One week down, and things seem to be trending positively for the ACC. Conference teams are rising in the polls, everyone has positive things to say about the ACC and (knock on wood), things really couldn’t be much better for the league as a whole. I don’t know how long this will last, but it’s fantastic. As always, the poll includes all 14 current ACC members, plus future member Louisville. Feel like I’m totally right or completely off-base? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
ACC Football Power Rankings 2013 (Post-Week 1)
1. Clemson Tigers (1-0) (0-0) (Last: 1): Up to number four in the recent AP rankings, Clemson is riding high right now. And why not? You beat a top-five team in Georgia, your quarterback is now assumed to be a Heisman front-runner… There’s very little left to question about this Tigers squad, and given how unimposing the remaining schedule is for them, it’s unlikely much more doubt creeps up between now and November. This is a team capable of winning the national title, and believe it or not, they just might go ahead and do it this year.
2. Florida State Seminoles (1-0) (1-0) (Last: 2): There was hope that Jameis Winston could step right in and run this Seminoles offense. But no one could’ve known just how good the freshman would be in his debut on Monday night. Accounting for five touchdowns against Pittsburgh, Winston has quickly thrown himself into the national spotlight very early in the season. In a surprising move, his team’s also joined him, putting to rest concerns about how they’ll replace EJ Manuel and much of last year’s defense.
3. Louisville Cardinals (1-0) (0-0) (Last: 3): Louisville understands what it needs to do to keep observers’ respect this season, whether that’s fair or not. And thus far, they’ve met the challenge. Teddy Bridgewater was a star against Ohio, putting up 355 passing yards and five scores against a team that was thought to be among the best in the MAC. We’ll see if that’s true or not, but we do know is that the Cardinals will be tough to beat on both ends this year. Now, the rest may be up to the voters.
4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (1-0) (0-0) (Last: 4): Miami didn’t meet much of a test in Florida Atlantic on Friday, but they took care of business and collected a solid victory. Duke Johnson was the game’s standout performer, picking up right where he left off in 2012 by picking up over 200 total yards and a score. Obviously, the Owls are no worldbeaters, but it’s also worth noting the defense’s improved effort in the 34-6 win, too. We’ll see if that’s a mirage or not next week versus Florida.
5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-0) (0-0) (Last: 8): Now that’s the way you start off a season. Newly-minted starting QB Vad Lee showed off his throwing arm with two touchdowns through the air, while notching another on the ground in an abbreviated effort against overmatched Elon. While the Phoenix aren’t a resume-building win, the fact that Tech could pass the ball efficiently against them could spell success later in the season. As I’ve said before, they need the threat of the pass to make their powerful running game even better — a point that was hopefully hammered home on Saturday.
6. Maryland Terrapins (1-0) (0-0) (Last: 11): Maryland needed this. After two years of struggle, and especially after last season’s injury-riddled disaster, this was what the Terps had to do in this year’s opener in order to prove they were ready to compete again. No one knew what we’d see from C.J. Brown in his first game action in nearly two years, and yet, he controlled the team’s offense with 386 total yards and five scores. He’ll need some support in the running game soon, but for now, there’s no arguing with his success.
7. North Carolina Tar Heels (0-1) (0-0) (Last: 5): Are the Heels ready to compete for the Coastal Division crown? We still honestly don’t know. It was obviously disappointing to lose to South Carolina in the opener, but it was also an expected result. The Gamecocks are a top-10 team. North Carolina may not be at that caliber just yet, but if the offensive line can make some steady improvement, there’s no reason to think they’re unable to compete for a division championship just yet.
8. Duke Blue Devils (1-0) (0-0) (Last: 10): Duke hasn’t lost a step in comparison to last year — even if it’s just a win over NC Central. Looking to prep their rushing game for the long season ahead, the Blue Devils ran the ball 49 times for 257 yards, as six players amassed 20 or more. If that’s the type of effort they can put together week-in and week-out this fall, we could see a more balanced (and effective) Duke offense do some real damage in the ACC.
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-0) (0-0) (Last: 7): Wake Forest had everyone a bit worried for a half against Presbyterian. And while the offense never truly “woke up,” it did what it had to do in order to collect a victory on opening night. The real star of the contest was the defense, however, which held the Blue Hose to two first downs and forced six turnovers on the evening. The Deacs can’t always depend on that safety net, but it is certainly good to know it’s there as a potential strength this early in the year.
10. NC State Wolfpack (1-0) (0-0) (Last: 12): The Pack are a tough team to grade, as there were two different squads on the field on Saturday. The first was the Brandon Mitchell-led machine which scored twice early, before Mitchell broke his foot. Pete Thomas‘s offense was effective in his stead, but at the same time, State didn’t look nearly as crisp as they had in the onset of the game. Maybe Thomas just needs some time to get a handle on things, so next week’s contest should help clear things up for those concerned.
11. Virginia Tech Hokies (0-1) (0-0) (Last: 6): Oh, wow. The Virginia Tech offense and special teams just couldn’t let the defense guide them to an upset, could they? Holding the defending national champions to just 206 yards and 11 first downs, it sounds like a great recipe for success. Unfortunately, QB Logan Thomas couldn’t rise to the occasion, nor could his receivers, who continually dropped passes. Offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler was brought in to fix things, but he’ll need to do so in a hurry to hold off criticism.
12. Virginia Cavaliers (1-0) (0-0) (Last: 15): Virginia went with the “bend but don’t break” defensive model against BYU, and thanks to a late touchdown from Kevin Parks, it all paid off. Still, plenty of offensive concerns which are sure to rear their ugly heads continuously — but especially next week versus Oregon. The Cavaliers managed just 223 total yards, and if not for Parks’s late score, the running game would be chastised, not praised. A win is a good start, but there’s so much more work to be done in Charlottesville.
13. Syracuse Orange (0-1) (0-0) (Last: 9): One of Syracuse’s biggest questions heading into the season was surrounding the offense; what exactly would it look like? Well, we still don’t know, and that’s the main reason the Orange are 0-1 instead of 1-0. Despite a very strong defensive effort (forced four turnovers), SU just couldn’t get the ball moving with an offense that looked incredibly lost. This team’s strength is obviously the running game, so it’s time to start emphasizing it — and not just in the pistol formation that diminishes its effectiveness.
14. Boston College Eagles (1-0) (0-0) (Last: 14): The opening half of the 2013 Boston College season looked an awful lot like previous years: passable defense, plus an anemic offense that couldn’t even outscore FCS team Villanova. A joint effort between the offense and defense righted the ship in the second, but you can’t deny the fact that this team looked just “okay” against the Wildcats. They’ll improve throughout the year, and will be elevated accordingly — but not before.
15. Pittsburgh Panthers (0-1) (0-10 (Last: 13): Pitt’s first ACC game was not what they had in mind at all, as the Jameis Winston bandwagon simply rolled all over them en route to a blowout. As originally thought, the Panthers need some time to sort out what this offense will look like, but the more disturbing part of the defeat was the defense’s ineptitude. Considered the team’s strength, the secondary was absolutely dominated by Winston and the Florida State receivers. It spells trouble for Pitt if it’s not fixed in a hurry.