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ACC Power Rankings: Week 4

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Duke rings the bell, Florida State drops hard and I just can’t keep the Wolfpack down anymore in this weeks ACC Power Rankings.

NCAA Football: Toledo at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to week four of the ACC Power Rankings. This week we FINALLY had a full slate of games as mother nature finally has herself ready for football, and we saw some conference games heat up. Duke took home the Liberty Bell to continue their perfect start, North Carolina State went to Tallahassee and came out with a win, and the top tier teams all seemed to struggle in the first half against inferior opponents. Lots of moving around it his weeks rankings so, as always, sound off in the comments below, and enjoy.

#1 Clemson (4-0) (2-0) – Last Week – W, 34-7 vs. Boston College

Movement from Last Week (No Change)

I won’t mince words here, Clemson’s play on Saturday at home against Boston College was unacceptable for a program of this standard. Clemson was outplayed through three quarters before blowing the game open with 27 4th quarter points. In fact, during the second half, you heard the murmurs and boo’s coming from the crowd. They weren’t booing the players or the effort, they were booing the play calling, plain and simple. Don’t get me wrong, when your defense is as good as the Clemson defense, you can rely on them a bit to win you games, but the offensive play calling for the Tigers is COMPLETELY dependent on that defense lately. So much so, that they are no longer playing to win on that side of the ball, they are playing not to lose. (Spoiler alert: That is how you lose to teams that you aren’t supposed to) Clemson cannot find themselves in a situation where Bryant carries the ball 22 times and throws less than 5 passes over 20 yards on the day. The Tigers will continue their tough early season schedule as they head to Blacksburg to take on the 12th ranked Hokies, and we can only hope that the play calling is a little more…imaginative.

#2 Virginia Tech (4-0) (0-0) – Last Week – W, 38-0 vs. Old Dominion

Movement from Last Week (No Change)

Virginia Tech is still the clear #2 in the ACC, but we still know very little about them, mainly due to the fact that they haven’t come close to being tested in the past three weeks with wins over Delaware, East Carolina and Old Dominion. One thing that has become crystal clear to me through these cupcake games is that Virginia Tech has come out flat in each of their last three games, including this week where they led only 10-0 before a TD with less than a minute before halftime extended the lead to 17-0. The Virginia Tech defense has allowed only 17 points in the last three contests, but again, look at the competition. We will finally find out a little more about this team’s character as they take on Clemson this weekend at home in primetime. Will the lights be a bit too bright for Freshman Josh Jackson? Or will this team prove that they are the true #1 in the ACC.

#3 Miami (2-0) (0-0) – Last Week – W, 52-30 vs. Toledo

Movement from Last Week (+1)

I’ll give Miami a bit of leeway here since they hadn’t played a game in three weeks and obviously came out of the gate rusty. Miami trailed Toledo 16-10 at halftime before the offense woke up and put the game away. Mark Walton is clearly all that the Hurricanes need as he amassed 204 rushing yards on only 11 carries to lead the way for Miami, but the true story here was the Miami defense. I don’t know whether to attribute it to rust, or whether they just aren’t that good, but Miami gave up 429 yards to the Rockets, who are a decent mid-major team, but shouldn’t be putting up those numbers against an ACC defense. Miami allowed 23 first downs and allowed Toledo to hold the ball for over 35 minutes, but struck the big plays when it counted. Miami needs to dust the rust off, and quickly, as they head to Durham to take on the somewhat surprising Blue Devils, who are off to a rampant start themselves.

#4 Duke (4-0) (1-0) – Last Week – W, 27-17 @ North Carolina

Movement from Last Week (+1)

It may seem like just a basketball rivalry, but the Blue Devils held onto the Victory Bell on Saturday as they went into Chapel Hill and upended the rival Tar Heels by a score of 27-17. Daniel Jones was only average again (which is concerning for Duke) completing 18-of-32 passes for only 202 yards, but the Duke defense picked up the slack with another defensive touchdown to put the game away. Duke currently has the #1 ranked defense against the run in the country, but the past two weeks have shown that Duke may be in trouble with the big play, as they have allowed six plays of 45 yards or more in the past two weeks (mostly in the pass game). If they don’t correct that trend quickly, they could find Miami passing the ball all over the place next week in the showcase ACC Coastal contest.

#5 North Carolina State (3-1) (1-0) – Last Week – W, 27-21 @ Florida State

Movement from Last Week (+4)

Alright, I give in, I give in, there is no reason to leave NC State in the bottom half of the rankings after an impressive performance on the road against Florida State. Am I going to regret the decision to move them into the 5th spot? Probably, but the play of Ryan Finley who is arguably playing like the best quarterback in the ACC right now and Jaylen Samuels playmaking abilities has the Wolfpack on a high. Combine that with Bradley Chubb’s seamless ability to almost always be around the ball, and the Wolfpack can be dangerous this year. What has me high on the Wolfpack at this point in time is their ability to hang onto the football. Finley has yet to throw an Interception combined with averaging less than 1 fumble per game as a team, it appears that NC State has learned from their week one loss and they are going to make you beat them rather than beating themselves. We’ve all seen this story before, but NC State is in the top half of the power rankings for this week.

#6 Florida State (0-2) (0-1) – Last Week – L, 27-21 vs. NC State

Movement from Last Week (-3)

It may not seem fair that I’m not giving Florida State the same leniency that I gave Miami based on the fact that they haven’t played a game in three weeks, but the reason I am not is because of how they lost. It wasn’t the rust, it wasn’t the first ever start for quarterback James Blackmon, it was the defense that let them down. Florida State is going to have to rely on that defense in order to stay in the top half of the ACC Atlantic, and they made mistake after mistake on Saturday. As for Blackmon, he was just fine, in fact, better than I expected him to be, completing 22 of his 38 pass attempts and not throwing an interception. He may be a bit too emotional at times which can cost him down the long run, but the missed tackles and busted coverages by the FSU defense have me questioning whether they have been overrated. Time will tell and this team is very capable of climbing up the rankings, but they have a lot of work to do.

#7 Louisville (3-1) (1-1) – Last Week – W, 42-3 vs. Kent State

Movement from Last Week (-1)

You really couldn’t draw up a better opponent for Louisville this week after getting crushed by Clemson on their home field last week. Rather than licking their wounds, the Cardinals took it out on Kent State right off the bat jumping to a 21-point lead in the first quarter. Lamar Jackson set the school record for touchdowns responsible for and it looks like Louisville may be back on track, right? Wrong. Same problem with the Cards as they turned the ball over 4 times in the contest, including 2 INT’s from Jackson. I have no confidence that this team cannot make the big mistakes that will cost them close games down the line, and for that reason, I have to drop them down to #7 in this week’s rankings.

#8 Georgia Tech (2-1) (1-0) – Last Week – W, 35-17 vs. Pittsburgh

Movement from Last Week (No Change)

I’ll say the same thing that I say about Georgia Tech in pretty much ever Power Ranking’s that I ever right, they continue to confuse me. After a lackluster first half leading the Panthers by a score of 21-17, a different team showed up out of the locker room. The triple-option offense worked to perfection in the second half as they controlled the ball for a majority of the time thanks to 196 rushing yards from KirVonte Benson and another 112 rushing yards from TaQuon Marhsall. Georgia Tech didn’t rely on the pass game this week, because they didn’t have to. With Clemson and Miami on their schedule in the upcoming months, we will see which team shows up against tough competition, but with another Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performance, I’m not moving them from the 8th spot for now.

#9 Wake Forest (4-0) (1-0) – Last Week – W, 20-19 @ Appalachian State

Movement from Last Week (-2)

Wake Forest came back down to reality a week earlier than I expected after a very disappointing weekend as it took a Scotty Washington blocked field goal with five seconds remaining for Wake Forest to escape Appalachian State with a victory. In fact, App State basically handed the Deacs the victory as they missed two short field goals and an extra point on the afternoon. Unfortunately for Wake Forest, they saw what kind of team they are when John Wolford doesn’t play a complete game. Wolford was below average in the first half before coming on in the second half to lead Wake Forest to victory as he led the team in passing (14-of-26 for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns) and rushing (77 yards on 13 carries). This slot may seem very low for a team that is 4-0, but those four wins are against Presbyterian, Boston College, Utah State and App State. With the next 5 games featuring Florida State, at Clemson, at Georgia Tech, Louisville and at Notre Dame, I expect this Wake Forest team to struggle to stay over .500 at the end of that stretch.

#10 Pittsburgh (1-3) (0-1) – Last Week – L, 35-17 @ Georgia Tech

Movement from Last Week (No Change)

I’m running out of excuses to keep Pittsburgh out of the bottom of the rankings at this point in the season, and I think the only reason for that is the quality of the teams below them. Ben Dinucci and Max Browne are sharing snaps for the moment in Pittsburgh, and are both playing well below average. Not only that, but Qadree Ollison has not returned to the form that was expected of him prior to his injury, as he rushed for only 11 yards on 7 carries this weekend. Jordan Whitehead appears to be the only weapon that the Panthers have at this point, and with Browne and Dinucci trying to get him the ball, that weapon is easily neutralized. Pitt has a chance at redemption as they take on Rice before traveling to Syracuse, but I don’t have much confidence that this team can stay above the 10th spot much longer.

#11 Virginia (3-1) (0-0) – Last Week – W, 42-23 @ Boise State

Movement from Last Week (+1)

Say what you want about the blue turf in Boise (it’s stupid) it can be an extremely tough place to play, especially for a team like Virginia who had lost 20 of its last 21 road games and entered the game as a two-touchdown underdog to the Broncos. This team will ride and die with quarterback Kurt Benkert, who had another impressive performance completing 19-of-29 passes for 273 yards and throwing for three touchdowns. Benkert has even found himself a downfield threat in the form of Senior Andre Levrone who has 348 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns on the season. Virginia has already surpassed their win total of two from the previous year, and it will be fun to see just how this team rallies around Benkert in the weeks to come.

#12 North Carolina (1-3) (0-2) – Last Week – L, 27-17 vs. Duke

Movement from Last Week (-1)

Oh North Carolina…even when your defense manages to hold an opposing team under 400 yards on the day, you just can’t seem to squeak out a win. It may be due to the injury bug that is making its way around Chapel Hill, but with the defense playing up in a rivalry game at home, UNC had to come away with a win. Unfortunately, mistakes hurt the Tar Heels as Chazz Surratt carelessly flipped the ball in the middle of the field, which was picked off by Byron Fields and returned 61 yards for the deciding touchdown. As crazy as the ACC Coastal Division may be, even I don’t think that it is crazy enough to get this Tar Heel team to four wins this season.

#13 Syracuse (2-2) (0-0) – Last Week – L, 35-26 @ #25 LSU

Movement from Last Week (+1)

Holy crap, somebody actually led an offensive category this week NOT named Eric Dungey…unfortunately for Syracuse, that category was rushing where Dontae Strickland was the leading rusher on the night with only 27 yards, 15 of which came on 1 carry. Syracuse’s defense was well above average against a far superior team as they blitzed almost every other play on the night, but came away with only two sacks on the night, although did get constant pressure on Danny Etling. It will be interesting to see if Syracuse plays up to the level of some of the superior opponents on their schedule, and could potentially pull an upset in the perfect situation.

#14 – Boston College (1-3) (0-2) – Last Week – L, 34-7 @ #2 Clemson

Movement from Last Week (-1)

Hey, wait a minute, Boston College just went on the road against the #2 team in the country and kicked their butts for three quarters before losing their steam in the fourth quarter, why are they last in the Power Rankings? It’s that offense, plain and simple. Sure, Clemson has one of the best defenses in the country, but with the exception of a couple of games, I’m not sure that the Eagles will be able to put 21 points on the board against many teams this season. The defense was VASTLY improved this week, but I’m not sure we can count on that to be a weekly occurrence. Unless someone on the offensive side of the ball springs to life, I’m not sure I see BC moving from this spot.