There’s not going to be any change at the top, and there’s not going to be much change at the bottom.
The middle of the ACC? We’re starting over.
1) Clemson Tigers (beat Georgia Tech 52-14)
The national champs won on Thursday night despite a pedestrian performance from Trevor Lawrence. Ironically, after years of torturous option football, it was Georgia Tech giving up over 400 yards to Travis Etienne and the Clemson rushing attack.
Clemson: still really, really good.
2) Virginia Cavaliers (beat Pitt 30-14)
The Hoos trailed 14-13 going into halftime, but scored 17 unanswered to get an early leg up in the Coastal. I had a lot of difficulty with the number two spot, but Virginia gets the nod as the “team least likely to beat itself” not ranked above them.
This ranking may prove foolish by midseason, but until someone in the Coastal shows enough upside to separate themselves from the pack, the completion of the “Coastal circle of suck” is the most fun potential result of the season.
Said another way, teams 2-12 in this article are interchangeable week-to-week for a while.
3) Syracuse Orange (beat Liberty 24-0)
Nothing to report from this game, just questions.
- Liberty’s hospital overlooks the football stadium? Awesome.
- Hugh Freeze held a press conference from the hospital? Weird.
- Syracuse’s offense wasn’t quite there, yet, but a weird week 1 trip to Liberty will do that.
4) Miami Hurricanes (Bye)
Thank goodness for Virginia Tech, lest you think I’m biased in favor of teams wearing orange.
5) North Carolina State Wolfpack (beat East Carolina 34-6)
You have reached the part of the program where any of the next four teams (and really the previous two) could be ranked anywhere without much argument.
I was very impressed with Matthew McKay’s debut, and after ECU fumbled into the end zone on the opening drive, this game was more or less over.
6) North Carolina Tar Heels (beat South Carolina 24-20)
You, jaded UNC fan after the past two seasons: “this is way too high”
Me, after rewatching this game and having no faith in the rest of the ACC: “this may be too low”
If the kid gloves were off Sam Howell earlier, the Heels could’ve won this game by 20.
7) Florida State Seminoles (lost to Boise State 36-31)
Boise State ran 108 plays in pre-hurricane Tallahassee at noon in August.
The Noles showed some promise on offense, but played way too conservatively on defense, allowing the Broncos to wear them down. And they blew an 18-point first half lead.
I’m starting to run out of excuses for Willie Taggart. The talent is clearly there.
8) Boston College Eagles (beat Virginia Tech 35-28)
A.J. Dillon wasn’t great, and the Eagles beat Virginia Tech anyway.
That makes me happy.
9) Duke Blue Devils (lost 42-3 to Alabama, as one does)
At no point in this game was Alabama’s win expectancy under 92%, per ESPN’s FPI.
The Blue Devils took advantage of Bama’s suspensions and held Tua Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide offense scoreless for a quarter, and the wheels fell off.
After Alabama killed Florida State’s 2017 and Louisville’s 2018, both times in week 1, we have a trend to follow.
10) Wake Forest Demon Deacons (beat Utah State 38-35)
This was the best game nobody watched this weekend, with seven lead changes.
I...watched it. Wake’s defense is atrocious, as they gave up over 7 yards per carry to Jaylen Warren AND 418 yards through the air. A late pick sealed the home win for the Demon Deacons.
As bad as their defense was, their offense was good. Chazz Surratt took the headlines on Saturday, but his brother Sage appears to be the #1 weapon for Jamie Newman and the Clawfense.
The game in Winston-Salem next Friday suddenly looks like a lot of fun.
11) Pitt Panthers (lost 30-14 at home to Virginia)
Originally had them at 9 before realizing I have absolutely zero faith in Pat Narduzzi or Kenny Pickett. They did essentially play Virginia to a
slog draw outside of two turnovers, and maybe their defense will actually take a long anticipated step forward...but we’ve been saying that for a while now.
12) Virginia Tech Hokies (lost 35-28 at BC)
Going -4 in turnovers is never good...but Virginia Tech doesn’t look to have solved anything from last year. The defense gave up 432 yards, and the Hokies blew a shot to ride an easy schedule to 6-0.
You hate to see it.
13) Louisville Cardinals (lost 35-17 to Notre Dame)
They exceeded my expectations against Notre Dame. Jawon Pass looked more like the borderline 5-star recruit out of college than the guy who got benched by Bobby Petrino in week 2 last year. Some turnover silliness, and the Irish finally imposing their will in the second half, put the Cardinals away.
This is a significant rebuild, but because of nothing more than better scheme fit than the team below, I’ll give the Cardinals the nod at 13.
14) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (lost 52-14 at Clemson)
Not ranked behind Louisville for anything they did or didn’t do against Clemson, the game just illustrated what a monumental task Geoff Collins’ rebuild is going to be. The offense actually somewhat resembled the spread triple that Willie Fritz ran at Georgia Southern earlier this decade, but I wonder if that was a base install to give Clemson a different look. Apparently Collins has the scout team running what will be the Georgia Tech offense, with opponent’s wrinkles, in practice— so he is punting on 2019 in the name of development.
Tech will beat someone they shouldn’t at some point this year— their back seven (which was awesome against Trevor Lawrence) is too good not to.