easily defeated USF. This weekend the Seminoles will have a decent test against the feisty Tar Heels.
4. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Wake Forest is doing a good job of becoming my new non-Hokies ACC crush. WF was able to respond to last year’s home defeat, at the hands of Indiana, by returning the favor this past weekend. The Demon Deacons are 4-0 for the first time since 2006, when Wake won the ACC Championship. Next up WF faces the untested Wolfpack followed by rebuilding Syracuse. It is entirely feasible to see Wake Forest traveling to Tallahassee already qualified for a bowl.
5. Syracuse Orange: Well done Syracuse! I very much appreciate the fact that the Orange was able to defeat CONN after the Huskies embarrassed the Cavaliers. Next week Syracuse will play the reeling Notre Dame Fighting Irish. While ND looks completely vulnerable, it will be difficult for them to overcome the talent that is inherit on the Fighting Irish.
6. N.C. State Wolfpack: NCSU was idle this past week, but their defeat at the hands of ECU looks even worse after Virginia Tech so easily dismantled the Pirates.
7. Boston College Eagles: The Eagles faced Wagner and won convincingly, 42-10. Next week they will play Buffalo, which should be another easy win the for the Eagles. After that game the conference competition ramps up with Clemson.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels: I hear you, I hear you… why are they up here at the top of the Coastal? They don’t have a signature win and they had a close game that they lost through miscues to a Georgia team that was just decimated by Ole Miss. But, they showed temerity and came back to win in the face of adversity. Good teams act in such a manner, and nobody in the Coastal has an argument to say they are better than UNC.
2. Miami-Florida Hurricanes: Miami was idle this week and somehow jumped five places in the Coaches Poll and one spot in the AP on the back of beating junior varsity teams while the programs above them have fallen against much stouter competition. Miami’s victories: Florida A&M is 0-4, Florida Atlantic is 1-3, and App State is 2-2. They face their first, FIRST, power five conference team this weekend when they travel to Georgia to play the Yellow Jackets. GT is in no way a powerhouse, but they do represent a significant increase in the competition that UM has faced thus far. The true test, where we will see what kind of team the Hurricanes are, comes on October 8 when they host Florida State.
3. Virginia Tech Hokies: I really wanted to put the Hokies above Miami, but I will allow their No. 14 ranking to give them the second place in the Coastal. Virginia Tech beat Eastern Carolina across the field. Special teams, defense, and offense were all clicking. The lack of production from the running backs was concerning, but there is always something to improve. This was a dominant victory over a team that has given the Hokies a hard time in the past. With back to back explosive, definitive wins over FBS completion the Hokies are looking more and more like contenders in the Coastal. VT now has 38 votes in the AP and 20 in the Coaches. The Hokies are on a bye, but the reality of whether or not they are again a force in the ACC will be tested during their next game when the Hokies visit Chapel Hill. If VPI defeats UNC, especially in a manner as dominant as their last two wins, and Miami falls to FSU, expect to see the Hokies at the top of the Coastal and potentially in the national polls.
4. Pittsburgh Panthers: I said it last week… Pitt’s defense can’t allow that many points if they want to win against Carolina… and they again allowed 35+ points against a Power Five team. UNC’s last minute, game winning drive was textbook. It was also a perfect illustration of Pitt’s problems on defense. The Panthers allowed UNC to convert three, THREE, fourth downs on the 3:33, 17 play, TD drive. There was 4th and 6 conversion, another 4th and 6 conversion, and finally a 4th and 9 conversion, which allowed UNC into Pitt’s red zone. A team simply cannot do that and expect to win.
5. Duke Blue Devils: Wow! I would have never picked Duke to defeat Notre Dame, but here we are! Freshmen QB, Daniel Jones, finally seemed to be comfortable, throwing 24 – 32, 290 yards, and three TDs, while only tossing a single INT. Obviously, there was significant reaction which culminated in Notre Dame firing the defensive coordinator. Duke will be traveling to Charlottesville to face the Hoos next week, in a match that is now a lot more interesting.
6. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: The door may be closing on the viability of Paul Johnson’s triple option at GT. The Yellow Jackets only mustered 124 yards, while Clemson had 442 total yards. The Tigers controlled the game from start to finish. GT’s only touchdown was made possible by two key Clemson defensive penalties, one of which occurred on a fourth down attempt by the Yellow Jackets, and then a later pass interference call. Georgia Tech will host the untested, yet somehow 14th ranked, Miami Hurricanes.
7. Virginia Cavaliers: Yay! Now there aren’t any completely defeated teams left in the ACC. UVA was able to win the first of the two games I said were winnable for them. Honestly, when UVA allowed CMU 28 unanswered points, to tie the game, I fully expected the Cavaliers to implode… again. But, they didn’t! Is this a sign that Mendenhall is righting the team? Next week will be much more telling. If UVa defeats the Blue Devils, then perhaps we can assume that things are getting better in Hoo-ville. That is a big if though. I still maintain that the Blue Devils represent the most winnable game left on the Cavalier’s schedule, but Duke will be invigorated after a confidence boosting upset of Notre Dame. Expect to see Virginia maintain their bottom of the ACC barrel standing next week.
Overall Rankings – Week Four:
1. (No. 3 AP / No. 4 Coaches) Louisville Cardinals (4-0)
2. (No. 5 / No. 3) Clemson Tigers (4-0)
3. (No. 12 / No. 12) Florida State Seminoles (3-1)
4. North Carolina Tar Heels (3-1)
5. (No. 14 / No. 14) Miami-Florida Hurricanes (3-0)
6. Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1)
7. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-0)
8. Pittsburgh Panthers (2-2)
9. Duke Blue Devils (2-2)
10. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-1)
11. Syracuse Orange (2-2)
12. N.C. State Wolfpack (2-1)
13. Boston College Eagles (2-2)
14. Virginia Cavaliers (1-3)