The ACC has been climbing the ladder of conference superiority for several years now. Since 2013, the league has made three national championship game appearances, trailing only the SEC with five. While Clemson has carried the banner for the league for several years, several other programs have the promise of closing the gap with the Tigers and giving the conference a collection of powers that could possibly rival the SEC.
Through two weeks, it’s uhhhhhh not looking good.
In my best Robert Stack voice:
“TONIGHT on Unsolved ACC Mysteries: Does Malik Rosier have naked pictures of Mark Richt? Which offense is worse: UVA football or UVA basketball? Is Pat Narduzzi ever happy?”
Yeah, the league’s a bit of a mess right now. For the rest of the season, each week I’ll be taking stock of the league. Who’s poised to rise, who’s ready to fall, and a brand new idea I just came up with this morning…Power Rankings! Tell me what you think on my Twitter @JoshParcell.
BUY: Florida State
Am I crazy? Maybe. But I’m actually willing to forgive the Seminoles for slogging through the Samford game four days after a gut-punch loss to Virginia Tech. The reality for Florida State is they made all sorts of unforced gaffes against the Hokies that led to the game getting away from them. They are not THAT much worse than Tech. They were discombobulated from the start. It can’t get any worse than that performance, can it?
The reality for FSU is they have the most talent in the ACC besides Clemson. Did YOU think the ‘Noles were going to roll into Doak on Saturday and open up a can of whoop-ass on Samford? If you did, shame on you. On four days rest, they were going to do the bare minimum to win that game. No one knows the danger of a game like that better than Virginia Tech, who lost in the exact same scenario eight years ago to JMU. Florida State did what it had to do, and now they can move on.
I have nothing to point to on the actual field of play that tells me Florida State can still be a threat to win 9 or 10 games. But there’s too much NFL-level talent for me to expect them to roll over and quit on Willie Taggart in his first year. I picked them to win the ACC before the season. I might wish I had that one back, but I still think FSU puts together a solid run through conference play. They’re a +3 underdog at Syracuse Saturday afternoon, and I like that value. Buy low on the ‘Noles.
SELL: Wake Forest
My radio partner Nick Wilson and I have a Burger Bet on the Demon Deacons winning 10 games. I love Nick, but you know what I love even more? Free cheeseburgers. All I need is Wake to lose three games and I’ll be chowing down on the best barbecue bacon cheeseburger in Charlotte free of charge.
I think the first loss comes tonight against Boston College. The Deacons are 2-0 after barely surviving Tulane and a blowout over Towson, who went 5-6 last year in the FCS. Sorry if I’m not impressed with Wake just yet. The Deacs are 8th in the ACC in yards per carry. Considering the defenses they’ve faced, I’m willing to bet they won’t improve that mark after taking on BC’s front seven. Three of Wake’s next four games are against BC, Notre Dame and Clemson. I’m betting I’ll have that burger by mid-October.
The ceiling on Wake this year is seven wins. Best-case, they finish fourth in the Atlantic. Freshman QB Sam Hartman might have done enough to win the job even after Kendall Hinton returns from suspension next week, but he’ll have a rough time keeping up with real contenders in the ACC.
ACC Power Rankings
Just like the JP Top 25, this is based on what we’ve seen on the field. I don’t care about preseason rankings, recruiting rankings, or anything other than the games we’ve watched this season. Just because I have one team ranked higher than another doesn’t mean I think the higher-ranked team would win a game between the two. This is a ranking of who’s impressed me the most to this point in the season.
1. Virginia Tech
What the Hokies did on the road to Florida State is better than what Clemson did against Texas A&M. The Tigers are the most talented team in the ACC by a mile. They just haven’t proven it yet.
Dabo Swinney played with fire last week by giving Trevor Lawrence every chance he could to win the starting QB job once and for all. Kelly Bryant was the man for the job against College Station, but is he the man for the job to win a national title? I talked about it with Kyle Bailey on Thursday’s CFB Country podcast.
Losing Daniel Jones to a collarbone injury means Duke won’t be the spoiler in the ACC race I thought they could be. I was ready for the Blue Devils to upset Virginia Tech in two weeks. The big loser with this news is Miami. Jones’ injury means the Hokies should get a free win in two weeks, but he should be back in time for Duke’s trip to the ‘Canes on November 3rd. The Blue Devils are in big trouble this week with a trip to Baylor. I like the Bears to win and cover the six-point spread.
4. Boston College
AJ Dillon averaged 24.8 yards per carry against Holy Cross. It’s time for the Eagles to play a real team. I think they handle Wake Forest tonight.
5. NC State
The fact that the Wolfpack are ranked this high should tell you how awful the ACC has been so far. State sputtered against JMU, which to be fair is a great FCS program, but last week’s slopfest against Georgia State was concerning. Ryan Finley has the tools to make NC State at least a tacit threat to Clemson, but through two games I’m not encouraged.
6. Wake Forest
Dino Babers has made a habit of fielding losing football teams at Syracuse that pull off one miraculous upset a year. While technically a win Saturday wouldn’t be an upset, could this be that blueblood victory for 2018? I’m saying no.
As long as Malik Rosier is under center, the Hurricanes’ ceiling is an ACC Coastal title. I’m on the N’Kosi Perry bandwagon. If you’re Mark Richt, why not give him a chance?
9. Georgia Tech
There are two types of Paul Johnson teams: the ones that go 11-2 and make the Orange Bowl, and the ones that win six or seven games and bore you to death. After the Yellow Jackets gave up 21 points in the fourth quarter in a 49-38 loss to South Florida, I’m thinking this year’s team is the latter.
The Alabama Hangover Effect was in full display last week as the Cardinals struggled to put Indiana State away until late. There’s an outside chance they struggle to make a bowl game. If that happens, it wouldn’t shock me if they move on from Bobby Petrino.
11. Florida State
My mind hasn’t changed in the last five minutes. FSU has brighter days ahead.
Bryce Perkins was the X-Factor for the Cavaliers, and after just 106 passing yards against Indiana, I’m not exactly sold on Virginia’s aerial assault this season.
In three years at Pittsburgh, Pat Narduzzi’s defenses haven’t ranked higher than ninth in scoring defense in the ACC. They just gave up 51 points to Penn State. What exactly does Narduzzi bring to the table here?
For the first time all season, UNC won’t go to bed Saturday after a loss. Larry Fedora is a dead man walking. The UCF game was cancelled this weekend. The Tar Heels might be better off to cancel the season.