The first week of college football play is complete, and it was a wild week! The ACC had a solid showing, going 11-3 during their opening week of play. Below you will find my opinion of the current ACC Power Rankings, based on their first week performances.
1. Florida State Seminoles: I don’t know what Jimbo Fisher said to those men during halftime, but it definitely worked. He also showed, again, why he is one of the best in the game at making mid-game adjustments. Francois, the freshmen QB for Florida State, looks like he will likely be a force to be reckoned with for the next few years. FSU takes the top spot in these rankings because of their second half performance, and because they had the largest comeback in school history… and the fact that they did that to the then No. 11 team in the country. If the version of FSU that played in the second half shows up they could beat anyone in the entirety of FBS. Yes, I know that Clemson is ranked higher in both the AP and the Coaches polls, but based on week one performances I have to give the nod to FSU. The Seminoles face Charleston Southern on a short week, before facing the Louisville Cardinals.
2. Clemson Tigers: The Clemson Tigers had a bit more of a fight than expected against the Auburn Tigers, but they held on 19-13. Last year the Tigers made their way through the CFB playoffs and lost a hard fought game against the Alabama Crimson Tide. As long as Clemson doesn’t overlook Louisville, in early October, then their 29 October matchup with Florida State will likely determine which ACC team will represent the conference in the playoff. I expect the Tigers and the Seminoles to be flipping back and forth between one and two all season until one of them provides definitive evidence of being the better team.
3. Louisville Cardinals: Like most ACC teams, Louisville opened with a cupcake, and easily defeated Charlotte, 70-14. But, Lamar Jackson showed what a dangerous player he is. He had 286 yards, six TDs, 0 INTs, and a 12.4 average per pass. On 11 rushes he earned 119 yards and two more TDs. Oh yeah, he did all that in the first half. Some of you may remember that the Cardinals were my non-Hokie ACC team crush, and nothing has changed regarding that sentiment. What has changed is Louisville. As long as Jackson stays healthy they will be in the fight for the ACC deep into the season. The Cardinals have to play FSU, Clemson, and Houston – all of whom are in the top ten in both polls. I think the Cardinals have the ability to compete with all three of those opponents, and I do think they will upset one of them.
4. N.C. State Wolfpack: The Wolfpack has an established trend of collecting wins by beating up on FCS teams and the worst the FBS has to offer. They lost last year’s starting QB, Brissett, to the New England Patriots in last year’s NFL Draft. N.C. State defeated William & Mary, 48-14, which is what one expects of a decent FBS team, but only time will tell if NCSU will finally start winning against the more competitive ACC offerings.
5. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: WF was able to stop the six game losing streak they were riding, from last year, with an opening game victory against the Tulane Green Wave, 7-3. Last year the Demon Deacons only managed three wins. I expect WF’s incremental improvement to pay off this season. They could potentially collect the required six games to be bowl eligible. Yeah, they have to play FSU, Clemson, and Louisville, but they also rolled the dregs of the ACC Coastal in UVA. Couple that with matchups against rebuilding Boston College and Syracuse, and non-conference foes Army and Delaware, it is entirely conceivable that they make it into the post season discussion.
6. Syracuse Orange: The orange defeated Colgate, 33-7. Syracuse is another ACC team with a new head coach, Dino Babers. The Orange offense looked dangerous, and the two QBs combined for 437 yards. Eric Dungey was responsible for 355 of those yards and two TDs. I give the nod to the Deacons because they did manage to defeat an FBS team. Unfortunately, Syracuse did not fare as well as WF did concerning their Coastal foes. They will face Virginia Tech on October 20 and also Pitt at the end of the season. In addition to the trio at the top of the Atlantic, they also have to face No. 10 Notre Dame. It looks like Babers has the team on a better track, but Syracuse will likely struggle to win more than three or four.
7. Boston College Eagles: The Eagles had an elite defense last year. Expect that to be maintained this season. Saying Boston College struggled on offense last year would be an understatement, but they made several changes. I think they will be much better in 2016, not great, but better. BC didn’t win over many believers losing to last season’s most disappointing FBS team, Georgia Tech, 17-14. That being said… the BC schedule is littered with cupcakes and struggling FBS teams. UMASS, Wagner, Buffalo, and UConn make up their non-conference schedule. Their matchup against Wake Forest may be a deciding factor in whether or not BC or WF makes it to a bowl.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels: UNC and FSU were the only teams in the ACC to open against a Top 25 team. For three quarters the Tar Heels were able to stay in the game, but the 32 runs of UGA RB, Nick Chubb, finally beat them into submission. Although they lost, UNC still showed that they are the best team in the Coastal. It would be very easy to argue that a coaching staff penalty lead directly to the safety and momentum shift that UNC suffered during the waning seconds of the third quarter. UNC put themselves in a position to win, but made mistakes that provided opportunity to the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia is a good team, and Nick Chubb is going to punish defenses all season. UNC could have beaten them. The Heels have another big test against FSU in week five, and they certainly cannot sleep on their rivals in the Coastal.
2. Miami-Florida Hurricanes: Alright, Florida A&M is basically a high school team, BUT, 42 points in a single quarter is absolutely insane. Miami had three backs rush for 100+ yards and Kaaya threw four TDs. The new Mark Richt squad shouldn’t overlook a dangerous App State in week three, but we likely won’t get a good look at what Miami is about until week four when they face GT. After that they have the brutal stretch of FSU, UNC, VT, Notre Dame, then Pitt. Good news for the Hokies – Miami is traveling to Blacksburg on a short week, having only five days after their matchup with UNC. Richt is a good coach and this team will be more dangerous than it was last year when Clemson embarrassed them, 58-0.
3. Pittsburgh Panthers: First off, let’s take a moment to acknowledge Pitt RB, James Conner, and his incredible fight back to the football field. What an absolute badass dude. The Panthers have traditionally been a rather legitimate rival for the Hokies, but man, MAN… do I want to see Conner do well. Alright… that is off my chest. Pittsburgh did what they should have done against any FCS opponent, they won, 28-7 against Villanova. James Conner did not seem to have the same speed that earned him All-American honors in 2014, but I think it is safe to say he’s had a rough year. I expect that his performance will continue to improve as the season progresses. Sophomore Qadree Ollison is coming off his 1100 yards, 11 TD effort, and also represents another legitimate threat on the ground. Pittsburgh does have some tough opponents ahead. They face No. 21 Oklahoma State in two weeks and will have to face No. 2 Clemson late in the season. The Panthers are a good team and were behind only UNC in the Coastal last season. Expect Pittsburgh to be in the mix when the Coastal finally shakes out.
4. Virginia Tech Hokies: The Hokies’ first quarter and early second quarter were frustrating, and had me thinking of Tennessee versus App State. But, the Hokies shook off the rust and dominated the rest of the game. There is plenty of analysis and discussion of the game on the site, so I will stick to the big takeaways. Ford will be playing on Sunday’s next season, everyone knows that, but Bucky at WR is a mismatch nightmare for defenses. I think this could be the best receiving corps VT has ever fielded. Once Evans settled down, he looked like a player to build an offense around. The defense was snappy, reactive, and looked much more explosive than last year… but, one sack? Granted, this was all against an FCS opponent. Next week, the Battle at Bristol will do much more to give a true impression of what this new identity Hokies are about. Things the Hokies cannot do… have four turnovers or expect the defense to bail them out of every mistake against conference and SEC opponents. There isn’t enough information to make any sort of assertion, but right now it seems like Virginia Tech has the potential to be in the mix for the Coastal crown.
5. Duke Blue Devils: Duke handedly defeated North Carolina Central, 49-6. Losing starting QB, Thomas Sirk, to injury, and playing redshirt freshmen, Daniel Jones, didn’t demonstrate any glaring deficiencies… against NCCU. But, the Blue Devils do not have a very easy schedule. They have to play Notre Dame and also rolled the Louisville Cardinals from the Atlantic. Duke struggled against the Coastal late in the season, losing four straight (including UVA) in the conference, after needing four OT periods to defeat Virginia Tech. Considering their schedule, the loss of Sirk, and the changes in the Coastal it is likely that Duke will struggle. If they weren’t coached by David Cutcliffe, I would be more certain in my assertion concerning their season, but that man is a brilliant coach, and as long as he’s in the mix you cannot count the Blue Devils out of the Coastal.
6. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Last year the expectation was that the Yellow Jackets would play in the ACC Championship game. They were the favored to win the Coastal and were the only team in the Coastal to be ranked in the preseason last year (16 AP / 17 Coaches). They finished the season 3-9 and were the most disappointing team in the FBS. BUT, when one looks closer at last season’s performance they will see that GT really only got devastated one time, by eventual National Championship contender, Clemson. Six of their losses were by a single score or less. This year they opened the season by beating conference rival Boston College, 17-14. They did pick up Clemson and of course they will have to play UGA in November, but they have some pretty easy games against Mercer, Georgia Southern, and Vanderbilt. I believe the Yellow Jackets will be back to the dangerous form we expect from them, and could be a factor in the Coastal.
7. Virginia Cavaliers: Every team in the ACC Coastal has that potential to win the division… except UVA. Every rookie head coach in the ACC faced an FCS opponent, and every rookie head coach won… except Bronco Mendenhall. More disturbing isn’t that this game was a fluke loss or they caught UVA by surprise. No, Richmond beat UVA from start to finish and in every facet of the game. The 37-20 score makes it seem like it was closer than it really was. The Cavaliers looked bad, and completely outclassed by and FCS squad. Virginia will get no respite when they visit the No. 24 Oregon Ducks this Saturday. I am sure Bronco will get the Hoos on some sort of track, maybe this will be a catalyst like the JMU loss was for the Hokies, but I think that is unlikely. Based on what we saw on Saturday, unless there are some changes made, the only winnable (but not guaranteed) games left in the season, for UVA, are against UConn in week three and Central Michigan in week four. Right now, UVA has a complete hold on being the worst team in the ACC.
1. (No.3 – AP / No. 3 Coaches) Florida State Seminoles (1-0)
2. (No. 2 / No. 2) Clemson Tigers (1-0)
3. (No. 13 / No.15) Louisville Cardinals (1-0)
4. North Carolina Tar Heels (0-1)
5. (No. 25/ Unr.) Miami-Florida Hurricanes (1-0)
6. Pittsburgh Panthers (1-0)
7. Virginia Tech Hokies (1-0)
8. Duke Blue Devils (1-0)
9. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-0)
10. N.C. State Wolfpack (1-0)
11. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-0)
12. Syracuse Orange (1-0)
13. Boston College Eagles (0-1)
14. Virginia Cavaliers (0-1)