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ACC Power Rankings: Week 1

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It's the greatest time of year, college football has arrived and with that, we have ACC football games to discuss.

Andy Lyons

1. Florida State
Week 1: Florida State-37 v. Oklahoma State-31
Week 2: Citadel
Previous Ranking: 1

Oklahoma State got off to a rough start (punt, interception, punt, missed FG, punt) as FSU took a 10-0 lead. After that, the Cowboys surprised everyone and made the Seminoles look vulnerable (while their new uniforms made them look like something else entirely. See: old uniformsnew uniforms)

Jameis Winston was only 25/40 with two interceptions, but still ended up with 370 passing yards and a jaw dropping rushing touchdown. If Clemson had not shown all the weaknesses we've been worrying about for weeks, maybe we'd be writing about how vulnerable FSU is, but a more disciplined perspective is to note that in the last two games FSU has beat Auburn and Oklahoma State in neutral site games - not too shabby.

2. Notre Dame
Week 1: Rice-17 @ Notre Dame-48
Week 2: Michigan
Previous Ranking: 3

In Week 1, Notre Dame faced the reigning C-USA Champion Rice Owls and scored 48. They were hitting on the explosive plays and finished with 576 yards. Everett Golson was 14/22 with passing TDs of 53 and 75 yards while running for 41 yards and three more TDs. They averaged 6.7 yards per rush.

On the negative side, they allowed 367 yards in a home game against a Conference USA team, so we'll see how they fare against Michigan and then we'll know much more. Still, their offense gets high marks against only somewhat light competition in week one - enough to move them above Clemson for now.

3. Clemson
Week 1: Clemson-21 @ Georgia-45
Week 2: SC State
Previous Ranking: 2

What do Wake Forest and Clemson have in common besides their ACC affiliation? Neither scored in the second half of a season opening non-conference loss.

A handful of our writers said to expect fewer explosive drives and more methodical plodding drives. The problem comes when there is little to no threat downfield. Stoudt averaged only 4.6 yards per passing attempt. The few times he attacked Georgia downfield, his teammates let him down. Mike Williams dropped two big opportunities in the first quarter. More drops from others came later. Clemson had just five receptions of 15+ yards in the entire game and only one run of 15+ (Cole Stoudt). The change in style was as expected, but the total lack of explosiveness is extremely concerning. Also, the tempo is not where we've seen it before. I expect the latter to improve over the next few weeks.

Special teams play was a complete debacle! Clemson allowed Todd Gurley - admittedly the best back in the country - to return a kickoff for a touchdown halfway through the second quarter. Three minutes later, new Clemson kicker Ammon Lakip missed a 34-yard field goal. Clemson finished the contest with -6 punt return yards as the coaching still continues to use Adam Humphries as the return man. Our special team failings helped to swing the game in the Dawgs' favor. Coach Pearman needs to get our special teams playing to Clemson's standards before Week 4.

With all that said, Clemson should be one of the best teams in the ACC. Aside from Florida State and arguably Notre Dame, I don't think a road loss to a very good Georgia team should change our projections much. We originally projected 8.7 wins with 0.4 coming in game one. The loss knocks it down to 8.3 expected wins, however as bad as Syracuse, Wake Forest, and South Carolina looked, expected wins for those games can likely be bumped up just a shade so I still look for 8-9 wins.

4. Louisville
Week 1: Miami-13 @ Louisville-31
Week 2: Murray State
Previous Ranking: 5

New starter Will Gardner had some ball security issues, losing two fumbles, but was as accurate as advertised. Their defensive line dominated Miami and took the pressure off Gardner to turn in a huge performance. DeVante Parker was out with an injured foot and looks to return right about the time they play Clemson. Michael Dyer was also out for the opener. With their return they should be dangerous.

Their schedule is heavily backloaded. Now past Miami, their next five opponents should offer little resistance, and the Cardinals will likely roll into Clemson for the first time ever undefeated and ranked. Their final six games include: Clemson, FSU, Notre Dame, and Kentucky. An 8-4 or 9-3 season (remember, their schedule includes one, not two major non-conference challenges) seems likely, especially if their defense is as good as it appeared (as opposed to Miami's offense just being brutal).

5. Duke
Week 1: Elon-13 @ Duke-52
Week 2: @ Troy
Last Ranking: 6

Anthony Boone and Jamison Crowder connected for two touchdowns as Duke routed Elon in Durham. It's to be expected, they scheduled four cupcakes to start the season. They should race to a 4-0 start with @Troy, Kansas, and Tulane next. After that they play at Miami and at Georgia Tech back-to-back. It's not until then that we'll see if they are up to snuff this year, but they've shown me enough to think they're a legitimate quality team once again.

6. Virginia Tech
Week 1: William & Mary-9 @ Virginia Tech-34
Week 2: @ Ohio State
Last Ranking: 7

Michael Brewer had a successful debut at QB going 23/30 (remember some of the laughably low completion totals VT has posted the past few seasons?), throwing two touchdowns to one pick. Bud Foster's defense looked "right" as they held the Tribe under 200 total yards and allowed one measly third down conversion.

Michael Brewer may not be as tall as Logan Thomas, but the former Chad Morris apprentice was able to connect on a handful (~7) passes of 15+ yards. It's not hard to imagine Virginia Tech getting back on track this year and with the incredibly easy road they have in the ACC - Wake Forest and Boston College from the Atlantic, at Duke and at UNC are their toughest tests - you've got to think they have a real chance to win the division. Of course, they've only played William & Mary and travel to Columbus to battle the Buckeyes next week so we'll see how they perform in against the only premier team on their schedule.

7. North Carolina
Week 1: Liberty-29, UNC-56

Week 2: San Diego State
Last Ranking: 4

Spots 4-8 are very fluid, so this drop is not as dramatic as it may seem. UNC scored 59 and ran the ball very well, but Marquise Williams threw two interceptions and Mitch Trubisky added a third. They held a tenuous 21-15 halftime lead.

I continue to believe their offense will put up numbers, but 29 points is a lot to surrender to a Big South team. They gave up a safety and allowed a fumble to be returned for a TD, so it's not all on the defense, but they were sloppy. San Diego State will be a tougher test next week. We'll see how their defense fares and if they can combine up-tempo with precision.

8. Miami
Week 1: Miami-13 @ Louisville-31
Week 2: Florida A&M
Last Ranking: 8

After getting blasted by 25 against the Cardinals in the Russell Athletic Bowl, they rematched on Labor Day in Louisville to a similar result. Miami have some playmakers at the skill positions including maybe the best running back in the conference - Duke Johnson. Denzel Perryman is their outstanding linebacker who tallied 11 solo tackles in Week 1.

They have elected to start true freshman Brad Kaaya at quarterback after their projected starter, Ryan Williams, tore his ACL and the next player in line, Kevin Olsen, got suspended and appears to lack commitment and focus. Kaaya was mediocre in his first start, but was put in a tough spot behind a shaky offensive line in a tough road environment. Ryan Williams could end up returning and getting his starting gig back.

They have so many playmakers they don't need their quarterback to do much, but the offensive line made that difficult and slowed the run game. They'll have to shuffle some players to patch up the line.

9. Pittsburgh
Week 1: Delaware-0 @ Pittsburgh-62
Week 2: @ Boston College (Friday)
Previous Ranking: 10

Pittsburgh is off to a great start with a rout over FCS Delware. They had 409 rushing yards so it appears they simply pushed them around up front. Obviously this is a great start, but again it's Delaware. Pittsburgh plays at BC on Friday (which seems to be BC's new thing - they beat Wake on a Friday last season) and I expect the Panthers to get an ACC road win. They could stay in contention in the Coastal until late in the season when they have to travel to Chapel Hill and Coral Gables. They're a dark horse contender.

10. Georgia Tech
Week 1: Wofford-19 @ Georgia Tech-38
Week 2: @ Tulane
Previous Ranking: 11

New GT QB Justin Thomas alleviated some concern from Vad Lee's transfer by completing 11/15 passes and attacking the Terrier defense downfield (18.8 yards/pass attempt). Wofford is another triple option team so you'd expect the Yellow Jacket defense to have a leg up at stopping it, but they allowed 271 rushing yards. It was 10-9 at halftime before Georgia Tech's depth advantage bore out the day. Although there are some positive things to pull from the win, I'm still not sold on Georgia Tech this year. They have a six game stretch (GS, VT, UM, Duke, UNC, Pitt) that is going to ding them up, and then after two of the ACC's softest, they close with Clemson and UGA. Making a bowl game is going to be a close call.

11. Virginia
Week 1: UCLA-28 @ Virginia-20
Week 2: Richmond
Previous Ranking: 13

I don't want to praise a home loss too much, but the Hoos were 21 point dogs and only lost by eight. Their offense is still putrid, which is why I am slow to move them much higher in the Power Rankings, but their defense allowed just seven points. Three defensive touchdowns from UCLA won them the game. Greyson Lambert threw two pick sixes before getting yanked in favor of Matt Johns who was better, but still only 13/22. It looks like a change at the position may be forthcoming.

I don't see being good enough to win more than six games, but the defense - which held UCLA QB Brett Hundley to a 43.2 QBR - may be good enough to keep them in bowl contention for a while. They play UCLA, BYU, Louisville, and FSU aside from the usual customers in the Coastal Division so they have an especially tough road.

On a related note for the comments, is UCLA overrated?

12. Boston College
Week 1: BC-30 @ Massachusetts-7
Week 2: Pittsburgh (Friday)
Previous Ranking: 14

Tyler Murphy, the former Gator now starting QB for Boston College, had a pedestrian passing day, but ran for 118 yards and a touchdown against UMass in Gillette Stadium. Losing RB Andre Williams will set the Eagles back, there's no arguing that, and losing QB Chase Retting and WR Alex Amidon will take a huge chunk out of the passing game, but Murphy may add an interesting new dynamic we haven't seen from Boston College before. They entered halftime against one of the weaker FBS teams up only 6-0, so we'll temper the praise, but they may not be as bad as expected. It'll be interesting to see how their defense fares against Pittsburgh on Friday. Pittsburgh had 409 rushing yards in Week 1 against Delaware, while BC only allowed 55 to UMass.

13. Syracuse
Week 1: Villanova-26 @ Syracuse-27 (2OT)
Week 2: @ Central Michican
Previous Ranking: 9

Syracuse was outgained by 69 yards against an FCS school in their vaunted Carrier Dome. Prior to the Clemson game last season, his teammates were saying he was the best #10 (that is, better than Tajh Boyd) and the media types seem to think he can be an above average quarterback in the ACC, but he's shown me too little to make be buy in. In this one, he went 10/17 and then threw a punch (into a face mask) after being tackled - to which the announcer said "oh that's a weak punch." He was ejected from the game and will not be punished further. This reminds me of the Isiah Battle situation where he had a similar incident against NC State (he was suspended from the next game and in the dog house for weeks).

This may be a "W" on the schedule, but they squeaked by and frankly it seems this program is doing things the wrong way. They go to...I repeat they go to Central Michigan next week.

14. NC State
Week 1: Georgia Southern-23 @ NCSU-24
Week 2: Old Dominion
Previous: 12

The Pack trailed 3-17 at halftime before surging back to win with a 35-yard TD in the final two minutes. Jacoby Brissett will be an upgrade at QB and Georgia Southern will do well for a first year FBS team, but this type of close call is rather foreboding for NC State. They don't play any Power Five conference teams outside of the ACC so their final record may not be very reflective of their quality.

Wake Forest
Week 1: Wake Forest-10, UL-Monroe-17
Week 2: Gardner Webb
Last ranking: 15

Wake Forest got a early punt return TD and added a field goal before halftime against UL-Monroe. They didn't score again as the Warhawks held the Deacons without a touchdown for the entire game as they beat Wake Forest for the second year in a row. I won't belabor the point, but this could be the worst ACC offense in a decade. Maybe one of those early 2000s Duke teams was worse (help me out in the comments). This is shaping up to be a real ugly year for Wake, who is looking at maybe three wins.