Clemson beat Georgia Tech by just six points, and Virginia Tech suffered its first loss of the season. The Tigers were able to stay atop the Lee Sports ACC power poll despite looking vulnerable, while the Hokies slipped down the rankings due to a six-point defeat to West Virginia.
Our seven voters were impressed by North Carolina’s thrashing of Virginia. Could the Tar Heels still be a favorite to win the ACC even after their season-opening loss to Virginia Tech?
Wake Forest and Boston College are emerging as under-the-radar ACC teams this fall. Both squads sit at 3-0 with big opportunities this weekend.
Voters: Bennett Conlin and John Shifflett (Charlottesville Daily Progress), Mike Barber and David Teel (Richmond Times-Dispatch), Aaron McFarling and Michael Niziolek (Roanoke Times) and Ethan Joyce (Winston-Salem Journal).
1. Clemson (2-1, 1-0 ACC, No. 1 last week, seven first-place votes): When is it too early to worry about Clemson? The Tigers rank last in the ACC in total offense, averaging just 322.7 yards per game. They’re still 2-1 this fall with the only loss coming in a 10-3 tussle with Georgia, but a narrow 14-8 win over Georgia Tech was alarming. After watching the Tigers manhandle teams for so many years, it’s jarring to see the offense sputter against a conference foe that recently lost to Northern Illinois. Up next: at N.C. State, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
2. North Carolina (2-1, 1-1 ACC, No. 3 last week): Looking at the UNC box score from last weekend makes your head spin. The Tar Heels amassed 699 total yards and 59 points against a Virginia team that only allowed 14 points in the first two weeks of the season. The Tar Heels swept the ACC offensive weekly honors, winning quarterback, running back, receiver and offensive lineman of the week honors. Sam Howell threw for more than 300 yards and added over 100 rushing yards for the second consecutive week. Up next: at Georgia Tech, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
3. Virginia Tech (2-1, 1-0 ACC, No. 2 last week): A red-hot start helped West Virginia outlast Virginia Tech 27-21. The Hokies are still a perfect 1-0 in the ACC with a win over North Carolina, but the game in Morgantown was winnable. For a program hoping to be consistently relevant on a national stage, it was a disheartening defeat. It’s a long season, though, and an Oct. 9 game against Notre Dame offers a chance at a signature win. Up next: Richmond, Saturday, noon
4. Wake Forest (3-0, 1-0 ACC, No. 7 last week): The Demon Deacons’ schedule has been anything but tough — Old Dominion, Norfolk State and Florida State aren’t all that good — but they’re 3-0 with each win coming by at least 21 points. Quarterback Sam Hartman looks comfortable leading the offense, and the defense hasn’t allowed a team to score 20 points yet this fall. Wake Forest was at No. 10 in the power poll just two weeks ago. Up next: at Virginia, Friday, 7 p.m.
5. Boston College (3-0, 0-0 ACC, No. 8 last week): The defense shut down Temple in a 28-3 victory. The Eagles leaned on their rushing attack, as backup quarterback Dennis Grosel was only 7-of-15 for 59 yards in the win. Boston College needs more from Grosel this week to beat Missouri, and Phil Jurkovec’s replacement is plenty capable of improved play. A win Saturday would move the team to 4-0 before next week’s showdown at Clemson. Up next: Missouri, Saturday, noon
6. N.C. State (2-1, 0-0 ACC, No. 9 last week): The Wolfpack have two blowout wins — against South Florida and Furman — and one road loss to Mississippi State. For the program to take a step forward, it needs to beat Power Five peers consistently. Saturday’s home game against Clemson gives the team a chance to send a message on the national stage. Up next: Clemson, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
7. Virginia (2-1, 0-1 ACC, No. 4 last week): Frustration and surprise best sum up the reaction of UVa’s players and coaches after allowing 59 points and 699 yards to UNC. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong threw for 554 yards, a single-game program record, but his team still lost 59-39 due to horrendous tackling and subpar defensive execution. If the defense improves quickly, the Cavaliers’ offense makes them a dangerous ACC team. If it doesn’t, Virginia could be in for a bunch of high-scoring thrillers. Up next: Wake Forest, Friday, 7 p.m.
8. Louisville (2-1, 0-0 ACC, No. 10 last week): The Cardinals took advantage of an energetic home crowd and a good showing from quarterback Malik Cunningham in a 42-35 home triumph over UCF. It was a defensive play — Jaylin Alderman’s 66-yard interception return for a touchdown with 13 seconds remaining — that made the difference in the shootout. Up next: at Florida State, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
9. Pittsburgh (2-1, 0-0 ACC, No. 5 last week): The Panthers followed up a road win at Tennessee with a home loss to Western Michigan. It’s the type of loss that has Pitt fans ripping their hair out. Consistency seems to plague the program, which shows incredible flashes at times but often lays an egg or two each fall. Pitt’s offense looks dangerous, scoring at least 40 points in each of its first three games. The defense, however allowed 44 points to Western Michigan in its 44-41 loss, and Tennessee scored 34 points the week prior. Up next: New Hampshire, Saturday, noon
10. Miami (1-2, 0-0 ACC, No. 6 last week): Level of competition factors into this stat, but Miami is the only ACC team averaging fewer than 20 points per game this season. The Hurricanes were beaten soundly by Michigan State 38-17 at home. On the bright side, Miami doesn’t have a conference loss yet. There’s time yet to turn the season around after a 1-2 start. Up next: Central Connecticut State, Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
11. Georgia Tech (1-2, 0-1 ACC, No. 11 last week): It’s been an odd start to the season for Georgia Tech. A loss to Northern Illinois was followed by a blowout win over Kennesaw State and a near upset of Clemson. The Yellow Jackets only lost to the Tigers 14-8. They’ll hope for an equally respectable showing at home against Sam Howell and North Carolina. Up next: North Carolina, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
12. Duke (2-1, 0-0 ACC, No. 14 last week): Duke defeated Northwestern 30-23 last weekend, giving the team a two-game winning streak after a season-opening loss at Charlotte. The Blue Devils host Kansas this Saturday, and the Jayhawks are arguably the worst Power Five team in the country. Duke has a great opportunity to improve to 3-1. Up next: Kansas, Saturday, 4 p.m.
13. Syracuse (2-1, 0-0 ACC, No. 12 last week): After losing to Rutgers, Syracuse bludgeoned Albany, 62-24. The FCS opponent was no match for the Orange. Liberty, the program Syracuse hosts Friday, is a much tougher test. The Flames are one of the top teams outside the Power Five, and quarterback Malik Willis is a legitimate NFL prospect. Liberty beat Syracuse 38-21 last season. Up next: Liberty, Friday, 8 p.m.
14. Florida State (0-3, 0-1 ACC, No. 13 last week): Another week brought another disappointment for Florida State. The Seminoles fell to Wake Forest 35-14, turning the ball over six times in the process. It was a subpar showing, and the once-elite program dropped to 0-3. Six of our seven voters put Florida State in last place in the power poll. Oof. Up next: Louisville, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.