1. Clemson Tigers: The Tigers opened up conference play with a road victory over Georgia Tech. Embattled starting QB, Kelly Bryant, was sat in favor of true freshmen Trevor Lawrence after the Tiger’s first two possessions rapidly stalled out. Lawrence passed for 176 yards and four touchdowns as Clemson cruised to a 49-21 win. RB Travis Etienne produced his second 100+ yard game on the ground, in as many weeks, and added TDs of his own on the ground and in the air. Through the first four games of the season Etienne is averaging an astounding 8.5 yards per carry. The Clemson defensive line looked stout, sacking the GT QBs four times and making ten TFLs. They stonewalled the Yellow Jacket’s offensive production, allowing only 203 total yards and scoring a defensive touchdown off a fumble. The ACC had a rough week and the Tigers remain the clear favorite to win the conference. Next week Clemson will have quite the test on their hands when they host Syracuse in hopes of avenging their only regular season loss of 2017.
2. Syracuse Orange: Eric Dungey went 21/27 for 286 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 77 yards and three touchdowns as the Orange crushed UCONN, 51-21. Four weeks into the season and Syracuse has already matched their win total from last year. At 4-0 the Orange has their best start in over 15 years. Next week Syracuse will travel to Death Valley and look to take advantage of a Clemson secondary that looked vulnerable against the pass during their match against Texas A&M.
3. N.C. State Wolfpack: The Wolfpack had their best performance of the year when the toppled the Marshall Thundering Herd, 37-20. Ryan Finley threw for 377 yards and a TD while the NCCST defense added points with a pick-six. Next week N.C. State will start their conference slate by hosting UVA and trying to corral rising star Bryce Perkins.
4. Boston College Eagles: If Virginia Tech hadn’t laid down for Old Dominion then BC’s loss to the winless Purdue Boilermakers, 13-30 would have been the ACC’s most embarrassing performance. BC’s offensive performance this week was almost the exact opposite of last week’s game against Wake Forest. Anthony Brown only managed 96 yards on 27 attempts and threw four interceptions. A.J. Dillon provided an uninspiring 3.1-yard per carry over 19 attempts and earned only 59 yards on the ground. Boston College will look to comport themselves against a Temple Owls team riding a two game winning streak.
5. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: It wasn’t really realistic to expect Wake Forest to defeat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but I would have liked to see a bit more life than a 27-56 beat down. After back-to-back defensive performances that allowed 500+ yards and 40+ points the Demon Deacons have found themselves in the dregs of FBS defensive rankings, spurring Coach Clawson to fire defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel. WF should navigate back to their winning ways against the struggling Rice Owls.
6. Florida State Seminoles: FSU was able to overcome the beleaguered Northern Illinois Huskies, 37-19 largely due to a 352 yard, two TD performance from Deondre Francois. Next week they travel to Louisville in a game that will feature two programs searching for stability.
7. Louisville Cardinals: The Cardinals are 2-2, but the record deceives the problems found in the program. Louisville was able to hang with UVA for a half before Bryce Perkins punished their defense for two passing TDs and one rushing TD. The Cardinals still don’t have a clear decision at quarterback, and their defense has shown little improvement. Louisville hosts Florida State next week.
1. Duke Blue Devils: Duke is the only unbeaten team left in the Coastal and they also happen to own some of the better wins in, not only the division, but the conference. This week they finally had a little break and soundly defeated North Carolina Central, 55-13. Quentin Harris continued to show that he is a viable option at QB, throwing three TDs and rushing for another. Duke laid 372 yards down on the ground for a total offensive effort of 628 yards while their defense held NCCU to 187 total yards. This week the Blue Devils will host a reeling Virginia Tech team that is coming off one of the program’s worst defeats. If Duke can overcome the wounded Hokies they will put themselves in firm contention for the Coastal.
2. Miami-Florida Hurricanes: Miami didn’t look very good against Florida International, but they did enough to win, 31-17. The Hurricanes benched starting QB Malik Rosier in favor of N’Kosi Perry after Rosier was ineffective for Miami’s first two possessions. There is something of a quarterback controversy brewing in Coral Cables. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Perry named the starter for Thursday’s conference opener against North Carolina.
3. Virginia Cavaliers: Bryce Perkins continues to develop nicely and is a legitimate dual-threat quarterback. Jordan Ellis didn’t have the same performance he did a week ago against Ohio, but he is still the other clear rushing threat. UVA started slow, but pummeled a helpless Louisville team in the second half. There is going to be some adversity facing the Hoos, entering conference play, unless they can find Perkins consistent help on offense. Regardless the Cavaliers are positioned nicely to qualify for a bowl game. Next week UVA will have their hands full with an away game against a rolling NCST squad.
4. Virginia Tech Hokies: I am not going to detail the woeful performance of the Hokies against ODU. Check out the last few articles from Gobbler Country for all the gory details, but suffice to say all is not well in Blacksburg. Coach Fuente is clearly not interested in undisciplined football and I expect that the Hokies will be involved in heavy soul searching when the coaches are not hammering them during practices. The Hokies have a history of responding well to adversity and I think Coach Fuente captured the problem best when he told the team, “I liked you guys a lot better when everybody told you that you were terrible. Everybody told you that you didn’t have a chance to win the first game, and all you did was work your tails off. And then now, we get to feeling all good about ourselves and we get brought back down to earth.” I expect that the loss to ODU is an aberration and will be a spark to inspire the team for the remainder of the season. The Hokies would do well to respond next week, during a televised prime time game against the now ranked Blue Devils.
5. North Carolina Tar Heels: Nathan Elliott had his best game of the year going 22/31 for 313 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Antonio Williams was a force on the ground, rushing for 114 yards and two touchdowns over 16 carries (7.1-yard average per carry). Pitt was leading until the Tar Heels made their half time adjustments and dominated the third quarter to the tune of 17 unanswered points. I really don’t know what to think about UNC. California barely escaped UNC, 17-24, and is undefeated right now with a win over the same BYU team that upset Wisconsin. Their ECU loss is ugly because of the point differential and ECU’s season opening loss to an FCS squad, but perhaps UNC’s woes have been exaggerated. It will be interesting to see what they do against Miami on Thursday night.
6. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: GT was never going to beat Clemson, but the loss to Pittsburgh looks pretty bad after UNC was able to overcome the Panthers. It might be too early to tell, but the 1-3 Yellow Jackets will likely struggle to find five more wins in their remaining eight regular season games. One of those victories will most certainly need to be against Bowling Green this Saturday.
7. Pittsburgh Panthers: Pitt’s defense is looking more and more like it has from days gone by, allowing 486 yards and 38 points against an offense that had previously only scored 36 total points in their games against ECU and Cal. The bottom three of the Coastal is really an even heat here with UNC maybe edging GT and Pitt, which is why I put them at five. It is difficult to say, with any confidence, who the worst team in the Coastal is, but I can say that next week Central Florida is going to feast on this Panther defense.
Overall Conference Rankings
1. (No. 2 AP / No. 3 Coaches) Clemson Tigers (4-0) – Static
2. (No. 22 / No. 23) Duke Blue Devils (4-0) – Up Three
3. (No. 26 / No. 26) Miami-Florida Hurricanes (3-1) – Up Two
4. Syracuse Orange (4-0) – Up Two
5. N.C. State Wolfpack (3-0) – Up Two
6. Virginia Cavaliers (3-1) – Up Four
7. Boston College Eagles (3-1) – Down Five
8. (Unr. / No. 24) Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1) – Down Six
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-2) – Down One
10. Florida State Seminoles (2-2) – Up Three
11. Louisville Cardinals (2-2) – Static
12. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-3) – Up Two
13. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-3) – Down One
14. Pittsburgh Panthers (2-2) – Down Five