ACC Power Rankings: Virginia Tech jumps, Florida State stays on top

Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer didn't play a perfect game, but he was poised and made plays when it mattered as the Hokies got a huge win at No. 8 Ohio State.

Preseason expectations? Those are almost out the window at this point.

Coastal Division favorite Miami has looked blah so far, while Virginia Tech’s big win at No. 8 Ohio State vaulted the Hokies several spots up this week’s power rankings. But between the very bottom and the very top, there’s still a lot of ambiguity in the ACC that will work itself out in the coming weeks, particularly when league play gets started.

ACC teams went 12-1 last week (the only loss was in an ACC game, as Boston College fell to Pittsburgh on Friday night), but there were some lackluster showings that gave plenty of teams cause for concern:

Last week: 1 (W 37-12 over Citadel)

Next up: Bye

The final score of the Citadel game is really irrelevant. What is relevant is that the Citadel’s cut-blocking, triple-option attack resulted in injuries to three Florida State defensive tackles. And after the game, Jimbo Fisher had no updates on their status (two are starters in Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample). Luckily, the Seminoles have a bye week to get rested before they host Clemson. But these are injuries that FSU can’t afford. No reason to worry about the Seminoles just yet, but they sure could use a convincing win in two weeks.

Last week: 6 (W 35-21 at No. 8 Ohio State)

Next up: East Carolina

Wait, I thought Frank Beamer couldn’t win big games? Well, this one was pretty big. For everyone that scrambled to find a new Coastal Division favorite, scramble no more. The Hokies have an offense this year, with more talented backs, a more experienced offensive line and a quarterback that is pretty good himself in Michael Brewer.

The Buckeyes were without starting quarterback Braxton Miller (as they will be for the season), but Bud Foster and the Hokie defense befuddled Urban Meyer and the Ohio State offense all night, while the vaunted Ohio State defensive line managed just two sacks (though they did a pretty good job otherwise).

The Hokies have a different look and feel to them this year, and considering their body of work it’s impossible to put anyone else in second. We shouldn’t go too crazy with this win — Miami did beat a ranked Florida team early last season, remember, and that ended up being virtually meaningless — but this is very significant for the league and the Hokies.

Last week: 3 (W 66-21 over Murray State)

Next up: at Virginia

Louisville just continues to take care of business. There was no suspense in the matchup with Murray State, nor should there have been. Miami’s Week 2 struggles (relatively) downgrade that Week 1 win a bit for now, but the Louisville defense has looked better than expected, and the offense under Bobby Petrino is clicking. The Cardinals, thought to be the clear No. 3 in the Atlantic Division behind FSU and Clemson, might not be so far behind Clemson after all.

Last week: 2 (W 73-7 over South Carolina State)

Next up: Bye

As we said last week, no shame in losing to Georgia. And good on the Tigers for doing what they should do against South Carolina State, and looking pretty impressive in the process, out-gaining their FCS opponent 735-44 in total yards. (Um. That’s a lot.) The only reason they’re tied for third with Louisville is that they don’t have a big win on the resume yet, and talent-wise — it’s early, yet, but still — it does seem that Louisville is right there with them. We’ll see soon enough, and the Tigers now have a bye to rest up for Florida State in Tallahassee.

Last week: 5 (W 30-20 at Boston College)

Next up: at Florida International

Pittsburgh’s first two opponents this season have not been all that great, but Boston College is at least an ACC opponent. It’s less about the strength of schedule and more about the way the Panthers have looked so far. And they’ve looked good. Very good. James Conner is averaging 7.3 yards a carry and 183.5 yards a game, while Chad Voytik has been efficient in limited pass attempts (just 33 over two games). The offensive line took a hit with the loss of their center for the season, and that defense is still thin. But the skill guys are as good as it gets.

Last week: 4 (W 34-17 at Troy)

Next up: Kansas

If Duke’s first two games hadn’t been against pretty weak opponents, the Blue Devils would be higher. No shame in struggling a bit on the road, and Troy is traditionally a good program, but the Trojans lost by more than 30 points in Week 1 to UAB. Certainly can’t use transitive property this early in the season, but Duke just didn’t look crisp early in the Troy game. They got it together, though, and will at least be facing a Power 5 opponent this weekend (albeit one the Blue Devils should dismiss as easily as they have their first two). We’ll learn more about the Coastal Division champs in the coming weeks.

Last week: 7 (W 31-27 over San Diego State)

Next up: Bye

Well, the Tar Heels struggled some with Liberty in Week 1 and then took struggle to a new level against San Diego State, going down 21-7 early in the third and then 24-14 early in the fourth before rallying to go up with four minutes to go and holding on at the goal line in the closing seconds. San Diego State is a good team, mind you, but UNC has looked shaky. The offense under Marquise Williams got going in the second half, though, and the defense is forcing turnovers even as it’s allowing plenty of yards. Maybe they can tweak a few things during the bye week before going on the road to face a very good East Carolina team that throttled them last year.

Last week: 8 (W 41-7 over Florida A&M)

Next up: Arkansas State

Miami was fine against Florida A&M, for the most part. The defense continues to look better than expected, while it’s the offense that’s been rather unexpectedly struggling to get going. Yes, there’s a freshman quarterback under center in Brad Kaaya, but the Hurricanes aren’t running the ball all that consistently either and are just 3-of-23 on third down this season, good for last nationally. Miami also turned it over three times. The Hurricanes had better hope Ryan Williams comes back soon, and that he’s a significant upgrade.

Last week: 11 (W 38-21 at Tulane)

Next up: Georgia Southern

Georgia Tech’s defense lost some NFL talent from last year, to be sure. But the Yellow Jackets returned plenty on that side of the ball and should not still be struggling this much on defense.

In two weeks, the Yellow Jackets have given up 40 points to Wofford and Tulane. No disrespect to those teams, particularly Tulane which is a much-improved program, but that’s not a good sign going forward for Tech. And while the game at Tulane was always going to be sneaky tough, it was a bit too tough at times. The offense can’t turn it over three times. After a big Week 1 through the air, quarterback Justin Thomas was just 3 of 8 passing for 15 yards, which is also not a great sign. Georgia Southern will be a tougher test for the Jackets than many realize.

Last week: 10 (W 45-13 over Richmond)

Next up: Louisville

Considering UCLA was a top-10 team entering the season, the way the Cavaliers played in that game was enough to convince many — including me — that they were better than expected. That might still be true, although UCLA struggled with Memphis this week, so maybe it’s a UCLA thing more than a Virginia thing. Virginia’s defense continues to look good, forcing Richmond into seven turnovers a week after harassing UCLA’s Brett Hundley all afternoon. The Louisville game will tell us a lot about how far the Cavaliers have actually come.

Last week: 13 (W 46-34 over Old Dominion)

Next up: at South Florida

A quick glance at NC State’s next opponent, South Florida, shows that the Bulls struggled to beat Western Carolina in Week 1 and then couldn’t beat Maryland in spite of the Terrapins’ six turnovers. But with the way N.C. State has been playing so far this season, any opponent — particularly on the road — should be formidable.

The N.C. State offense has finally started to click, albeit against some rather underwhelming defenses, but the defense is the real issue. So far, they’ve allowed 442 yards rushing on 84 attempts (5.3 per carry) against two teams they should have a physical advantage over up front, and just aren’t getting much push there. That’s got to change, and fast, or else the offense is going to find itself playing catch-up like it has the last two weeks.

Last week: 9 (L 30-20 to Pitt)

Next up: No. 9 USC

No shame in losing to Pitt, even at home. But the Boston College offense continues to look pretty pedestrian, and quarterback Tyler Murphy is having to do too much. He is 27 of 52 passing so far this season for 307 yards, but he’s also the team’s leading rusher by over 100 yards (29 for 210) and the duo of Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis has combined for 172 yards on 48 attempts. Maybe Pitt’s defense is better than expected. Either way, don’t expect much out of the Eagles this week as USC comes to town.

Last week: 12 (Bye)

Next up: at Central Michigan

As one of the only teams in the ACC with a returning starting quarterback, not to mention talent on both sides of the ball, Syracuse should have looked better than it did in Week 1. After a bye week, the Orange will head to Central Michigan to face a team that just beat Purdue at Purdue by 21 points. Now, Purdue isn’t very good. But there’s no reason yet to think that Syracuse is either, based on early returns. Syracuse is better than it played in Week 1, but this won’t be an easy game by any stretch. Need to win it, though.

Last week: 14 (W 23-7 over Gardner-Webb)

Next up: at Utah State

Wake’s defense did its job, holding Gardner-Webb to just 131 total yards and 11 first downs. And Wake Forest managed to score its first two offensive touchdowns of the season, so there’s that. Quarterback John Wolford had a nice day with 291 yards and two touchdowns, but he did throw three interceptions, and Wake still averaged a paltry 2.7 yards a carry against a lower-tier FCS team.

Now, the Deacs are going on the road to face a Utah State team that has become one of the friskier non-Power 5 teams in FBS, nearly knocking off USC at USC last year. That…does not bode well. But hey, the Deacs got a win, so that’s … something.