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ACC Power Rankings: Week 5

We might be forced to reevaluate some things

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Boston College Adam Richins-USA TODAY Sports

Remember last week’s predictions, when almost all of us went straight chalk because it didn’t look like the ACC had too many interesting games? What fools we were. Al will go into that further tomorrow, but anybody who’s watched the ACC at all knows that this conference will never have cleanly defined itself after just four weeks. Boston College is starting to look like a real team, N.C. State pulled out a win against Pittsburgh, and last week, Syracuse beat up on Georgia Tech — the teams we’d put at the bottom are making themselves known. So, after a week off, let’s find out how the power rankings have shaken up after two weeks of action:

1. #1 Clemson Tigers (3-0, 2-0 ACC)

No surprises here, as the Tigers stomped Virginia 41-23 in a game that wasn’t even as close as the score. After an early hiccup against Duke, Clemson has looked simply unstoppable through the first third or so of the season. This week, though, we’ll get to see how far ahead they are from other teams near the top of the country, as they’re going to host Miami on Saturday night. Speaking of which...

2. #7 Miami Hurricanes (3-0, 2-0)

Yeah, I think it’s time. Through three games, Miami has so far lived up to all the promise it had this offseason, with not really any hints of the coaching mismanagement that has marred most of this decade for the U’s talented rosters. D’Eriq King has been a star, Cam’Ron Harris is averaging 8.2 yards per carry, and the roster is overwhelming less talented sides, like in their 52-10 win against Florida State the week before last. They already proved they were for real in their game against Louisville, but this matchup against Clemson should show if they’re legit Top 10 material, or just taking advantage of the early-season turbulence.

3. #5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-0, 1-0)

It’s Notre Dame’s turn to have had an unscheduled 21-day break from football, as COVID-19 postponed their game against Wake Forest in Week 3 and they were off this past weekend. Hopefully this doesn’t become a trend, but what can you do? Fortunately, they probably won’t be tested too much in their return to action, as they host Florida State on Saturday night (why is this on primetime?).

4. #8 North Carolina Tar Heels (2-0, 2-0)

That’s two wins now for UNC that didn’t look as good as they should have, and yet even through two weeks of sloppy play it’s been clearly evident how much better the Heels were than their opponents, just held back by not being in rhythm yet. Sam Howell has some adjusting to do with his eye discipline versus safeties and ball-holding, but that’s the kind of thing that happens when a) you’re a very good quarterback that teams are specifically gameplanning for, b) you think you’ve already made an adjustment that defenses aren’t ready for, in this case a loss of weight and addition of a running element to his game, and c) you have way less tape on defenses than they have on you. Remember how Trevor Lawrence started last season? Anyways, the Heels had better hope this is the week things gel, because sloppy will not get it done against the ranked Virginia Tech team they’re hosting on Saturday.

5. #19 Virginia Tech Hokies (2-0, 2-0)

After dusting the Wolfpack, the Hokies beat Duke 38-31, but the score is pretty misleading — Duke kicked a field goal as time expired to turn it into a one-score game, which... sure. They’ve now handled two out of the three North Carolina Triangle teams, and are, I’m sure, raring to get after the third. Virginia Tech has been super impressive for being as shorthanded as they have been, putting together a downright fearsome rushing attack led by Kansas transfer Khalil Herbert, who’s averaging a staggering 12 yards per carry. That’ll be tested against UNC, though.

6. Virginia Cavaliers (1-1, 1-1)

Welcome to chaos. The next few teams are a combination of those who have looked good in losses, pulled off a big upset, been on the wrong side of a big upset, and have looked fine other than losing to good teams, and it’s hard to know how they stack up against each other. I don’t think Virginia is the sixth best team in the conference, but I think they have the least counterarguments; a loss to Clemson doesn’t really count against you, does it? Brennan Armstrong has done some good things in the Wahoos’ first action, and it’ll be interesting to see how they bounce back this week when they host N.C. State.

7. N.C. State Wolfpack (2-1, 2-1)

I don’t think State is the 7th best team in the conference, either, but after marching down the field in a minute to beat a ranked Pittsburgh team 30-29, they can’t really be put lower. Devin Leary looks a lot sharper than he did at any point last year, and the rest of State’s offense was always ready to be decent if there was just a good signal-caller at the helm. They’ll get a chance to prove they belong in the ACC’s “Decent” tier with their game against UVA on Saturday.

8. Boston College Eagles (2-1, 1-1)

As I have said repeatedly now, it’s time we respect that despite having a new coach, new quarterback, and no real offseason this year, Boston College is a legitimately decent team with a pretty bright future. Phil Jurkovec managed a consistently crumbling pocket superbly and connected with his top two targets again and again, showcasing both how hard he is to bring down and how good he can be at freelancing down the field. Jeff Hafley has definitely gotten this team playing the way he wants them to, and they might legitimately be a factor in the conference going forward. Right now, the talent on both sides of the ball isn’t quite to the point that they can threaten to be among the ACC’s best, but they are at least a team you don’t really want to play. They’ll host Pittsburgh this week in what has quickly become a fascinating matchup.

9. Pittsburgh Panthers (3-1, 2-1)

I guess it wouldn’t be a Pat Narduzzi season without an inexplicable loss to a team you were favored over by double digits. The offense got deep into the Wolfpack red zone three times with 6 points to show for it before finally punching it in from the goal line twice in their last three drives, and the vaunted defense couldn’t stop Devin Leary from having a career day with 330+ yards and 4 touchdowns. After an impressive win against Louisville had them looking like a dark horse for a top-3 finish in the ACC, the Panthers look a lot less scary now, and will have something to prove when they travel to Chestnut Hill.

10. Louisville Cardinals (1-2, 0-2)

It does suck to have had your first two conference games be against Miami and then-impressive Pitt, but especially after Pitt’s latest action, that record is not pretty. The Cardinals had a week off to regroup before hopefully showing why they’re better than their start to the season in a Friday night matchup against Georgia Tech.

11. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-2, 0-2)

The COVID-19-imposed postponement of the Deacons’ bout against Notre Dame was probably to Wake’s benefit. As much as they aren’t going to be competing for a conference title, falling to 0-3 in a 10-game season can be demoralizing, and they instead got to regroup and wallop Campbell, 66-14, for maybe some good mojo heading back into ACC play. Dave Clawson’s squad now has a scheduled week off before that starts, though.

12. Syracuse Orange (1-2, 1-2)

Well, after being left in the cellar after two losses where they looked absolutely hapless on offense, the Orange found some life against Georgia Tech and beat them handily, 37-20, in Week 3. With a home game against winless Duke next on their schedule, Dino Babers’ team has a chance to get a winning streak going.

13. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-2, 1-1)

Oh, come on, Geoff Collins. I spend all those words last time hyping you up for what this team looks like it can be soon, and then you come out with that dud against Syracuse? Eh, no matter, you can’t really judge results in a rebuilding year, and every game is just more teaching opportunities, if you’re doing it right. Anyways, we’ll see how they rebound from that after a week off against Louisville in primetime.

14. Florida State Seminoles (1-2, 0-2)

The ‘Noles were legitimately threatened by Jacksonville State last week before eking out a win. I don’t know what’s going on in Tallahassee, but Mike Norvell has to get a handle on it, and quick.

15. Duke Blue Devils (0-4, 0-4)

Are the Blue Devils actually the worst team in the conference? Probably not; a couple of their losses have been competitive fights against good teams and they have flashed talent on both sides of the ball. But, I mean, these are power rankings, and 0-4 pretty much speaks for itself. A game against Syracuse is a chance to start righting the ship, otherwise it will have been 5 weeks and Duke will have already lost at least half its conference games.