A wild week one combined with some cupcake opponents doesn't give the ACC Power Rankings much clarity, but we have a general idea of the talent of each of the ACC teams, including a shake-up at the top. Be sure to sound off in the comments below and let us know what you saw in a wild week one.
#1 Florida State Seminoles (1-0, 0-0) Last Week - W, vs. #11 Ole Miss (45-34)
Talk about a tale of two halves. In the first half, Florida State couldn't get out of their own way. Deondre Francois looked like a Redshirt Freshman, the Noles committed 11 first half penalties, Dalvin Cook forgot that he needed to bring the ball with him while running into the end zone, and I was contemplating how far to drop FSU in the power rankings as they were down by 22 points. Flash forward to the second half, and the Noles looked scary good. Francois settled down and FSU went on a 30-0 run to complete the largest comeback in school history. While 45 points against a good Ole Miss defense speaks for itself, the Defense looked top notch in the 2nd half, especially DeMarcus Walker who finished the night with 4 sacks. That dominant 2nd half performance launches Florida State to the top of our power rankings. Time will tell which half represents the real Florida State team, but if the answer is the 2nd half, this is clearly one of the best teams in the country.
#2 Clemson Tigers (1-0, 0-0) Last Week - W, @ Auburn (19-13)
In week 1 for the Tigers, there was some good, and a lot of bad. The bottom line is that Clemson was the only team in the top 25 to win in enemy territory this week. Maybe they got caught up in their own hype or maybe it was week one on the road jitters, but the Tiger offense was not adequately prepared for this game. Not only did Deshaun Watson not look like the Heisman Trophy candidate that we have been hearing about all summer, he was average at best, forcing throws to receivers who weren't open. Combined with basic play calling that looked like the Tigers ran the same 4 plays over and over again, the Tiger offense needs to improve, and quickly.
The question mark coming into the season was the Tiger defense, which once again answered the call. Despite replacing most of the front 7, this squad didn't miss a beat. I was VERY impressed with the performances of new starters Clelin Ferrell, Kendall Joseph and Dexter Lawrence looked like a man among boys. Be that as it may, the Safety position appears to be an area of concern for the Tiger Defense. Jadar Johnson was poor in pass coverage and Van Smith was poor in run coverage (almost all of Auburn's read option success was due to Smith being late on his lane assignment). Dabo Swinney continues to defend his poor late game decisions, which gave Auburn the ball and a chance to win. This stubbornness makes me question whether this will come back to bite the Tigers later in the season.
#3 Louisville Cardinals (1-0, 0-0) Last Week - W, vs. Charlotte (70-14)
Whether it is against Charlotte or not, 70 points is 70 points. Lamar Jackson sent a loud and clear message that he is more than just a running quarterback. Jackson set a school record with 8 touchdowns (6 passing and 2 rushing) while hitting 16 different receivers in the Louisville rout. Jackson led the dynamic offense to 405 offensive yards at the half. Again, we take this performance with a grain of salt as it was against Charlotte, but Louisville certainly is backing up the claim that they belong at the top of our rankings alongside Clemson and Florida State.
#4 Miami (1-0, 0-0) Last Week - W, vs. Florida A&M (70-3)
I know, I know, it was against Florida A&M, but Miami did EXACTLY what you are supposed to do to an inferior opponent, annihilate them. On his 21st birthday, Brad Kaaya turned in the performance that you would expect from him, tying his career high with 4 touchdown passes on 12-of-18 passing in limited action. Miami displayed their backfield depth with three 100 yard rushers on the day. Miami outgained the Rattlers 523 to 197. Miami has the team that it needs to break in their new system as they host Florida Atlantic next week, but a similar performance will just solidify their position in our rankings. We will have to wait and see what happens when they are tested, but the Hurricanes certainly have the weapons to compete.
#5 North Carolina (0-1, 0-0) Last Week - L, vs. #18 Georgia (33-24)
North Carolina just doesn't seem ready to hang with the big boys. This was UNC's chance to make a statement that last season wasn't a fluke by taking down a ranked SEC opponent to open the season. UNC certainly has the talent, but continues to make the silly mistakes of a mediocre team, including coach Larry Fedora, who received a 15-yard penalty for screaming at the refs over a disputed call.
After a lot of hype, new starter Mitch Trubisky was below mediocre under center completing 24-of-40 passes for only 156 yards and no TD's. The Tar Heel defense was run all over by Nick Chubb who rushed for 222 yards. We can't hold that against them too much because Chubb will do that to a lot of defenses this season. UNC will have to repeat its 11 consecutive wins from last season if they have any playoff aspirations.
#6 Pittsburgh (1-0, 0-0) Last Week - W, vs. Villanova (28-7)
It was an emotional week for the Pittsburgh Panthers. Running Back James Connor received a heart-felt ovation on his first carry after returning from a torn-ACL and being declared cancer free. Even more touching was the team's reaction after Connor scored his first touchdown since his return. Connor is expected to be a large part of the team's offense which was unimpressive in week 1. Villanova put together a blueprint on how to play the Panthers as they stacked the box with 8 players most of the game and forced Nathan Peterman to try and beat them through the air. Peterman was okay, but needs to be better if Pittsburgh is to live up to its potential.
#7 Virginia Tech (1-0, 0-0) Last Week - W, vs. Liberty (36-13)
Virginia Tech's performance leaves me with more questions than answers. New head coach Justin Fuente is going to need some time for his new offense to be installed, but a slow first half has me worried that he may not have the horses to be consistent on the offensive side of the ball this season. Quarterback Jerod Evans looked solid throwing for four touchdowns, and the Virginia Tech defense did pull down 3 interceptions, but I'm not willing to move them higher on the list until I see some more consistency from this group.
#8 Duke (1-0, 0-0) Last Week - W, vs. North Carolina Central (49-6)
Duke's win was impressive, but they remain low on our list because they played the most inferior opponent on this week's ACC Schedule. NC Central is a recent addition to the Championship Subdivision after moving from Division II almost 10 years ago, and is still adjusting to their own opponents, let alone ACC play. The Daniel Jones era began earlier than the Blue Devils expected but his performance was solid throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for another. Duke showed the signs of being able to survive the injury to Sirk, but I'll believe it when I see it against a FBS opponent. For now, Duke remains TBD.
#9 Syracuse (1-0, 0-0) Last Week - W, vs. Colgate (33-7)
The new Syracuse offense had the biggest impact on me as new head coach Dino Babers unveiled his fast paced style of football, and when I say fast, I mean fast. They rival Chad Morris' speed and Dino Babers stated in his post-game comments "that will be the slowest game you ever see us play." Syracuse managed 554 yards on 81 plays and Eric Dungey looked extremely sharp completing 34-of-40 passes. Syracuse would be much higher, but we will need to see those yards turn into more points if Syracuse is going to beat ACC opponents.
#10 NC State (1-0, 0-0) Last Week - W, vs. William & Mary (48-14)
The score may seem like a blowout, but I was unimpressed with the Wolfpack's week 1 performance. The Wolfpack seemed completely undisciplined committing 80 yards in penalties including an absolutely horrendous unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a third down sack after Kentavius Street ripped off his helmet in celebration. That just screams undisciplined and unprepared to me. Ryan Finley performed well enough to earn himself another start, but he still doesn't have the trust of his head coach who is going to go on a week-to-week basis at the quarterback position. I don't expect many more wins like this coming from the Wolfpack.
#11 Georgia Tech - (1-0, 1-0) Last Week - W, vs. Boston College (17-14)
Georgia Tech has confused me for years, and this year looks no different. After what looked to be a dismal performance in Ireland to open the year, Justin Thomas managed to drive the Yellow Jackets down the field for a final minute game winning touchdown. Thomas has the athleticism to wiggle out of any situation and looked the most comfortable that I have seen him throwing the ball in his college career. The offensive line wasn't great, but anything is better than last year. This is a team that not only can beat anybody if the situation is right, they can also lose to anybody if the situation is right. They are going to be jumping up and down these rankings as the season goes along.
#12 Wake Forest - (1-0, 0-0) Last Week - W, vs. Tulane (7-3)
Another year means more of the same for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons as they managed to sneak out a 7-3 win over Tulane. As expected, the Wake Forest offense was dreadful. Wake managed a measly 175 yards of offense for the game while returning starter John Wolford appeared unable to run the offense. Backup Kendall Hinton saw some playing time and was the team's leading rusher with 24 yards. On the positive side of things, I love the Demon Deacon's defense. Tulane managed a field goal on their first drive of the game and after that, absolutely nothing. That defense is good enough to pull out some upsets this year for Wake, but only if their offense can put SOMETHING together.
#13 Boston College (0-1, 0-1) Last Week - L, vs. Boston College (17-14)
It was going to be hard to top the performance of the nation's leading defense in 2015, but in Dublin to open the season the Eagles did quite a job, until the final drive of the game. BC was unable to prevent Georgia Tech from driving down the field and win the game and didn't take the opportunity to get off the field on third and fourth down. John Hillman was serviceable in the backfield for the Eagles with 102 years and a 77-yard touchdown. Patrick Towles was below average, but didn't give away the game and will have to manage the games for the rest of the year. Boston College just doesn't look like a team that is ready to win.
#14 Virginia Cavaliers (0-1, 0-0) Last Week - L, vs. Richmond (37-20)
The Bronco Mendenhall era began with a dull thud as the Cavaliers not only dropped their season opener to FCS opponent Richmond, they were dominated on both sides of the football. Virginia was gashed on the defensive side of the ball as they were outgained 524-302 in total yards as they showed that they are not prepared to run Mendenhall's 3-4 configuration with several missed assignments and tackles. Virginia Quarterback Kurt Benkert wasn't terrible completing 26 of 34 passes for 264 yards and throwing 3 TD's, but the Virginia offense was very one sided as Richmond managed to kick 2 field goals before the Cavaliers had even run an offensive play. Things don't get any easier for Virginia as we will see just how far they still have to come as they travel to Eugene to take on the Oregon Ducks next week.