As we begin to move toward ACC play, let’s take roll and see which teams have looked the most impressive so far in this young season. The elite teams haven’t shown many chinks in the armor while one ACC newcomer looks to be in freefall. Notre Dame is included in this ACC Power Ranking despite being an independent, as they play at least five games against ACC opponents each year. Also, this is America so I do as I please.
1. Florida State (2-0)
Any of the top three teams can be rearranged in any order, as they are clearly the class of the conference. FSU gets the nod due to being the reigning 3-time champion. Dalvin Cook is doing his part to bridge from the Jameis Winston era to the Everett Golson era with 233 rushing yards against USF last week in a 34-14 win.
2. Clemson (2-0)
The Tigers, like Tech, haven’t had much competition from lesser opponents but they will get a real test against Louisville on Thursday. As long as QB wunderkind DeShaun Watson stays healthy and their defense remains dominant, Clemson can hang with any team in the nation.
3. Georgia Tech (2-0)
Tech third? After averaging 67 points in their last two games? Yes, I am a reverse homer when it comes to power ranking. Two reasons: first, I am superstitious and refuse to rank the Jackets first. Second, the Jackets have yet to play a Power 5 team. That will change soon, as they face off against the 4th ranked team on this list. We will learn a lot from this team in South Bend this Saturday.
4. Notre Dame (2-0)
The Fighting Irish are actually the highest ranked team on this list according to the AP Poll. However, I am not confident in their ability to compete this season without Malik Zaire, who will miss the rest of this season with a broken ankle. In addition, their starting running back Tarean Folston is also out for the season, although backup C.J. Prosise has done a great job filling in. Tech fans will see if the Irish are for real in their matchup this Saturday.
5. NC State (2-0)
The Wolfpack have looked the part of a spoiler or even ACC darkhouse so far, albeit against the FCS/non Power 5 combo many teams have lined up in the early season. Jacoby Brissett could make a name for himself nationally as a dual-threat quarterback and potent weapons flanking him. The Clemson and FSU games will set the barometer as to how good this team really is.
6. Duke (2-0)
The Blue Devils are now a force in the Coastal after two strong seasons. Duke will have to face the newly ranked Northwestern in a matchup of formerly hapless losers. The Wildcats have a stout defense that will test junior QB Thomas Sirk and the upstart Blue Devils offense.
7. Pittsburgh (2-0)
Pitt was a popular sleeper pick to make noise in the Coastal Division but they have looked less than impressive against both Youngstown State and Akron thus far. Adding to that the loss of 2014 ACC Player of the Year James Conner and a quarterback controversy and you have a lot of preseason promise rapidly washing away.
8. Virginia Tech (1-1)
The Hokies bounced back from their opening week Monday night loss to #1 Ohio State by beating down the Furman Paladins 42-3. They have a fairly easy slate remaining, with the Coastal Division plus Purdue, East Carolina and Virginia so 9 wins is reachable. But a broken collarbone for starting QB Michael Brewer means some uncertainty for Frank Beamer’s team in the near future.
9. Louisville (0-2)
Yikes. The Cardinals could easily find themselves much lower with their play so far. Louisville has the talent to make a run at the Atlantic Division but have looked relatively listless in two games against #18 Auburn and Houston. Coach Bobby Petrino has already shuffled through three quarterbacks looking for an answer for the Cardinals’ woes, and the relief doesn’t let up any time soon as #11 Clemson visits Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Thursday.
10. Miami (2-0)
The Hurricanes were one of the hardest teams to rank. Given a few good breaks, the Canes could make a play at the Coastal Division. Given a few bad breaks, and they could bring up the rear. It’s never a question of talent with Miami, just consistency. Al Golden’s group will look for that consistency in games against Nebraska followed by American Athletic Conference favorites Cincinnati, featuring one of the best QBs in the nation, Gunner Kiel.
11. UNC (1-1)
The Tar Heels lost a battle of the Carolinas in a very winnable game but have an easy remainder of their non-conference schedule. Still, UNC has one of the best players in the conference in four year starter Marquise Williams and could easily slide back up these rankings in future weeks.
12. Boston College (2-0)
Yes, they beat unsuspecting MEAC foe Howard 76-0 with shortened quarters in the second half but that’s much bigger indictment of the Bisons and not the Eagles. Boston College will struggle to reach bowl eligibility with the Atlantic Division foes, a visit to Notre Dame and a pesky Northern Illinois team remaining.
13. Virginia (0-2)
You can’t fault the Cavaliers’ ambition in the early season. They fought two ranked teams tough, first falling to Josh Rosen and the UCLA Bruins and then to C.J. Prosise and the Irish a week later in heartbreaking fashion. They finish their out of conference schedule with the annually good Boise State before their Coastal slate. The Hoos could go down as one of the best 4-8 teams in recent history.
14. Syracuse (2-0, 1-0 ACC)
Ah yes, the only two teams to play an ACC game. I’m so sorry if you were stuck watching it, as these two teams will remain nestled at the bottom of the Atlantic all season long. Scott Shafer has a lot of work to do rebuilding a program that went 3-9 a year ago. There’s always basketball season, Orange fans.
15. Wake Forest (1-1, 0-1 ACC)
There’s always basketball season, Wake Forest. What was that? Wake was 13-19 last season? …I’m so sorry Deacon fans.