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ACC Power Rankings: Week 5

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Clemson separates further, Duke falls off a cliff and can a middle of the pack team prove themselves, please? Here’s what’s happening after 5 weeks in the ACC.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to this weeks edition of Shakin the Southland’s ACC Power Rankings. 5 weeks are in the books and the ACC is...well...confusing, just like normal. With #1 vs. #2 and #3 vs. #4 in last weeks rankings, there looks to now be a vast separation at the top of the conference, while middle of the pack teams continue to pound on cupcakes and remain unproven. There are a couple of movers and shakers this week so enjoy and, as always, sound off in the comments below.

#1 Clemson (5-0) (3-0) – Last Week – W, 31-17 @ #12 Virginia Tech

Movement from Last Week (No Change)

As if you needed another reason to believe in the Tigers, they provided one more on Saturday night in prime time, as they took down yet another ranked opponent on the road in convincing fashion. September was quite a month for the Tigers with wins over Auburn and on the road against Louisville and Virginia Tech, and the Tigers are now the first team in the Associated Press era to beat three top 15 teams in one month. The defense was once again the difference as the Tigers created three turnovers, including a pick-six from Dorian O’Daniel to never let the Hokies within a touchdown after jumping to an early lead. Quarterback Kelly Bryant still has a lot to work on, particularly with his pocket presence, but his turnover free play and his team leading 96 rushing yards were enough for Clemson to breathe comfortably in the contest. Clemson will have to remain focused with some less competitive games on the schedule and fix the special teams which were poor on Saturday night, but Clemson looks primed to make another post season run, if they can keep their heads on straight and stay healthy.

#2 Miami (3-0) (1-0) – Last Week – W, 31-6 @ Duke

Movement from Last Week (+1)

We all remember what happened the last time the Hurricanes made their way into Durham, 8 laterals and a missed penalty later, Miami managed to steal a victory against the Blue Devils. This time, no such luck was required as Malik Rosier threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as Miami squashed Duke on their home field in an ACC Coastal Friday night showdown. The win did come with a cost as RB Mark Walton had to be helped off the field with an ankle injury, but Rosier was all that Miami needed to come away with a convincing victory. The red zone defense was spectacular for Miami which turned away Duke time-after-time from reaching the end zone, despite giving up 24 first downs on the night. This may have been the first real game that Miami has played this season, but the kid gloves come off for good next week, as they travel to Florida State and we see what they are really made of.

#3 Virginia Tech (4-1) (0-1) – Last Week – L, 31-17 vs. #2 Clemson

Movement from Last Week (-1)

I’m beginning to question whether the Hokies are in their own heads coming out of the locker room, as this marks their fifth game this season where they have come out just completely flat and have been forced to rely on their halftime adjustments to try and pull out a win. Losing to Clemson is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but the holes in the Virginia Tech offense were made very clear on Saturday as the lack of a run game forced Josh Jackson to throw the ball 44 times (completing 29 of them with 2 interceptions) and no running back carried the ball more than 6 times. Clemson pressed the Virginia Tech wide receivers, especially Cam Phillips, to shut down the Hokies short pass game, which they use as an alternative to the run, and the freshman just couldn’t hit the deep ball to open up the defense. Virginia Tech has some time to make adjustments as they take on Boston College and North Carolina in their next two contests before three critical ACC Coastal showdowns which will show us if the Hokies can make it back to the ACC Championship game for a second consecutive year.

#4 North Carolina State (4-1) (2-0) – Last Week – W, 33-25 vs. Syracuse

Movement from Last Week (+1)

Big wins by the Wolfpack ALWAYS lead to a letdown the week after, right? This story arc has been true for the past decade for the Wolfpack, but NC State jumped out of the gate and ensured that it wouldn’t happen this season, jumping out to a 26-7 halftime lead. My only concern about the Wolfpack is that they did lose their focus on the second half and allow Syracuse back into the game, before recovering an onside kick and running out the clock to seal the victory with an 8-point lead. NC State just isn’t beating themselves at this point as Ryan Finley went another game without an Interception, and the Wolfpack recovered both of their fumbles for another turnover free performance. NC State will welcome Louisville this weekend in a game that is certain to be a shootout and test the defense of the newly Top 25 ranked Wolfpack.

#5 Georgia Tech (3-1) (2-0) – Last Week – W, 33-7 vs. North Carolina

Movement from Last Week (+3)

Let’s face it, outside of the top three teams, this conference is an absolute unproven mess right now. With the ACC desperately looking for another team to jump into the mix, I think that team may be Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets did what they did best on Saturday, as they held the ball for 38 minutes and had two scoring drives over 15 plays to absolutely trounce the Tar Heels in another impressive performance. The key factor to whether this team will emerge as a contender or not is the defense, which has been impressive as of late. A.J. Gray picked off two passes on the day and held the Tar Heels to under 250 yards. Georgia Tech is now a very respectable 19th in the nation in Points Against, averaging 19 per game on the season, but again, this team is clearly unproven. Georgia Tech will be idle this week before opening up the bulk of its schedule and taking on Miami.

#6 Florida State (1-2) (1-1) – Last Week – W, 26-19 @ Wake Forest

Movement from Last Week (+1)

Quote of the day absolutely goes to Jimbo Fischer who stated that “winning football isn’t always pretty” after the Seminoles picked up their first victory of the year and avoided their first 0-3 start since 1976, taking down Wake Forest in the last minute, 26-19. Legally, I don’t think the word pretty should be allowed anywhere near the description of the Seminoles on Saturday as they struggled from the start. James Blackmon completed only 11 of his 21 passes for 121 yards on the day, and was held under 100 yards until the final drive, where he found Auden Tate for the game winning 40-yard touchdown pass. The most surprising story on the day, after last season, the offensive line appears to be playing even worse as they couldn’t keep Blackmon off the turf the entire afternoon. With a game against rival Miami looming next week, it may not be long before we see Florida State in the bottom half of these rankings.

#7 Louisville (3-1) (1-1) – Last Week – W, 55-10 vs. Murray State

Movement from Last Week (No Change)

Oh who the hell even knows at this point…Kent State followed by Murray State? Here is what we do know for sure, two more turnovers for the Cardinals who just can’t hang onto the dang football. Sure, Lamar Jackson managed 349 total yards and 4 touchdowns in limited action and the Louisville offense gained 676 total yards on the day while giving up only 80, but you bet that they are being punished for this week schedule. With turmoil going on in the Athletic Department and Louisville’s propensity to implode as the season goes along, I’m not even considering moving them until they play someone else who is a threat to score two touchdowns on someone.

#8 Duke (4-1) (1-1) – Last Week – L, 31-6 vs. #14 Miami

Movement from Last Week (-4)

Well, it was fun while it lasted Duke, but that was painful to watch. If you had told me at the beginning of the night that Mark Walton would have 51 yards on the ground on the evening, I would have been 100 percent certain that Duke was walking out of here with the victory. While the pass defense for the Blue Devils wasn’t great, it wasn’t even close to the problem on the evening. The big problem was the offense not being able to stay on the field. Duke held some long drives and won the time of possession battle, but converted only 5 of their 19 third down plays. The story on Duke remains the same. If you are a run based team, you are in for a dog fight. (Sorry Georgia Tech) But, if you have a pass game with a deep threat and a solid defense, you are more than likely going to come out on top against the Dukies.

#9 Wake Forest (4-1) (1-1) – Last Week – L, 26-19 vs. Florida State

Movement from Last Week (No Change)

We all knew that Wake Forest was a one-man show coming into the weekend, but boy did they prove it against Florida State. Wake Forest managed to gain 367 yards on the day, and quarterback John Wolford was responsible for all but 33 of them. With how poorly Florida State played, there was no excuse for the Demon Deacons to lose this game at home, but their lack of a run game and two turnovers on the afternoon showed me that they aren’t quite ready to play with the big dogs. We will see if the tough loss at home energizes Wake as they travel to Death Valley next week to take on #2 Clemson at noon.

#10 Syracuse (2-3) (0-1) – Last Week – L, 33-25 @ NC State

Movement from Last Week (+3)

Overall, the performance wasn’t great from Syracuse this week, as it took a second half comeback after North Carolina State had let their foot off the gas to make this week’s contest a game, but this is the second consecutive week where the Orange have been involved in a one score game against superior opponents. (Although LSU now has me seriously questioning that conclusion) Speaking of one man shows, Eric Dungey (again) led the Orange in both passing and rushing on the day, totaling 429 yards of offense on his own. Syracuse may continue to sneak up on some teams, but until one of their running backs cracks the 50-yard mark in a game, I can’t see them pulling of the big upsets.

#11 Virginia (3-1) (0-0) – Last Week – Idle

Movement from Last Week (No Change)

No news out of Charlottesville this weekend as they rest up approaching four winnable games against Duke, North Carolina, Boston College and Pittsburgh. Three wins in those four games would make Virginia bowl eligible after a miserable season last year, so certainly they are a team worth watching in the upcoming weeks.

#12 Pittsburgh (2-3) (0-1) – Last Week – W, 42-10 vs. Rice

Movement from Last Week (-2)

I’m so glad that it is almost the official end of cupcake season…Pittsburgh managed to pick up their second win of the season as they beat down on the lowly Rice Owls by a score of 42-10, but the quarterback competition is once again up in the air. After last week’s benching, Max Browne got the starting nod once again after a poor performance last week by Ben DiNucci and did throw four touchdown passes, but this just isn’t a good measuring stick game to judge a quarterback by. Sure, he may have some confidence, but he has to know that he has a short leash heading into the Carrier Dome and you can expect the flip-flopping under center to continue.

#13 – Boston College (2-3) (0-2) – Last Week – W, 28-8 vs. Central Michigan

Movement from Last Week (+1)

The key to winning with a struggling Freshman quarterback may just be to take the ball out of his hands for a majority of the plays. That’s exactly what Boston College did this weekend as they ran 53 rushing plays to only 21 passing plays on the afternoon. Anthony Brown completed 14 of those 21 passes and managed to not throw an interception while Jon Hillman scored two rushing touchdowns and added a receiving touchdown to put the game out of reach. There is no way that Boston College will be able to run the ball that many times during ACC play, but they should enjoy the success while they have it.

#14 North Carolina (1-4) (0-3) – Last Week – L, 33-7 @ Georgia Tech

Movement from Last Week (-2)

I don’t think that there is any way that North Carolina can overcome the amount of injuries that they have incurred in the past two weeks. With an already questionable offense, North Carolina has lost Austin Proehl, Carl Tucker and Rontavius Groves for the season, and that has just been in the past week! It was tough for North Carolina to score this Saturday, mainly because they didn’t have the ball, but also because the game was over at the half, with a score of 24-0. North Carolina doesn’t have much of a run game, but being forced to abandon it week after week is just a recipe for disaster. Forget about bowl eligibility, I have serious doubts that the Tar Heels will reach the 4-win mark this season.