Three weeks in, and the ACC is not the most beleaguered major conference in the land (high, Big Ten!). It’s an accomplishment — if not on the field, than from a PR standpoint — and as the league’s top teams remain unbeaten this week, things only continue to get better. 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 4)
1. Clemson Tigers (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 1): No game last week means the Tigers will have plenty of time to prepare themselves for a trip down to Raleigh this Thursday. Last time they visited NC State, Clemson was dealt a crushing 37-13 defeat, but that was a different squad. A different (read: worse) defense, and a very green Tajh Boyd at quarterback. This Tigers team is arguably the best one in 30 years. We’ll get to the preview later in the week, but with an extra five days to prepare, Clemson should remain the top team in these rankings without much issue.
2. Florida State Seminoles (2-0) (1-0) (Last: 2): Nevada looked as if they were keeping things close with Florida State for at least a little while on Saturday. And then they weren’t. We’re not exactly sure what the Seminoles’ defense is going to look like against better competition, but for right now, that’s fine. The offense is on another level through two games and it’s showing no sign of slowing down. Whether on the ground or through the air, the ‘Noles know how to score, which makes them incredibly dangerous.
3. Louisville Cardinals (3-0) (0-0) (Last: 3): Teddy Bridgewater slowed down a bit against Kentucky (just one touchdown), but that’s understandable. There’s simply no way he could continue the video game pace he was on through the first two contests. Lucky him, the rushing attack showed up in a big way and gave this team a little bit of hope too. One-man shows don’t win. So if Louisville’s going to actually contend for a title, it’ll need efforts like Saturday’s, just as much as blowouts like their first couple games.
4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 4): Another team with the benefit of an early bye. The ‘Canes are looking good so far, though the defense won’t truly be tested until October. And that’s a bit nerve-wracking considering how disastrous that unit was in 2012. In the meantime, at least the offense looks competent. Miami’s already proven it knows how to win a couple different types of games — blowouts and slugfests — which should suit them well as the season continues. Best of all, that same offense doesn’t look as if it was rise and fall with Duke Johnson. If nothing else, that may be the biggest gift of all from the first few weeks.
5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-0) (1-0) (Last: 5): Tech has a quarterback. As in a real player who can pass the ball, for the first time in years. Through two games, Vad Lee‘s proven himself as the real deal — the type of player this program’s sorely lacked for quite some time. With the sophomore QB at the helm, this triple-option works impeccably well, giving teams a legitimate fear of the pass, while the run continues to rack up hundreds of yards. It’s the only way this offense can truly be effective, and for the rest of the ACC, truly frightening too.
6. Maryland Terrapins (3-0) (0-0) (Last: 6): Following two games in which the Terps blew their doors off their opponents, they seemingly came back down to earth on Saturday, despite pulling off the win. Maryland turned the ball over three times, while the defense allowed 349 passing yards to Connecticut, of all teams. They also lost corner Dexter McDougle for the season, which might prove to be a crushing blow the defense overall. On the bright side, however, the rushing game continues to roll with QB C.J. Brown out in front, making him arguably the league’s best dual-threat to this point.
7. Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1) (0-0) (Last: 10): We’ll continue to deride the Hokies’ dreadful offense, but it’s simply too tough to ignore this dominant defense at this point, too. Virginia Tech is near the top of the country in turnovers (tied for 11th), and despite allowing 35 points to Alabama in the opener, they’re still only allowing 16 per game through three. Both the secondary (seven INTs) and the line (12 sacks) have done their part to keep this team afloat, and it should pay huge dividends if they ever decide to start scoring points again.
8. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-1) (0-0) (Last: 8): It’s amazing how quickly UNC has been plunged right back into the muddled middle of the ACC hierarchy, but that’s what happens when you fail to impress through three weeks (and just two games). The Heels’ next four games will all be critical in deciding where this team’s destiny lies. Should they drop two ACC contests of the three upcoming, 2013 could be a wash by mid-October.
9. Duke Blue Devils (2-1) (0-1) (Last: 7): Okay, so maybe Duke’s still not ready to hang with the top of the ACC’s Coastal Division — though a lot of that also depends on where exactly Georgia Tech ends up this season. Brandon Connette is proving to be a serviceable replacement for Anthony Boone‘s absence, but the jury’s still out on him as a full-time starter. Despite progress throughout the rest of the team, the quarterback position still guides the ship in Durham, so the pressure will be on Connette to deliver wins.
10. NC State Wolfpack (2-0) (0-0) (Last: 11): No one’s sold on Pete Thomas at quarterback just yet, and I’m willing to bet this Thursday’s contest versus Clemson doesn’t help matters there either. As predicted, NC State’s going through a bit of an identity crisis right now — Tom O’Brien’s personnel trying to transition in part to Dave Doeren’s scheme — and there are certain to be some growing pains. For their sake, let’s hope they’ve been worked out already.
11. Boston College Eagles (2-1) (1-0) (Last: 9): There was hope Boston College could pull a huge upset over USC this weekend. And instead, the Eagles got absolutely smoked by the Trojans. Now with expectations reset to a more realistic level, we’ll see where BC’s season goes from here. At best, they’ll be favored in two of the next five games, meaning they must take care of business against weaker opponents to remain on track for a bowl bid. Chase Rettig‘s three-game regression isn’t encouraging to that end, but still plenty of games left to play as well.
12. Pittsburgh Panthers (1-1) (0-1) (Last: 15): Pitt’s offense still has plenty of kinks to work out — most notably turnovers, even against New Mexico — but you’ve got to like where things appear to be headed all around. Tyler Boyd appears to be an elite playmaker regardless of what position he’s playing (running back or receiver), while Aaron Donald picked up right where he left off last season, recording two sacks against the Lobos Saturday. The rushing defense still looked very rough (213 yards allowed), but the hope is that results so far as a result of tough running opponents, not ineptitude on Pitt’s side.
13. Virginia Cavaliers (1-1) (0-0) (Last: 13): Virginia needed a week-long breather to recover from the onslaught brought on them by Oregon a couple Saturdays ago. So will things get any better on offense going forward? The first half is the most manageable part of the Hoos’ slate, so they need to stockpile wins while they can. If David Watford continues to struggle at quarterback, there may even be some murmurs about giving Greyson Lambert a shot at the position.
14. Syracuse Orange (1-2) (0-0) (Last: 14): Syracuse fans’ nightmare is apparently over. Drew Allen has officially been replaced by Terrel Hunt as the starting passer and that should mean a much more fluid offense going forward. While the opponent (Wagner) was admittedly terrible on Saturday, the Orange still put up 54 points in a football game and showed themselves more than capable of moving the ball with Hunt at the helm. He’ll get the starting nod against Tulane this weekend, and one would expect SU will continue to open up the playbook for him.
15. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-2) (0-1) (Last: 13): Can it get any worse for Wake? The defense is actually looking pretty good — just 17.3 points allowed per game — but with an offense this inept, that doesn’t much matter. Tanner Price finally had a performance up to his talent level this past week, though he still couldn’t help the Deacons punch the ball into the end zone. Considering everything Jim Grobe’s done for this program, you hate to see fans calling for his job. But at some point, you have to deliver some new results, no?