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Week 5 ACC Power Rankings

After an epic defensive slugfest last week, FSU and Clemson combined to allow 71 points this week. Nevertheless, the big dogs won and remain atop the power rankings while Pittsburgh and Boston College suffered embarrassing non-conference losses and tumble.

Tyler Smith


1. Florida State: 4-0 (2-0)
Last Week: W 56-41 at NC State

This Week: Wake Forest
Previous Ranking: 1

NC State punched them in the mouth early and kept it close late, but after the Seminoles fell down by 17 in the first quarter, FSU outscored them by 14, 7, and 11 in the ensuring quarters. The FSU defense was not good. RB Shadrach Thornton averaged 4.7 yards per carry (and it didn't come on one big scamper) and QB Jacoby Brissett had 359 passing yards. Where were these guys a week ago? It wasn't pretty, but FSU doesn't have a whole lot of obstacles between them and winning the conference.


Good But Not Quite Great

2. Clemson: 2-2 (1-1)
Last Week: W 50-35 vs. North Carolina
Next Week: NC State
Previous Ranking: 2

There's a whole lot of good, but quite a bit of ugly to talk about from this week's contest against UNC. The offensive line play is showing no progress. I knew coming into the season it was going to be a weakness and I won't delve into the roster management of the situation, but I would like to see steady improvement and in that regard their performance Saturday was frustrating. They simply do not open running lanes which is why we only totaled 92 rushing yards on 2.1 yards per carry. This problem will likely continue throughout this season (and possibly next) and in my opinion may be our biggest obstacle to beating you know who. This puts more pressure on Watson to be great and the coaches to come up with more creative ways to run the ball.

Watson threw his first interception while under duress as he launched the ball deep into coverage. He would also be sacked three times. Aside from those downers the Clemson aerial assault "Hopped" right by the Tar Hell "defense." On the Tigers' second snap of the game, they threw a play-actioned and got the Heels to bite hard - and I mean HARD - which allowed Hopper to catch Watson's pass behind safety coverage. That would be the first of Watson's record-setting six touchdown passes on the night. Hopper would finish with 3 receptions, 139 yards, and 2 TDs in a night that felt like this for the previously unfocused Clemson receiver. Mike Williams had a big day with 6 receptions, 122 yards, and 2 TDs while Tay Scott reeled in a team high 8 receptions for 66 yards and a TD. Scott also had what I thought was the play of the game when he was nailed at the two yard line and pushed the defender into the end zone.

Watson was great, record-setting great. He made some mistakes throwing deep into coverage and risking interceptions on a few occasions, he also hit passes to receivers I couldn't see from the upper deck. His accuracy and field vision were extremely impressive. He also did a good job scrambling for extra yards when he was forced to. He's an absolute Favre-ian gunslinger, or at least he was tonight. I'll wait to write the book on Watson.

Cole Stoudt played very little and finished with just three pass attempts. He came in late and the offensive line completely hung him out to dry. I hope next week will be a blowout and he'll get game action when the game is put away. I found it interesting that we attempted a QB sneak from under center and even more interesting that we couldn't get enough push for it to work.

I still don't like how we are using Humphries. I don't understand why you use him for screen plays. It's my understanding that those plays are for electric playmakers you want in space. I also still prefer T.J. Green in the return game. Humphries is great over the middle and I wish we'd use him more like how we used Tyler Grisham.

Ammon Lakip nailed a 45-yard FG from the hash roving that it's all mental for him. Hopefully he figures it out fast because all evidence points to him having a good leg and just needing to figure out the mental aspect of the position - which is likely the hardest part.

And finally, I almost forgot to mention Garry Peters. The senior CB was outstanding and racked up 7 solo tackles, 2 TFL, and 2 pass breakups. It's rare for a CB to stand out to me, but he was my defensive player of the game. So tick it off the list, now seven more Ws to go before South Carolina.


3. Notre Dame: 4-0 (1-0)*
Last Week: W 31-15 vs.
Syracuse (MetLife Stadium)
This Week: Stanford
Previous Ranking: 3

Notre Dame looks less impressive every week, don't they? They won their second consecutive neutral site game by a 16-point margin and it would have been less if a fumble returned for a TD wasn't incorrectly blown dead. Their win over Michigan now seems irrelevant after UM suffered their second 16-point home loss in as many weeks.

Notre Dame's first true test comes at home next week when the Stanford Cardinal come to South Bend and we'll quickly see if the Irish belong in the same tier as Clemson. I don't expect them to win, but I do expect them to keep it respectable.


4. Virginia: 3-2 (1-0)
Last Week: W 45-13 vs. Kent State
This Week: Pittsburgh
Previous Ranking: 5

Virginia's only losses have come to ranked teams and in a week where BC and Pitt lost to teams from outside the Power Five, UVA gets credit for taking care of business against Kent State. They relied on their defense to put them in good position. They also had nine tackles for loss and collected five turnovers inlcuding a pick six and a fumble deep in Kent State territory. Matt Johns got the start in place of the injured Lambert at QB, but there is little to no drop off between the two.

Their next three opponents (Pitt, Duke, UNC) all lost this week so the road ahead looks promising as they enter ACC Coastal play against reeling Pittsburgh in Charlottesville next week.


5. Louisville: 3-1
Last Week: W 20-10 Wake Forest
This Week: at Syracuse
Previous Ranking: 6

Louisville was very fortunate to win this game over Wake Forest. They intercepted a pass in the end zone and also managed to somehow pick off a shovel pass. On top of that, one of Wake Forest's best players (Kevin Johnson) was ejected on a bogus targeting call.

This is the second time they've played a defensive oriented team and struggled. If it were not for Wake's horrendous offensive line and absent rushing attack (once again, they finished with negative rushing yards) they could have lost this one in a similar fashion to how they lost to UVA. Louisville - surprisingly - appears to be a defense first team this year under Petrino allowing only 14 PPG so far. They started true freshman Reggie Bonnafon due to Will Gardner's knee injury - which some Louisville fans were hoping for - but he didn't look superb completing half his passes with no touchdowns or interceptions (Gardner has thrown two touchdowns in every game). Fortunately for them, they did a good job establishing the run and controlling the clock.


6. Miami: 3-2 (1-1)
Last Week: W 22-10 vs. Duke
This Week: at Georgia Tech
Previous Ranking: 9

Freshman Brad Kaaya, who looked so mediocre early in the season, is really coming around. He threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions against Duke. Led by LB Denzel Perryman, Miami's defense had their best game of the season against what has been a very effective Blue Devil offense dating back to last season. Anthony Boone, one of the better QBs in the ACC, struggled to the tune of 22/51 with 179 yards and two INTs. His star receiver, Jamison Crowder, had 7 receptions but was held just under 50 yards.

Miami now owns the tie-breaker over Duke and plays Georgia Tech next week. Given the level of parity in the Coastal, every intra-divisional matchup will be huge. The 'Canes are still very much in the race.

7. Duke 4-1 (0-1)
Last Week: L 10-22 at Miami
This Week: Bye
Previous Ranking: 4

As discussed above, Miami's defense surprisingly bested Cutcliffe's offense. Duke hasn't beat anybody worthwhile yet this season, so the jury is still out, but they get some respect for the 12-game regular season win streak that was active until Saturday. It was the second longest in the nation. They'll regroup this weekend before another intra-division game, this time at Georgia Tech.

8. Georgia Tech: 4-0 (1-0)
Last Week: Bye
This Week: Miami
Previous Ranking: 10

After some unimpressive non-conference wins Georgia Tech picked up a crucial ACC Coastal win last week. They're geared up for another Coastal foe with Miami coming to town next week. I'm still not sold on the Ramblin' Wreck and feel that their win over the Hokies was more a matter of VT losing it than them taking it. Nevertheless, they have a chance to be in the driver's seat of the division with a win next week. That's a good place to be, especially considering I had them ranked 14th just two weeks ago.

9. Virginia Tech: 3-2 (0-1)
Last Week: W 35-17 Western Michigan
This Week: at North Carolina
Previous Ranking: 11

Michael Brewer was just 14/32 with 178 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs. He now has 9 TDs and 10 INTs on the season. Beamer will need him to be more careful with the ball for the classic Hokie style of play led by their defense to be effective. Beamer called his squad a work in progress after the win. They travel to UNC, and though the Heels have absolutely no defense, Brewer will need to play better to take advantage or they could lose and drop to daisy status.


Sweet Little Daisys

10. NC State 4-1 (0-1)
Last Week: L
41-56 vs. Florida State 
This Week: at Clemson
Previous Ranking: 13

NC State harassed FSU all night or at least their offense did. Wolfpack QB Jacoby Brissett is emerging as the season progresses and threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns against the Seminole defense. Their offense is leaps and bounds better than last year, but I'm unsure if they belong in the tier above.

Next week they travel to Death Valley for a 3:30pm game against a Tiger defense that will be looking for redemption after a letdown versus UNC. I don't believe NC State has the defense to slow down Clemson's emerging playmakers and their spot in this tier will be justified.

11. North Carolina: 2-2 (0-1)
Last Week: L 50-35 at Clemson
This Week: Virginia Tech
Previous Ranking: 12

It's time for some fun with math! UNC has allowed 176 points so far this season (four games). Clemson has allowed 110 in four games. UVA has allowed 116 (five)  and Wake Forest has only allowed 101 (five games). UNC's defensive line got pressure on Watson, but the other units were paltry. On the second play from scrimmage, the linebackers and safeties bit so hard on a play-action it was actually pretty darn funny. They've created 11 turnovers, and got an interception against Watson, but also got burned deep time and time again.

On the flipside, their offense is legitimately dangerous and features some great playmakers. I was especially impressed by Ryan Switzer who averaged 29 yards per catch including this impressive tunnel screen where he outruns everyone but Robert Smith and then just makes him miss. Their offense reminds me a bit of our own in that they have good playmakers, but struggle on the O-line. As up and down as the Coastal division is, they could win a few games, but they belong in this tier until they slow down someone's offense. Next week against the struggling turnover-prone Hokie offense will be one of their best opportunities.

12. Pittsburgh: 3-2 (1-0)
Last Week: : L 10-21 vs. Akron
This Week: at UVA
Previous Ranking: 7

What in the world happened to Pittsburgh? Someone finally stopped James Conner, but who would have thought it would be the Akron Zips and their lovable Kangaroo logo? Connor averaged just 3.7 yards per carry.

Terry Bowden's Akron Zips won the turnover battle and finished with more yards and a better third down conversion rate. A double-digit home loss to a MAC team registered as an embarrassing upset.

Looking ahead to Clemson's 2016 home ACC schedule, we host Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville, and NC State? Whatever happened to being in the ACC? Doesn't that just make you cringe at the 'Cuse/Pitt expansion?


13. Syracuse: 2-2 (0-0)
Last Week: L 15-31 vs. Notre Dame (MetLife Stadium)
This Week: Louisville
Previous Ranking: 14

Notre Dame did not bring their A-game, but Syracuse couldn't translate turnovers (five of them!) into points. They also suffered from a blown call when Everett Golson fumbled an attempted spike. Syracuse recovered the fumble and returned it for a TD, but the play was blown dead. The call was corrected, but Syracuse did not get the TD and with the game nearly at halftime, they did not score on the ensuing drive.

That may be the worst Notre Dame plays all season and Syracuse was unable to take advantage. On a positive note, kudos to them for agreeing to play this one in East Rutherford. Surely that move brought in some good money for the program.

14. Boston College: 3-2 (0-1)
Last Week: L 21-24 vs. Colorado State
This Week: Bye
Previous Ranking: 8

Boston College can lay claim to one of the biggest upsets coming from an ACC team with their win over USC (a notch above VT's win over Ohio State in my opinion), but now they're also victim to one of the biggest upsets of an ACC team with their three-point home loss to Colorado State (Pittsburgh's home loss to Akron could be worse).

QB Tyler Murphy only threw the ball 18 times as BC wisely relied on their ground game. Murphy ran for 79 yards while Jon Hilliman ran for 128. Murphy threw one interception, but BC still won the turnover battle 2-1. They were simply out-played. They are not very talented this year, but their USC win shows they can sneak up on you. Clemson will need to be focused when they travel to Chestnut Hill.

15. Wake Forest: 2-3 (0-1)
Last Week: L 10-20 at Louisville
This Week: at Florida State
Last ranking: 15

Their defense, which is actually solid - at least in the secondary - gave them a great chance to knock of Louisville in PJ Cardinal Stadium. Unfortunately for them, they have no offensive line and cannot run the ball almost at all. They have 146 rushing yards ON THE SEASON across 140 carries. The other problem is Jim Grobe left them with nothing at quarterback so a true freshman John Wolford has to start and he is not ready. He threw a interception in the end zone in the second quarter to squander a chance to build on a 3-0 lead. It would turn into points for Louisville and they trailed 3-7 at halftime.

He later was intercepted on a shovel pass and finished with three INTs and no TDs. Wake Forest's defense outscored their offense (again), and likely will not get any help from the offense all season.

Finally, to add some spice to the power rankings, I will begin throwing polls in many of them so join us in the comment section and drop a vote in the digital ballot box below.

* denotes Notre Dame's records vs. ACC opponents. Record vs. Notre Dame is not included in ACC record for full members.