Two weeks into this young season and things seem awfully positive for the ACC. There’s a collective conference pride rooted not just in hilarious gestures of solidarity, but in actual on-field results. The ACC is beating the SEC on the field, and (at least from a public relations standpoint) putting to bed the rhetoric about it being a weak league. 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 (Week 3)
1. Clemson Tigers (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 1): Even without Tajh Boyd for most of the game, Clemson was able to breeze through South Carolina State on Saturday. But the biggest win may have been what happened in Georgia. The Bulldogs beat up on South Carolina in front of a national audience and staked their claim to the SEC East crown. But if Georgia’s the best team in the SEC East, then how good is Clemson? It appears the answer is “very” and now everyone seems to be buying in on the Tigers. The team moved up to no. 3 in the AP rankings this week and even received a first-place vote.
2. Florida State Seminoles (1-0) (1-0) (Last: 2): Florida State had the week off, but it doesn’t mean the hype around Jameis Winston vanished. If anything, it just continued to grow as pundits began to wonder what he might do for an encore. Against Nevada on Saturday, he should have ample opportunity to replicate his success from Labor Day, though it does feel like we’re already entering Clowney-type territory when it comes to expectations for him. At some point, he’ll remind folks he’s a freshman quarterback and the ESPN hivemind will inevitably turn on him. But until then, FSU fans will certainly enjoy the ride.
3. Louisville Cardinals (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 3): What does Louisville have to do to make their case for a national championship? Simply put: just win. And so far, they’ve done that, winning two contests by a combined score of 93-14. Teddy Bridgewater is on an absolutely torrid pace in terms of statistics, and with the American Athletic Conference looking even worse off than people thought this season, we could be seeing something truly special from him this year.
4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 4): Is the U back? That depends on your point of view, though Saturday’s upset over Florida is certainly a nice start to that conversation. The Hurricanes weren’t perfect against the Gators, but maybe that’s what makes this victory resonate a bit more. Everyone has a tendency to celebrate a team for playing a flawless game en route to a big victory, when it’s the team that can win an ugly contest that’s probably better set up for long-term success. While the offense had its moments, the biggest plus from Saturday was the defense, which (Florida’s inept offense aside) did appear to have taken major leaps forward from last season’s disastrous effort.
5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-0) (0-0) (Last: 5): Georgia Tech had the week off, but they’ll remain at no. 5 due to their 70-point output in the opening game. We still don’t know what Tech’s capable of, but based on those results alone, this team shouldn’t experience much of a drop-off on offense compared to last year. Up against Duke this weekend, we’ll also get a better glimpse of the new 4-3 defensive set and how that stacks up against an actual opponent.
6. Maryland Terrapins (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 6): Looks like week one’s big win was no fluke. For the second straight week, Maryland put up over 40 points (this time against Old Dominion) and really do look to be a formidable opponent this season. Quarterback C.J. Brown could not have asked for a better return to the field, accounting for nine touchdowns in his abbreviated two games thus far, and is suddenly being mentioned among the conference’s top playmakers. With a relatively easy non-conference slate, there’s very little standing in the way of the Terps starting 4-0.
7. Duke Blue Devils (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 8): Duke’s first 2-0 start in 15 years has come with a price, as Anthony Boone‘s collarbone injury removes him from the field for the foreseeable future. Of course, it’s not all bad. Brandon Connette filled in nicely for Boone while leading the Blue Devils to win number two, but we’ll see how he pans out as the team’s regular starter now. Given his running ability, Connette may end up being a huge boost to the running game, which was a problem last season, yet appears resurgent through two games in 2013.
8. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-1) (0-0) (Last: 7): The Tar Heels looked much better against Middle Tennessee than they did against South Carolina in week one, but there still seems to be room for improvement. The passing game appears fine (Bryn Renner had 339 yards throwing on Saturday), though the concerns about the running game do appear to be real. Neither Romar Morris nor A.J. Blue appear able to carry the load, and the inconsistency is disconcerting for this team’s end-of-year prospects.
9. Boston College Eagles (2-0) (1-0) (Last: 14): Boston College’s offense still has some kinks to work out, but in the meantime, the defense is more than making up for it. The Eagles rank 29th in total defense right now, and have already forced seven turnovers, after just 19 all of last season. If BC is going to quickly rise back to respectability it’ll be on the back of this defense, though we’ll see what happens when they’re tested by a more powerful offense. Either USC this week or Florida State two weeks later could provide a much better barometer for just how strong this group really is.
10. Virginia Tech Hokies (1-1) (0-0) (Last: 11): If not for the opening week debacle, this team could be ranked so much higher. But even with that in mind, it’s hard to ignore how good of a defense the Hokies have on their hands this season. Through two games, they’ve only allowed 368 yards of offense, and collected three turnovers last week, turning one into a touchdown. The lingering issue, though, is the offense. Sure, Tech put up 47 points against Western Carolina, but the passing game remained putrid. They also have a real problem with turnovers, losing three to the Catamounts on Saturday.
11. NC State Wolfpack (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 10): It seems like the Wolfpack are only successful when Pete Thomas isn’t guiding the ship — not a good look when you’re talking about your current starting quarterback. Injured original starter Brandon Mitchell and backup Bryant Shirreffs are a combined six-for-six, with 112 yards and a score, plus another 36 yards and a TD for the latter on the ground. Thomas, on the other hand, has thrown for 449 yards and three picks, while most notably struggling against Richmond last week. This issue isn’t going to fix itself, but expect Shirreffs to get more time if Thomas continues to put in simply average performances.
12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-1) (0-1) (Last: 9): Remember all of those offensive issues from last season? All still there. Wake was a mess on Friday night against Boston College, struggling mightily to move the ball, especially on the ground (55 yards). The “spread-option elements” they’ve employed aren’t working and it does appear that Tanner Price‘s accuracy is gone for good. If the Deacons are going to continue playing like this, it will be a very rough fall for them.
13. Virginia Cavaliers (1-1) (0-0) (Last: 12): All those good feelings following a surprise win over BYU are sort of gone at this point, unfortunately. As one would have predicted, Oregon slashed through the Hoos without really trying in week two, bringing to light all the defensive and quarterback issues everyone harped on in the preseason and then promptly forgot after one victory. Being a young quarterback, David Watford is mistake-prone, but those mistakes don’t necessarily have to lead to turnovers. Against the Ducks, however, they did (three times, actually), and the team looked absolutely flummoxed as a result. He’s not in danger of being replaced, but Watford’s improvement will be the primary reason why they succeed or fail this year.
14. Syracuse Orange (0-2) (0-0) (Last: 13): Quarterback Drew Allen appears to be begging the coaching staff to remove him from the starting lineup. After a less-than-stellar opening effort that involved two interceptions, the senior followed that up with a four-interception disaster against Northwestern this past Saturday. As a passer, Allen looks lost and unable to get off his first read, a fact made even more apparent when backup Terrel Hunt was briefly inserted in the fourth and then promptly led a scoring drive. He’ll start against Wagner, but there’s very little wiggle room between the field and the bench for him at this point.
15. Pittsburgh Panthers (0-1) (0-1) (Last: 15): Pitt got a week off to reflect on what happened against Florida State, and one would hope they’ll put those lessons to good use against New Mexico this weekend. The Lobos are a dynamic rushing team and are likely to challenge the Panthers front a bit. The key for Pittsburgh though will be to avoid getting overwhelmed as they did versus FSU. If they can keep the rushing game in check and build upon some of the better moments Tom Savage had throwing the ball in week one, this should (I stress should) be a fairly easy win.