With Clemson coming off a bye, and little news coming out of practice, it seems like a good time to break down how the ACC shakes out through three weeks of the season. As has been the case for the past few seasons, the ACC remains a top heavy conference. The top third is pretty solid, but the middle and bottom leave a lot to be desired. There have been several bad losses (UVA to Oregon, Wake Forest to ULM). Clemson, at this point, remains the class of the conference with arguably the best win of any team in college football through the first month of the season.
1) Clemson (2-0 overall, 0-0 in the ACC): Through three weeks, Clemson sits at the top. While Florida State could have a case for being number one (because they won the conference last year) Clemson has looked the strongest early. The win against Georgia was enormous and they coasted in week two against lowly SC State. A big Thursday road on national tv would put the Tigers back squarely in the limelight. Big favorites and coming off a bye, should Clemson do we they are suppose to do, they will hold onto the top spot come next week.
2) Florida State (2-0, 1-0): Florida State, with QB prodigy Jameis Winston at the helm has looked good through two games. Pittsburgh is picked to finish last in the Coastal and Nevada isn't exactly a football powerhouse these days, so expectations have to be tempered at this point. This defense only returns four starters on defense and Winston has yet to face a true test (which likely won't come until the Clemson game). Maryland could make for an interesting test to the Noles in a few weeks, but outside of that Fisher's squad should be ranked somewhere between 5-7 when they come to Death Valley. I think this offense scores a lot of points this season.
3) Miami (2-0, 0-0): Outside of Clemson's win over Georgia, the Hurricanes victory against Florida has been the most impressive of the season. When was the last time Sun Life Stadium has been that loud and packed? People in Dade County are excited about the potential of this squad and Al Golden has this program trending upward. The Hurricanes look like the kings of the Coastal at this point and have the luxury of getting both Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech at home later in the season.
4) Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0): Coming off a very lackluster 7-7 season, pressure is on Paul Johnson to prove he can continue to show sustained success in the ACC. So far he's doing that. The Jackets posted an impressive win against a sneaky good Duke last week and amassed 100+ points through two games. Offseason changes on defense and an offense that returned a lot puts Paul Johnson's club squarely back in the hunt for the Coastal.
5) Maryland (3-0, 0-0): Maryland is trending upward...fast. They are finally healthy at quarterback (remember last year when they were down to their fourth QB?). Diggs is a star in the conference (and arguably a top five player in the ACC) and Long presents matchup nightmares as a #2 WR. A good win on the road against UConn and favorites against West Virginia this weekend could bring Maryland to 4 wins through 4 weeks of the season which would equal their season win total of 2012. The Terps did lose both their starting corners though, which is something to keep an eye on.
6) Virginia Tech (2-1, 0-0): It's been a rough 12 months for this program, a team that has been use to being the crop of the conference since arriving. Logan Thomas continues to struggle from the quarterback position (does Beamer stick with him here?) and the Hokies have had to rely on the defense to once again carry them. They did get a win this weekend against an ECU team that will be solid this year. In week 1 they were simply overmatched against Alabama, but take away the two special team blunders and the Hokies are in that game. At this point I just don't think they have the offense to be able to keep up with Georgia Tech and Miami to compete for the Coastal.
7) North Carolina (1-1, 0-0): The North Carolina offense that was suppose to look much improved (and faster) this year looked pedestrian in week one against the Gamecocks. A cupcake win against MTSU and the Heels have a lot to prove as we move forward. Saturday they get that chance playing the Jackets in Atlanta. Look for the Heels to keep that one close with having two weeks to prepare for the triple option attack.
8) NC State (2-0, 0-0): This is where the ACC really becomes weak. 8-14 are pretty close together, with nobody really standing out and several teams accumulating bad losses. I think NC State will be better as the season progresses, and the team is still 2-0, but man did they look mediocre in week 2 against I-AA Richmond. While the talent isn't quite there yet (due in large part to lackluster recruiting in the last few years), this team will be ready emotionally with a home game on Thursday. Will they be ready physically for the Chad Morris attack? That remains to be seen.
9) Virginia (1-1, 0-0): Virginia has been a tale of two weeks. Week one was a big win against BYU (a team that just beat Texas and always seems to play above expectations). Week two was another story as the Cavs got dumptrucked by Oregon, but really who didn't see that coming? Oregon did the same to Tennessee this past weekend and will likely continue to put up 50-60 points throughout the season.
10) Boston College (2-1, 1-0): The Eagles are the only team of the remaining bottom third that has a conference win and that's why I put them at #10 instead of lower. The Eagles were in a bad spot against Southern Cal last weekend, playing a team 3,000 miles away from home that desperately needed a win after a loss to Washington State in week 2.
11) Duke (2-1, 0-1): Duke lost to a good Georgia Tech team this last week and still has a winning record and a road win on its belt. Cutcliffe can coach and has built that program into one that's no longer a pushover on everyone's schedule. He will get it turned around in Durham and could get the Devils back into postseason play with a strong second half of the season.
12) Pittsburgh: (1-1, 0-1): The Panthers did not look good in week 1, getting stomped at home in the Labor Day opener against the Noles. A win against New Mexico in week 2 puts the Panthers at .500, but a rather tough 2013 slate is going to be a rude awakening for the new ACC member.
13) Syracuse: (1-2, 0-0): With a new head coach and quarterback, it was expected to be a tough year for the Orange. It hasn't exactly been a promising start with losses to Penn State and Northwestern. The Orange open their first ACC game against Clemson in three weeks, a game Clemson will be heavily favored in.
14) Wake Forest (1-2, 0-1): What has happened to Grobe's program? It's fallen on hard times since that 2006 ACC title with bad losses already to Boston College and Sun Belt squad ULM (a game in which they had 15 TOTAL rushing yards). Grobe could be squarely on the hotseat at the end of the year especially with the way this team is trending and how much Grobe is making salary wise. This looks like a 3-4 win team as of today. Ouch.