1. Georgia Tech (Beat Tulane / Previous:4)
2. Clemson (Beat Appalachian State / Previous:3)
3. Florida State (Beat South Florida / Previous:2)
4. Notre Dame (Beat Virginia / Previous:1)
5. Miami (Beat FAU / Previous:8)
6. Duke (Beat NC Central / Previous:6)
7. Virginia Tech (Beat Furman / Previous:7)
8. Louisville (Lost to Houston / Previous:5)
9. NC State (Beat Eastern Kentucky / Previous:9)
10. North Carolina (Beat NC A&T / Previous:10)
11. Boston College (Beat Howard / Previous:12)
12. Virginia (Lost to Notre Dame / Previous:13)
13. Pittsburgh (Beat Akron / Previous:11)
14. Syracuse (Beat Wake Forest / Previous:15)
15. Wake Forest (Lost to Syracuse / Previous:14)
Clemson's offense got off to a shaky start. Deshaun Watson threw an ugly interception on their first possession. They settled for a field goal on the next and then punted on two straight. Fortunately, the defense was dominant in the first half and had three interceptions by that point, including one that was returned for a TD. Already leading 10-0, Watson and the offense woke up and cashed in on their next three possessions with touchdowns to enter halftime with a 31-0 lead. They'd win 41-10.
Once again, I was extremely impressed with the defense, particularly the starters who held the Mountaineers scoreless in the first half. With so many new names starting on defense, nobody expects them to match last year's #1 defense, but they're doing their best impression. Shaq Lawson had a sack and three tackles for loss. Ben Boulware was wrecking havoc. App State QB Taylor Lamb was just 9/28.
Another bright spot was Charone Peake. He reeled in two very nice touchdowns and while nobody is saying he's Mike Williams, he and Artavis Scott make a nice duo. Both were impressive.
On a less positive note, Clemson's center play wasn't ideal. There were multiple bad snaps and Ryan Norton left the game with an injury, again. Jay Guillermo entered - thank goodness he returned to the team - and was ok, but not spectacular. He was called for holding on one play, but responded with a great block that sprung Gallman to a long TD run. I could see Guillermo being a guy that improves as the year goes on and eventually earns the starting role. Like Norton, he needs to gain more consistency with his snaps.
Lastly, we got to see Greg Huegel attempt three field goals. He missed one and hit two, including a 47-yarder. While he's no Chandler Catanzaro, he's far from a disaster and certainly gives the coaching staff the option to take three points should they get in fourth and long situations in the red zone. That could be big in Louisville this Thursday. After watching this weekend unfold, I feel much better about winning in Louisville. Clemson's defense instilled confidence, Charone Peake appears ready to step up, and Louisville appears much less imposing after being upset (not to mention Auburn struggling). Clemson will beat the Cardinals, mark it down.
Around the ACC
Georgia Tech has scored 134 points in their first two games. I know it was just Alcorn State and Tulane, but their defense looks improved, Justin Thomas is the perfect QB for their system, and their inexperienced running backs are getting the job done.
Next week they go to Notre Dame. A few days ago I may have told you the Jackets would get exposed in that matchup, but they once again impressed again inferior competition in Week 2. We still have to see how their defense fares in a tougher test. They were bad last season, but returned eight starters. If the improvement is real, Georgia Tech has an opportunity to be very, very good.
For Notre Dame, obviously, the Malik Zaire injury changes their outlook. He had looked very good, but broke his ankle against UVA and will be done for the season. The Irish must now continue their year without their original starting RB (knee) and QB (ankle). The winner of next week's Georgia Tech vs. Notre Dame game will most likely be #1 in the next edition of the ACC Power Rankings, but for now, the Yellow Jackets hold that distinction.
UVA went toe-to-toe with Notre Dame, battling them tooth and nail well before Zaire left with injury. The Hoos led 14-12 at halftime, but couldn't hold on, and lost on a Hail Mary with 12 seconds remaining. It's tough being Virginia, as they aren't awful, but play UCLA, Notre Dame, and Boise State in three of their first four games. Matt Johns seems to be a quality option at QB - clearly better than Lambert who is starting at UGA, which still baffles me.
Everett Golson played another clean game for Florida State as they beat USF 34-14 behind a highlight reel effort from Dalvin Cook. With James Connor out for the year, Cook looks like the best back in the conference. He ran for 266 yards. Overshadowed by our Thursday night game, FSU also plays a weekday game in Week 3, as they travel to Chestnut Hill for a Friday night game. If their run game is dominant against Boston College's run defense then we have something to worry about.
For Boston College's part, their offense didn't look sharp against Maine, but they blew up against an awful Howard team. They scored a ridiculous 41 first quarter points in a dominant 76-0 win.
Miami was on the road at FAU and entered halftime with a precarious three point lead, but found their footing behind their strong skill position players. Joseph Yearby ran for 146 yards and they pulled away for a 44-20 win. They play Nebraska next week, so we'll quickly learn if they have the chops to compete for a Coastal title.
The first ACC game of the year was the worst one we'll see as Wake Forest traveled to Syracuse in what could easily be mistaken for a Colonial Conference snoozer. Wake Forest was up at halftime, but was shut out in the second half. For Clemson fans who find themselves frustrated with Tiger O-line play, take a look at Wake Forest. They are starting two freshman and neither are Mitch Hyatt-level. With the 17-30 loss to Syracuse, they'll be banished to the bottom of the power rankings for quite a long while.
All the remaining teams dispatched cupcakes without much fanfare except one. Given they're our next opponent, I'd like to close this article by talking about the big upset that Louisville fell victim to at home this week.
In the Expected Wins portion of STS's Clemson Season Preview, our nine blogger gave the Tigers only a 54% chance to win in Louisville this year. That included two non-Clemson bloggers and the Kraken putting the game at a square 50-50.
In that article, I mistakenly said:
"Reggie Bonnafon should own the QB position now and with further maturation they should see improved QB play."
Bonnafon promptly lost the starting QB role in their week one loss to Auburn. Lamar Jackson, took over after a fumble and helped lead a second half comeback, but still finished just 9/20 with an INT as Louisville lost in the GA Dome. The second half offensive flurry sparked some excitement, and if you saw the latest episode of ACC Breakdown on MarkRogersTV, you heard many of the experts very high on what Lamar Jackson brings to Louisville. You'll also notice me in the corner meekly trying to get their attention to ask what in the world they are talking about.
This week, Jackson tossed two more interceptions and got yanked in favor of Kyle Bolin. Bolin was able to get the offense scoring, but Louisville's defense couldn't get stops needed to complete a (small) comeback, and the Cardinals lost to Houston. It's a very bad loss and with Clemson upcoming as well as road trips to NC State, FSU, and Kentucky you have to wonder if this is a 6-6 team.
On a brighter note, I actually like Kyle Bolin. He torched Kentucky for 381 yards last year when he came in as an injury replacement. He's only a sophomore and a bit of a gunslinger, but I hope he holds the starting job the rest of the year. He doesn't present the speed that Lamar Jackson does, and Clemson's defense should be disruptive enough - given Louisville's offensive line struggles - to create some turnovers.
We'll be working to get a Q&A with Card Chronicle posted to shortly to prepare you for this week's game. For those who plan to attend, there will be some STS writers tailgating at Churchill Downs. Feel free to find us and say hello.