Clemson, FSU headline ACC Power Rankings

Clemson sits at the top of Lauren Brownlow's ACC Power Rankings. But who is No. 2?

Even with a so-so performance in Week 3, the ACC is still doing pretty well as a league with a 2-2 record against the SEC (including two wins over ranked teams) and a 9-1 record over FBS teams in non-BCS leagues and 9-0 against the FCS. Not every league can say that, certainly. There are three teams in the top 25, and Georgia Tech is right on the cusp of getting in too.

But Week 3 was kind of mediocre to disappointing, with some ACC teams narrowly escaping embarrassing losses. Still, every team but Wake Forest (a loss at home to Louisiana-Monroe) will take the end result - wins. But where does everyone stack up now?

1. No. 3 Clemson (2-0) 
Last week: Off

Clemson wasn’t perfect against South Carolina State, but the Tigers still won handily. And they got the win the ACC needed in Week 1 over Georgia, still the ACC’s biggest this year. They also get a pass for Tajh Boyd missing most of the game with an injury. The Georgia win is enough for now, but Florida State is nipping at their heels with the emergence of Jameis Winston. Thursday night at N.C. State will be a good test of where Clemson’s defense is - it’s better overall, but still vulnerable to the big play. All it takes is a few on the road in a hostile environment for that game to get a little to close for comfort. 

2. No. 8 Florida State (2-0, 1-0 ACC) 
Last week: W 62-7 over Nevada

Biggest reason for concern? Penalties. It’s going to be a problem, as the Seminoles are perennially one of the more penalized teams in the league, and they’ve committed 13 for 115 yards in two games.  Other than that, though - and two straight slow starts against Pitt and Nevada - not much to nitpick from Florida State. QB Jameis Winston has completed 40-of-45 passes for 570 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. Yet, he says he came out “too crunk” early and had to calm down. Oh. Hate to see him just crunk enough then.

3. No. 16 Miami (2-0)
Last week: Off
DERP score: 16

The prevailing narrative after Miami’s win over Florida last week was that the Gators’ giveaways (three fumbles, two interceptions) were what led to the Hurricanes’ win. There’s some truth to that, as Miami’s offense couldn’t move the ball against Florida’s excellent defense and might not have scored but for the turnovers. But the Hurricanes’ defense is pretty good too, and the offense will be fine. The 13 penalties for 125 yards in two games are a concern, but the offense will get it together against less-stout defenses. One would think.

4. Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0 ACC) 
Last week: W 38-14 at Duke

Only head coach Paul Johnson could say this after a road ACC win: “I’m not sure we played a great game, but we hung in there.” The Yellow Jackets won by 24 and put up 469 yards of offense. So there’s that. Georgia Tech, but for a somewhat soft schedule (compared to Miami), still might’ve made the top three in the ACC. But they couldn’t manage to kick a field goal against Duke (1-for-3 with one blocked) and committed six penalties for 46 yards. So...maybe that’s what their head coach was upset about? 

5. Maryland (3-0)
Last week: W 32-21 at Connecticut

Maryland’s first - and probably only - real moments of struggle this season came at Connecticut in the Edsall Bowl on Saturday night, as the Terps had three turnovers on offense and the defense let a struggling UConn offense put up 374 total yards. But what's more important is that the Terps suffered a few injuries on the defensive side of the ball, and one - Dexter McDougle - is out for the season, which is a huge loss. 

6. Virginia Tech (2-1)
Last week: W 15-10 at East Carolina

Virginia Tech’s defense has responded, holding opponents to 106.3 yards passing a game adding 12.0 sacks, seven interceptions, a forced fumble and 33 quarterback hurries. Problem? Hokie QB Logan Thomas has completed 47% of his passes for 517 yards in three games (three touchdowns and four interceptions). And his wide receivers keep dropping the ball. The passing game is such a mess that even though this defense might be the best in the ACC, the Hokies are here. 

7. North Carolina (1-1)
Last week: Off

Mistakes kept the Tar Heels from making it a game in Columbia in Week 1, but a lot of teams are going to lose at South Carolina. But against Middle Tennessee State the next weekend - a frisky opponent, but one the Tar Heels should dominate - they still struggled to run the ball and the defense was spotty at best. Also, they kicked off twice. Seriously. The UNC offense isn’t as explosive as we thought it might be, but there’s still time to turn it around. Oh wait, UNC goes to Atlanta this weekend to play Georgia Tech? Welp. 

8. N.C. State (2-0)
Last week: Off

N.C. State actually played a relatively clean game in the opener against Louisiana Tech, but the Week 2 near-win over Richmond was mistake-filled: four turnovers (most on Richmond’s end), and ten penalties for 89 yards, most of which extended Richmond drives. The Spiders had 300 yards passing and nearly pulled off the upset, but turned around this week and lost to Gardner-Webb, 12-10. Can’t go transitive property in college football. But it should be a concern for new head coach Dave Doeren that his team went backwards in Week 2. At least he’ll have a bye week to get it all sorted out before Clemson comes to town on Thursday.

T-9. Duke (2-1, 0-1 ACC)
Last week: L 14-38 to Georgia Tech

Duke gets a little bit of a break because of how good the Blue Devils looked with starting quarterback Anthony Boone healthy. And it’s hard to judge where a team is based on how it does against Georgia Tech. Still, Boone may not be back for awhile and the offense is starting to look more and more inconsistent as the opponents get tougher. Also, Duke drops a few spots just because of this.

T-9. Virginia (1-1)
Last week: Off

UVa’s opening win over BYU certainly looks a little better after the Cougars pounded Texas the next week. Then we realized that’s just who Texas is now. A lot of teams are going to lose to Oregon, and by transitive property, Virginia is as good as Tennessee, which lost to Oregon by nearly the same score this past weekend (59-14). And UVa’s turnover luck is still as bad as ever - the Cavaliers have committed six turnovers compared to just one by their opponents. They’ve obviously faced two pretty good defenses, so it remains to be seen where they are against the rest of the league.

11. Pittsburgh (1-1, 0-1 ACC)
Last week: W 49-27 over New Mexico

Pitt’s two opponents so far are legit, especially Florida State. No shame in losing to the Seminoles, and the Panthers bounced back to beat New Mexico 49-27 at home this week and rack up 527 total yards of offense. But they have six turnovers committed to just one forced on the year, and the defense still looks a bit shaky. At a banged-up Duke this weekend will be a good indicator.

12. Syracuse (1-2)
Last week: W 54-0 over Wagner

Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen had gotten most of the snaps for Syracuse this season, and he did again versus Wagner. Syracuse went three and out its first three drives, and then backup Terrel Hunt got his chance. Hunt finished 15-of-18 for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Not too shabby. It was just Wagner, yes, but the Orange offensive became explosive and perhaps more importantly, didn’t have any turnovers. But the first two games still happened, so they’re here.

13. Boston College (2-1, 1-0 ACC)
Last week: L 35-7 at Southern Cal

Any concerns BC fans or observers had about the Eagles this year after they struggled with FCS Villanova at home were assuaged by their utter dominance of Wake Forest last week. Then we continued to watch Wake Forest play. And BC went to a USC team in turmoil and got annihilated on Saturday, losing 35-7. It’s hard to score on USC’s defense, but the offense was a hot mess until the Eagles came to town, evidently. And next week...Florida State. Yikes. 

14. Wake Forest (1-2, 0-1 ACC)
Last week: L 21-19 to Louisiana-Monroe

It’s not that the Deacs lost at home to Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, or even that they lost at BC the week before that. It’s the way it’s happening. ULM ran 104 plays (!!!), which in hindsight makes their 424 yards of offense seem pedestrian, and the Deacs had 15 yards of rushing and reached the red zone once. The Deacs have hardly played any world-beaters this season, and still they’ve managed 259 yards rushing on 108 attempts. Also, eye test. Eye test is bad. LOOK AWAY from the Deacs’ offense right now.