Week 4 was an interesting one in the ACC. Conference play began in earnest for most teams, highlighted by NC State’s upset over Florida State, who, along with Miami, played for the first time since Hurricane Irma. Georgia Tech and Duke got a leg up in the Coastal, while Clemson held off a feisty performance from Boston College.
Oh, and...HEY VIRGINIA!
1. Clemson 4-0 (2-0)
The Tigers were sleepy on offense for three quarters against Boston College, as Kelly Bryant had a not-Deshaun Watson day. A fourth quarter explosion from Travis Etienne (9 carries, 113 yards, 2 TD) and the usual dominating performance from the defense saved the day, as the Tigers survived a trap game between trips to Louisville and Virginia Tech.
2. Virginia Tech 4-0 (0-0)
The Hokies are becoming notoriously slow starters. A week after trailing ECU 17-7 after the first quarter, they only led 3-0 against an outclassed Old Dominion team until six minutes remained in the second.
Things were fine after that, as Josh Jackson (20/30, 296 yards, 3 TD) and Cam Phillips (7 receptions, 106 yards) got it together and the defense stifled freshman Steven Williams in his first start, holding the Monarchs to 149 total yards.
The Hokies open ACC play in Blacksburg with defending champ Clemson coming to town. Lane Stadium is going to be off the hook.
3. Miami 2-0 (0-0)
The Canes were sluggish in the first half against MAC favorite Toledo, but woke up and imposed their will in the second half (seems to be a theme for these top teams, huh?)
Mark Walton is averaging 13 yards per carry and 176 yards per game in a small sample, and Malik Rosier has been your typical, efficient Mark Richt quarterback. Time will tell if the defense can play up to its preseason expectations, and we’ll know on Friday night. A key early Coastal matchup with Duke awaits.
4. Louisville 3-1 (1-1)
There was only one important thing to take place in this game:
— FOX Sports South (@FOXSportsSouth) September 23, 2017
REPEAT: SQUIRREL TOUCHDOWN
Wes Durham is an absolute gem.
The Cardinals host Murray State in another tune-up before four key Atlantic matchups make up their entire October slate.
5. NC State 3-1 (1-0)
Bradley Chubb and the Wolfpack defensive line beat up on a true freshman quarterback, and held a late Florida State rally at bay to score a huge ACC-opening win.
Their offense isn’t super explosive, but Jaylen Samuels is about as good as it gets at getting to the first down marker and moving the chains.
They should beat Syracuse at home at noon on Saturday, setting up a big Thursday night elimination game with Louisville the next week.
6. Florida State 0-2 (0-1)
This has a Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil feel, but...I feel for the Noles. They lost their quarterback in garbage time against Alabama, missed two weeks of action, and got caught with the always-sleepy noon Tallahassee crowd. When Florida State loses, there’s usually a prevailing wisdom that they shot themselves in the foot...despite an ill-timed injury to wide receiver Auden Tate and a couple of big coverage busts, this was not that.
The Noles were unable to generate a consistent ground attack against the Wolfpack, and James Blackman improved as the game wore on but was very clearly a freshman making his first start.
We’ll learn more about the enigma that is Florida State this weekend when they visit a hungry Wake Forest team at 3:30 on ABC.
7. Duke 4-0 (1-0)
Under “finding a way to win” in the sports cliche dictionary, you’ll find a subtitle about this game. Duke was not great, but their defense busted heads, their offense was adequate, and they controlled the ball enough to get the Victory Bell for the second year in a row.
The Blue Devils have warts—their defense is prone to big busts, and freshman Brian Brittain did not return after halftime—but this is a team a year ahead of its rebuilding schedule. They have a chance for a national television statement win as they visit Miami on Friday night.
8. Georgia Tech 2-1 (1-0)
Grumpy Paul Johnson was grumpy Paul Johnson after the game, but the fact is Georgia Tech controlled their game against Pitt from the start. Their offense is as explosive as any Tech offense has been since the 2014-15 Orange Bowl-winning squad, as TaQuon Marshall and Kirvonte Benson (196 yards, 2 TD) are a pretty scary 1-2 punch.
The Jackets catch a reeling UNC team at home this week, and can gain an early upper hand in the Coastal if they can improve to 2-0 before trips to Miami and Clemson in October.
9. Wake Forest 4-0 (1-0)
The Deacs took care of their early slate like they should have, eeking out a close win in Boone. Their 34-10 win at Boston College looks more and more decent with each passing week.
We’ll see how we feel about them after October, because their next five games are as follows: Florida State, at Clemson, at Georgia Tech, Louisville, at Notre Dame. Ouch.
10. Virginia 3-1 (0-0)
Categorized under “things that make you do a double-take when you wake up groggy on a Saturday morning,” Bronco Mendenhall used years of Mountain West experience to get his Cavaliers to surprise Boise State on the SmurfTurf. Kurt Benkert (19/29, 273, 3 TD) led an efficient Virginia attack to 440 yards of offense, and the Cavs (THE CAVS) have over 1,000 yards over their past two games.
They have a bye this week, then dive into ACC play with five winnable (?) games before finishing with games at Louisville and Miami, and a home game against Virginia Tech.
11. Boston College 1-3 (0-2)
Hats off to the Eagles for keeping it close with Clemson for three quarters. Their win probability never exceeded 25%, but the nation turned its collective head to Death Valley at about 5:45pm on Saturday, and that’s something.
BC gets a tuneup against Central Michigan before trying to find their first ACC win against Virginia Tech or Louisville in the subsequent weeks.
12. Syracuse 2-2 (0-0)
This is more of an indictment on LSU, as Syracuse should be able to score 20-30 points on any given night. A fourth-quarter touchdown from Steve Ishmael (11 rec, 122 yards) closed the gap to 28-26, putting the game in doubt briefly, but the Orange isn’t quite ready to close out games against superior competition just yet. Finishing only -30 in total yards at LSU at night is impressive, though.
Here’s hoping Dino Babers’ team rebounds and gets to 1-0 in ACC play with a win at Carter-Finley Stadium this Saturday.
13. North Carolina 1-3 (0-2)
Thanks to injuries, the roster now lines up pretty well with this ranking. Sigh.
Here’s hoping the Heels find some magic to get their first conference win in Atlanta on Saturday.
14. Pittsburgh 1-3 (0-1)
If you would’ve told me that year three of Pat Narduzzi’s defense at Pitt would still be as bad as it was the day he was hired, I would’ve laughed at you. But...it is. Despite being +3 in turnovers, the Panthers allowed 484 yards against Georgia Tech, and this game was never really in doubt. It also doesn’t help when an offense, the surprise darling of 2016, fails to crack 250 itself.
It looks like they will let sophomore Ben Dinucci learn on the job in a lost season (sound familiar?), but these Panthers are bad. Their schedule is about as favorable as you can ask until their final two games—up next are Rice, at Syracuse, State, at Duke, Virginia, and Carolina.