College football has returned for the 2017 season and with it, Shakin the Southland’s weekly ACC Power Rankings. Week one in the ACC had its fair share of cupcakes, but it also included a top 5 showdown that didn’t live up to expectations, and a pair of ACC vs. SEC showdowns that went down to the wire. I’ll give the same advice to every fan overreacting to their team’s week 1 performance. R-E-L-A-X. Sure it’s important to get off to a fast start and it’s easy to project your team’s week 1 performance to the rest of the year, but let’s remember, its week 1, and we still know close to nothing. With that, sit back, relax and enjoy our week 1 ACC Power Rankings, and be sure to sound off in the comments below!
#1 Clemson (1-0) (0-0) – Last Week – W, 56-3 vs. Kent State
The defending National Champions picked up right where they left off, albeit against an overmatched Kent State squad. In a week that saw several favored teams struggling against inferior competition including Ohio State and Washington, the Tigers showed the focus and technical discipline that you look for from a superior squad as they put the game away early and never looked back.
After receiving doubt from the fanbase (full disclosure, myself included) Kelly Bryant played the part of a starting quarterback of a top 5 team, completing 16-of-22 passes for 236 yards with a touchdown, while adding 77 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The deep Tiger backfield split carries almost evenly, with Freshman Travis Etienne leading in yardage with 81 on 8 carries. The stout Tiger defense allowed only 120 yards and 5 first downs on the afternoon. While there were no sacks on the day, keep in mind that Kent State attempted only 5 passes, so the opportunities just didn’t present themselves. Clemson will be tested early as #12 Auburn visits Death Valley next week before the Tigers travel to Louisville for their first ACC matchup on the 16th.
#2 Florida State (0-1) (0-0) – Last Week – L, 24-7 vs. #1 Alabama
One of the most anticipated opening games in modern day College Football history turned out to be a dud, and could not have been worse for Florida State as they lost Sophomore Quarterback Deondre Francois for the rest of the season with a knee injury. So why do the Noles hold down the #2 spot with this recent development? While he is a very good quarterback, Francois was never the reason that Florida State was ranked #3 to begin the year. Derwin James was as dominant as advertised, and the Florida State defense will keep them in almost any game. Look for Florida State to rally behind Freshman Quarterback James Blackman and be nearly as dangerous as they were with Francois under center.
#3 Virginia Tech (1-0) (0-0) – Last Week – W, 31-24 vs. #22 West Virginia
Welcome to the ACC Josh Jackson. There is a reason why Jackson is the first Freshman to start under center for the Hokies since Michael Vick, and he showed us why with his duel threat abilities in Virginia Tech’s thrilling Sunday night victory. Jackson showed an okay passing game, completing 15-of-26 passes with a touchdown, but was dynamic with his legs, including a 46-yard scamper to set up the game winning touchdown. The defense gave up almost 600 yards, but managed to prevent the Mountaineers from getting into the end zone on most drives, and Cam Phillips put in a dynamic performance with 138 receiving yards and a touchdown. If Jackson can continue to not turn the ball over, Virginia Tech could remain in the top portion of these rankings for the foreseeable future.
#4 Louisville (1-0) (0-0) – Last Week – W, 35-28 vs. Purdue
Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. Louisville did its best to hand this game to the Boilermakers on their home field with 3 turnovers and some very undisciplined football. The only issue was, Purdue didn’t seem to have any interest in taking the opportunity that was handed to them as they turned the ball over 4 times including a pick six late in the third quarter to give Louisville the lead. You can afford to make these mistakes against an inferior opponent in Purdue when you have Lamar Jackson under center who ended the day with 378 yards passing and another 107 running, but we all saw Louisville collapse at the end of last year due to their undisciplined play, and they showed us nothing to prove that they have improved. Louisville could be in serious trouble if Coach Petrino can’t get the turnovers under control.
#5 Miami (1-0) (0-0) – Last Week – W, 41-13 vs. Bethune-Cookman
I think it may be a rule that you can’t start a college football season without big expectations from Miami, regardless of how they end the previous year. Miami will again have to handle those expectations as they entered the season ranked 18th and seem to be the favorite to win the Coastal Division. It’s hard to argue that assumption at this point with Mark Walton, who I believe to be the best running back in the ACC, rushing for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns on the day. Malik Rosier looked solid in his Canes debut throwing 3 touchdown passes. I’ll end week one by saying the same thing I say every year about the Miami Hurricanes. If you want to be in the top quarter of our ACC Power Rankings, show me something. (Full disclosure – Miami may have been dropped an additional spot in this week’s rankings solely for how STUPID that gold turnover chain is)
#6 Georgia Tech (0-1) (0-0) – Last Week – L, 42-41 2OT vs. #25 Tennessee
Georgia Tech came out the loser in what was, in my opinion, the best game of the opening week of college football. This one is tough for the Yellow Jackets to swallow, but I am VERY high on Georgia Tech this season and despite the opening day loss, I still have the Jackets as my favorite to win the ACC Coastal Division. The Yellow Jackets were in control almost the entire game before a late fumble allowed Tennessee to come back and take the game into overtime before stuffing a Georgia Tech two-point conversion to come away victorious. Say what you want about the triple-option offense (it’s annoying) but Tech has the personnel to make it dangerous, and the defense, which returns 8 starters, may be sufficient. They may struggle against more athletic defenses, but when the triple-option isn’t clicking, they are more than capable of keeping the team in the game with their bend-but-don’t-break defense. Look for Georgia Tech to pull further up in these rankings as the season continues.
#7 Duke (1-0) (0-0) – Last Week – W, 60-7 vs. North Carolina Central
Coach David Cutcliffe has been building the offense at Duke for some time now, and he may have the pieces in place now to make this team much more competitive. Case and point, Cutcliffe has never scored 60 points in a game as a head coach until this Saturday. Duke scored on their first seven drives of the game and led 40-0 midway through the second quarter. With Brittain Brown announcing his presence with authority with 120 rushing yards and a touchdown, if Daniel Jones can become more consistent and live up to the hype, this team may have something to say about the turnout of the ACC Coastal Division.
#8 Wake Forest (1-0) (0-0) – Last Week – W, 51-7 vs. Presbyterian
Last season showed a lot of promise for Wake Forest as a program trending in the right direction, and Saturday showed that they may be continuing that trend in the 2017 season. Both John Wolford and Kendall Hinton were impressive accounting for 7 touchdowns between the two of them on the day, and the Wake Forest defense didn’t allow PC to cross midfield until midway through the third quarter. There is a lot that can go right for this squad this year, but it appears that they want to stick with a two-quarterback system with John Wolford receiving the starts. As competition improves, I think that they are going to have to make a decision if they want to remain successful, and that decision has to be Kendall Hinton. He is more of a dynamic athlete an Wolford and gives the Deacs the best chance of winning.
#9 North Carolina State (0-1) (0-0) – Last Week – L, 35-28 vs. South Carolina
NC State was heavily favored at home against the Gamecocks, but the Wolfpack defense couldn’t make a stop when they needed to, and let the game slip away in the fourth quarter. This may be a sign of things to come in Raleigh, despite the team returning 18 starters from last year’s team. The Wolfpack managed to put up 500 yards of offense with returning starter Ryan Finley throwing for 415 yards and two touchdowns, but Finley dropped back to pass 64 times in the contest. If the Wolfpack are trending towards a Syracuse-like air it out offense, they simply don’t have the outside talent to make it work. I think we can all agree that NC State may find themselves much further down these rankings as the year continues.
#10 North Carolina (0-1) (0-0) – Last Week – L, 35-30 vs. California
It’s going to be a long year for Tar Heel fans. With the departure of Mitch Trubisky to the NFL, the word out of camp in Chapel Hill was that they would be relying on the defense to pick up the slack for their rebuilding offense. The only problem with that is the Tar Heel defense has been well below average for some time now. Not much has appeared to change as the Tar Heels gave up 469 yards of offense to the Cal Bears, picked to finish last in their division of the Pac-12. The score may look more respectable thanks to a UNC touchdown as time expired, but I don’t expect the Tar Heels to be very competitive as the season moves along unless there is a DRASTIC influx of talent into that defense.
#11 Syracuse (1-0) (0-0) – Last Week – W, 50-7 vs. Central Connecticut
Syracuse has lined up three cupcakes to open the season so vibes may be good for a little while up in the great north. Eric Dungey returns to Dino Baber’s pass happy offense, completing 28-of-36 attempts for 328 yards and 3 touchdowns, but we have seen this offense crumble against superior teams. Dungey also appears to be the Orange’s only rushing threat as well with not a lot in the cupboard at the running back position. Most importantly, Syracuse looks to have lost Safety Antwan Cordy for some time, falling to a lower leg injury in the first quarter. Expect a 3-0 start from Syracuse, and we will see what happens when the competition toughens up a bit.
#12 Pittsburgh (1-0) (0-0) – Last Week – W, 28-21 OT vs. Youngstown State
Woof. That was a disappointing start to the season for the Panthers. We all saw Pittsburgh’s atrocious ability to close out games last season, blowing 5 fourth quarter leads, and the problem appears to be persistent, allowing FCS opponent Youngstown State to come back from a 21-0 hole to force overtime. Pittsburgh came out victorious, but they cannot continue to blow leads, especially since they no longer have Nathan Peterman or James Conner to bail them out. I expect them to climb in the rankings, but I can see things going wrong, quickly for the Panthers, especially with Penn State and Oklahoma State looming on their schedule.
#13 – Boston College (1-0) (0-0) – Last Week – W, 23-20 vs. Northern Illinois
Anthony Brown will look to squash the quarterback woes of the Boston College Eagles as he became the first Freshman to start for BC since 2009. Brown was adequate in his first start, completing 26-of-42 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns, but this game proved that the quarterback position isn’t the only problem in Chestnut Hill. The vaunted defense that BC has relied on for years appears to be no more, as the Eagles were outgained by the Huskies, and a field goal that hit the crossbar with just over 2 minutes remaining could have sent this game into overtime. Not much to see here in Boston College.
#14 Virginia (1-0) (0-0) – Last Week – W, 28-10 vs. William & Mary
Yea, yea, I know, I have a man-crush on Brono Mendenhall, and his fiery coaching style may steal a few games for the Cavaliers this season, but I don’t see the talent in Charlottesville for the Cavs to win many games this season. The offensive line couldn’t keep Kurt Benkert off the turf against an FCS opponent, and I fear that he may be running for his life for the remainder of the season. Benkert has talent, throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns, but there just isn’t enough around him for this Cavs team to make much of a move this season. I expect them to be around the bottom of our rankings for the remainder of the year.