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ACC Power Rankings: Week Four

A clash at the top shakes some things up in the conference.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The conference season is starting to kick into gear, and one of the marquee matchups of the season took place in Week 3: Clemson traveling to Louisville in a matchup of the best team in the conference against the best player in the conference. Like Week 2, the conference as a whole had a pretty good week. Let’s see where that leaves them heading into Week 4.

1. Clemson (3-0, 1-0 ACC)

W at Louisville, 47-21

Next: 9/23 vs Boston College

Clemson isn’t just the best team in the conference; they have a strong argument to be called the best team in the country. A highly-anticipated game between them and the Cardinals ended up in a rout, as the Clemson defense pick-sixed Lamar Jackson and held him in check until garbage time while the offense racked up over 500 yards and scored just about at will. Any UNC fan who watched Lamar Jackson single-handedly destroy his opposition needs no further explanation of how impressive this was. A lot was made of Clemson maybe missing DeShaun Watson, but Kelly Bryant has gotten people thinking this team might be even better than the one that won last year’s championship. They will look to continue their dominant form against Boston College.

2. Virginia Tech (3-0)

W at East Carolina, 64-17

Next: 9/23 vs Old Dominion

ECU is a mess right now, but putting up 57 straight points against any team in the NCAA is impressive. After a slow start, Virginia Tech showed that their previous hype was warranted by doing anything they wanted against East Carolina after the first quarter. Cam Phillips is turning heads after a program-record 14 catches for 189 yards in this game, and unexpectedly starting quarterback Josh Jackson is doing an extremely admirable job taking over for Jerod Evans. They will take on an ODU team that got crushed by a below-average UNC squad, so it’s very possible that they put up a similarly insane scoreline.

3. Miami (1-0)

Game at FSU postponed

Next: 9/23 vs Toledo

4. Florida State (0-1)

Game vs Miami postponed

Next: 9/23 vs NC State

See #3.

5. Louisville (2-1, 1-1)

L vs Clemson, 21-47

Next: 9/23 vs Kent State

The beating the Cards took at the hands of Clemson knocks them down a few spots to the bottom of the conference’s elite. Lamar Jackson is still the most electrifying player in the country and Louisville is always exciting as a result, but there’s a line between “exciting” and “great” that they haven’t quite crossed. They’ll get there, in my opinion, but right now, they’re more scary than a real challenger to the top. Games Kent State and Murray State in the next two weeks should be opportunities to build some confidence back up.

6. Duke (3-0)

W vs Baylor, 30-20

Next: 9/23 at North Carolina

I really, really, really hope that we can put them lower a week from now. Daniel Jones looked much worse against Baylor than he had the first two weeks, so that’s promising.

7. Wake Forest (3-0, 1-0)

W vs Utah State, 46-10

Next: 9/23 at Appalachian State

The Demon Deacons beat Utah State almost as badly as ranked Wisconsin did, so I think it’s now officially time to notice them. Wake Forest scored more than 30 points just twice last season. They’ve already eclipsed that total, and they might be dangerous. That said, App State is an extremely risky place to travel, and the opening line for this game doesn’t favor Wake by a lot. Consider this their final test of legitimacy before their ACC schedule starts.

8. N.C. State (2-1)

W vs Furman, 49-16

Next: 9/23 at Florida State

That South Carolina loss looks like it’s going to look a lot like UNC’s opening day South Carolina loss a couple of years ago, except without the benefit of an ACC Championship-caliber rest of season. They’ve been doing what they’ve been supposed to do for the past two weeks against bad competition, which means they can tread water in the rankings for now. They head to Tallahassee to play Florida State, the Seminoles’ first action in 3 weeks. The Wolfpack would love to complete the upset they came so close to pulling off last year.

9. Georgia Tech (1-1)

Game at Central Florida canceled

Next: 9/23 vs Pittsburgh

The beginnings of #CoastalChaos will probably be seen in this game, as we hit the middle of the conference. Georgia Tech looked pretty solid in its first two games, so they have potential to move up on this list pretty quickly once the meat of their schedule begins.

10. North Carolina (2-1, 0-1)

W at Old Dominion, 53-23

Next: 9/23 vs Duke

I don’t like putting UNC even this high, because they haven’t quite earned it. That said, they held their position with a dominant win against Old Dominion, while the teams below them, well... we’ll get to them. Last year, they lost the Victory Bell in a game they should have won. This year, they’ll be underdogs against their Durham rivals, but it’s a game they have to win to be taken seriously at all this year. And getting that bell back where it belongs would not hurt.

11. Syracuse (2-1)

W vs Central Michigan, 41-17

Next: 9/23 vs LSU

The Orange’s game against CMU was not nearly as impressive as the final score. The score was only 24-17 at halftime before Syracuse dominated the third quarter, and they still noticeably struggled. LSU got clobbered last week, and they’re still pretty overrated at #25 in the nation, so this is an opportunity for Syracuse to reclaim some legitimacy and get a big win for the ACC over the SEC.

12. Pittsburgh (1-2)

L vs Oklahoma State, 21-59

Next: 9/23 at Georgia Tech

Just like Matt predicted last week, Pittsburgh’s inability to score points was not a valid strategy against the #9 team in the country. Allowing 516 yards in the first half probably didn’t help. Pittsburgh came into the season with pretty high expectations because of the experience of Max Browne at quarterback, but he has underwhelmed and the Pittsburgh defense has been too leaky for the offense to overcome. Georgia Tech’s unique system might give them fits again.

13. Virginia (2-1)

W vs UConn, 38-18

Next: 9/22 at Boise St.

Quin Blanding is really good. Virginia still isn’t. At least they won, though.

14. Boston College (1-2, 0-1)

L vs Notre Dame, 20-49

Next: 9/23 at Clemson