ACC Power Rankings: Week 6

Bryan Driskell

Every team in the ACC has now played at least three games, which means everyone is at least a quarter through the season. That means we have enough data to do the first Irish Breakdown Power Rankings for the ACC.

1. CLEMSON TIGERS (4-0)

Clemson is the best team in the league by every metric used: eye test, statistical dominance, resume. No team in the conference has a greater average margin of victory (29.0) or has averaged more yards per game than their opponent (215.8).

Clemson’s beat down of Miami this past weekend is the best win of any team in the league, which helped its resume improve after it beat up Wake Forest (1-2), Virginia (1-2) and The Citadel (0-4).

2. NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (3-0)

What hurts Notre Dame’s resume, and what gives North Carolina a case to be ranked second, is that Notre Dame has played an incredibly soft schedule thus far. Notre Dame’s first three opponents are a combined 3-10, and two of those wins came over FCS opponents.

What gives Notre Dame the edge is having a much larger margin of victory than North Carolina (27.3 to 13.4). Notre Dame’s offense hasn’t been as good as North Carolina’s, but the defense has been much better so far.

3. NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (3-0)

North Carolina’s opponents actually have a winning record so far, as the Tar Heels beat 3-1 Boston College and 2-1 Virginia Tech. The win over Virginia Tech was convincing, but the defense giving up 495 yards and 6.4 yards per play against the Hokies was concerning.

Quarterback Sam Howell hasn’t played as good as he is capable of so far, but he started to heat up in the win over Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels travel to Tallahassee this weekend to play Florida State, so they will have a common opponent with Notre Dame that can be used to evaluate for next weekend’s rankings.

4. MIAMI HURRICANES (3-1)

Miami had a case for No. 2 until it got pounded by Clemson. The Hurricane offense has been inconsistent, and it was absolutely dominated by the Tigers. Miami still has a strong resume, with its four opponents posting a combined winning record (9-7). All three of Miami’s wins were also quite convincing, which adds to its resume.

Miami plays Pitt, Virginia, NC State (road) and Virginia Tech (road) the next month, so we’ll learn a lot more about the Hurricanes during that stretch.

5. NC STATE WOLFPACK (3-1)

A case could be made that NC State should be below Boston College, but the way they’ve played the last two games is what puts them over the edge. It also coincides with quarterback Devin Leary being inserted into the starting lineup. NC State barely beat Wake Forest (45-42) in the opener and got smacked by Virginia Tech (45-24) in game two.

With Leary behind center the Wolfpack beat Pitt (30-29) on the road and smashed Virginia (38-21) on the road. The big concern for NC State is that it has been out-gained in three of its four games this season.

6. BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES (3-1)

Boston College has an impressive resume that includes a 20-point win over Duke and a win over Pitt, but it also needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Texas State and they could not beat North Carolina at home. Like NC State, Boston College has been out-gained on the season, but it has been able to win games.

BC travels to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech and has Clemson on the road two weeks after that, so we’ll learn a lot more about the Eagles in a very short period of time.

7. VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (2-1)

Virginia Tech started the season off on a strong note, blasting NC State (45-24). The Hokies struggled to beat 1-4 Duke and their defense gave up 56 points and over 700 yards of offense in the loss to North Carolina. The Hokies have had issues with injuries and players missing due to COVID-19, so there’s a chance they could start playing much better in upcoming games.

The concerning areas for the Hokies are a defense that has trouble stopping teams and a very inconsistent pass attack. Virginia Tech has played three quarterbacks this season, and the group is completing just 50% of their passes this season.

8. PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (3-2)

Pitt started 3-0, but it didn’t look good generating those wins, at least not on offense. Pitt was outstanding in wins over Syracuse and Louisville, but its offense sputtered. Pitt’s wins came over a FCS program and two ACC teams that are a combined 2-6, and it has lost to both opponents it faced with a winning record.

The flip side is Pitt had chances to beat both NC State and Boston College. The Panthers took a lead with less than two minutes left against NC State and took BC to overtime, but it couldn’t close things out. Pitt travels to Miami this weekend and then hosts Notre Dame, giving it a chance to rise up the rankings or fall completely out of contention.

9. GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS (2-2)

Georgia Tech is a spunky football team that surprised me when it pounded Louisville. That impressive win, and its road win over Florida State, is dragged down by its 17-point loss to a 1-3 Syracuse team.

The Yellow Jackets will compete, but right now they simply lack the overall talent to be much better than this spot in the rankings. They host Clemson this weekend and then Notre Dame two weeks later. Sandwiched in-between is a road game at Boston College. If the Jackets can somehow win one of those three games they’ll have an outside chance at having a winning record.

10. VIRGINIA CAVALIERS (1-2)

Virginia earned a convincing win over Duke to start its season, but it got spanked by Clemson and NC State. The 17-point home loss to the Wolfpack was especially disappointing. Virginia’s offense has moved the ball well this season, going for at least 405 yards in each game so far.

Virginia’s problem, and a big reason they are 1-2, is turnovers. The Cavaliers out-gained NC State (405-363), but it lost the turnover battle 4-1. NC State had a fumble return for a score, a 23-yard touchdown drive and a 2-yard field goal drive in the win. That’s literally the difference in that game.

11. LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (1-3)

I’m shocked that Louisville is this far down, especially with how good their offense can be, but the defense has been horrific. Two of their three losses were by double digits, and the 19-point loss to Georgia Tech was especially ugly.

Louisville travels to South Bend this weekend, which means a 1-4 start is likely. They’ll need to get back on track the next four games when it hosts Florida State, Virginia Tech and Syracuse, and travels to Virginia.

12. DUKE BLUE DEVILS (1-4)

Three of Duke’s four losses were by at least two touchdowns, and its win was over a struggling Syracuse team. Despite being 1-4, Duke has actually out-gained its opponents this season by an average of 8.4 yards per game. The Blue Devils have also played a challenging schedule, with its opponents coming for a 10-7 record.

Duke has a chance to get right in upcoming weeks, but it must stop turning the ball over. The Blue Devils already have 19 turnovers in five games, losing 10 fumbles while throwing nine picks.

13. FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (1-3)

Florida State has just one win this season, and it was against a FCS opponent. The Seminoles have been outscored by an average of 11 points per game and has been out-gained by an average of 60.8 yards per game. Yes, its schedule has been challenging, but the Seminoles weren’t overly competitive against Notre Dame and were blown out by Miami.

The Seminoles at least competed against Notre Dame, and if it can keep that up they’ll have a shot to start winning some games. Scoring a home upset over North Carolina this weekend would give the program a huge boost in confidence, but I don’t think the Seminoles are good enough on defense to make that happen.

14. WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS (1-2)

It’s hard to evaluate Wake Forest due to it having games canceled. Its only win is over Campbell, and it got dominated by Clemson. The Deacons were competitive against NC State, but that wasn’t the same NC State team we’ve seen the last two games.

15. SYRACUSE ORANGE (1-3)

Syracuse is really struggling this season. They are being out-gained by an average of 221.8 yards per game. With remaining games at Clemson, Louisville and Notre Dame, and home games against Boston College and NC State, things aren’t looking up for the Orange. Even the contest against Liberty this weekend won’t be an easy win, if its a win at all.

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