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ACC Football Power Rankings, Week 11: Sam Howell pushes UNC up, FSU continues to crater

In this week’s ACC Football Power Rankings, we go 1-15 through the league and take a look at a few developing trends — including strong quarterback play.

 

No. 1 Notre Dame

One week after the upset win over Clemson, Notre Dame refused to let up on the road against Boston College; the offense was sensational, going for 557 yards of total offense and 45 points.

Ian Book completed 20-of-27 pass attempts for 283 yards (10.5 yards per attempt), three touchdowns and no interceptions. All of of Notre Dame’s touchdown passes were connections between Book and Ben Skowronek, the Northwestern transfer.

Next up: at North Carolina, Friday (11/27), 12:00 p.m.

Record: 8-0

No. 2 Clemson

With an open week, Clemson had time to regroup after the Notre Dame loss and (hopefully) get healthy. Trevor Lawrence is expected to return against Florida State; the Tigers opened as a 32-point favorite. Oh boy.

Next up: at Florida State, Saturday (11/21), 12:00 p.m.

Record: 7-1

 

No. 3 Miami

Miami went into last Saturday’s matchup with Virginia Tech as an underdog (+2.5), down 13 players due to COVID-19 — one week after being down 11 players at NC State. Despite the adversity — Miami almost didn’t play this game — the Hurricanes won on the road, 25-24. However, after all of that, Miami still fell three spots in this week’s AP Poll. Makes perfect sense!

D’Eriq King had another strong outing: 255 passing yards and two total touchdowns. Miami got big plays on the perimeter from wideouts Dee Wiggins, Mike Harley and Mark Pope; the trio combined for 18 receptions and 207 yards through the air.

Pope now has touchdown receptions in back-to-back games, including the 36-yard game-winner in Blacksburg.

Next up: Georgia Tech, Saturday (11/21), 8:00 p.m.

Record: 7-1

 

No. 4 North Carolina

In a game that started to get a little wonky, with UNC trailing Wake Forest by 21 points in the second half, quarterback Sam Howell grabbed the wheel; he didn’t let go.

While leading North Carolina to 35 unanswered points and one of the largest comeback wins in program history, Howell added plenty of his own ink to the record book, too. Howell went 32-of-45 through the air for 550 yards and 6 touchdowns, which shattered the UNC single-game passing record previously held by Marquise Williams (2015).

Late in the fourth quarter, Howell also ran a touchdown in from 20 yards out — which helped give UNC the lead at 52-45.

Next up: Notre Dame, Friday (11/27), 12:00 p.m.

Record: 6-2

 

No. 5 Wake Forest

Wake Forest had it, and then didn’t. It’s not easy to score 53 points and fall; last Saturday’s road affair in Chapel Hill may sting for a little while, too. However, lost amidst Howell-mania: Sam Hartman had a monster afternoon as well.

Hartman completed 29-of-45 pass attempts for a career-high 429 yards (9.5 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns. Through the first eight games of the season, Hartman has yet to throw an interception.

Next up: at Duke, Saturday (11/21), 12:00 p.m.

Record: 4-3

 

No. 6 Virginia Tech

The Hokies have now lost three of their last four games, following Saturday’s failure against Miami. The Virginia Tech formula is simple in 2020: run the ball efficiently and protect against a defense that ranks 59th nationally in efficiency, per ESPN.

Virginia Tech never quite got its run game going against Miami; however, the margin between victory and defeat gets awfully blurry when coaches routinely swing-and-miss in leverage situations.

Next up: at Pittsburgh, Saturday (11/21), 4:00 p.m.

Record: 4-4

 

No. 7 NC State

Back on Saturday, NC State pushed around a young, depleted Florida State squad. Early in the third quarter — following an 18-yard touchdown run from Bam Knight — the Wolfpack led 28-3. FSU made matters slightly more competitive in the second half, but this thing was never in doubt

Bailey Hockman lit up his former team, too. The southpaw completed 24-of-34 pass attempts (70.6 percent) for a career-best 265 yards and three touchdowns. Once again, slot receiver Thayer Thomas proved to be Hockman’s favorite target.

Next up: Liberty, Saturday (11/21), 7:30 p.m.

Record: 5-3

 

No. 8 Boston College

As BC Interruption noted in their game recap, the Boston College-Notre Dame matchup had a fair amount of intrigue ahead of kickoff. However, this Notre Dame team is really freaking good, and it takes a lot to pull off an upset. The Eagles fought hard, but the Irish were simply too much.

Quick note: wideout Zay Flowers, who caught his seventh touchdown of the season (No. 2 in the ACC), left the game with a shoulder injury. He’s questionable for the Louisville matchup.

Next up: Louisville, Friday (11/27), 12:00 p.m.

Record: 5-4

No. 9 Virginia

Virginia’s defense put together an impressive outing against Louisville. The Cavaliers sacked Malik Cunningham four times and forced three turnovers, including an 85-yard pick-6 from outside linebacker Noah Taylor. The front seven continues to do damage.

Next up: Abilene Christian, Saturday (11/21), 4:00 p.m.

Record: 3-4

 

No. 10 Pittsburgh

Next Saturday’s matchup between Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech is an interesting battle of 4-4 teams. Pitt was shutout last season at Virginia Tech; Kenny Pickett struggled passing that game, too.

With Pickett back, can the Panthers snag their second straight ACC win in 2020?

Next up: Virginia Tech Saturday (11/21), 4:00 p.m.

Record: 4-4

 

No. 11 Louisville

Despite (relatively) optimistic preseason expectations, it’s been a tough go of things for Louisville this year. The Cards will now be without All-ACC running back Javian Hawkins, who has opted out for the remainder of the 2020 season.

Next up: Syracuse, Friday (11/20), 7:00 p.m.

Record: 2-6

 

No. 12 Georgia Tech

Following the postponement of Saturday’s matchup with Pittsburgh — moved to Dec. 12 — it will be three full weeks between games for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have still yet to play in the month of November.

The return to the field won’t come easy, either: going up against D’Eriq King and No. 12 Miami on the road.

Next up: at Miami, Saturday (11/21), 8:00 p.m.

Record: 2-5

 

No. 13 Duke

The Blue Devils have certainly struggled this season, but David Cutcliffe can feel some confidence in knowing that he has his kicker of the future: redshirt freshman Charlie Ham.

Rated as the No. 11 kicker in the 2019 class, Ham has connected on 12-of-14 field goal attempts (85.7 percent) this season, while draining 21-of-23 point after attempts (91.3 percent).

Next up: Wake Forest, Saturday (11/21), 12:00 p.m.

Record: 2-6

 

No. 14 Syracuse

Only three games remain on the 2020 schedule for Syracuse, including two on the road:

    • At Louisville
    • NC State
    • At Notre Dame

Syracuse projects as a big underdog in all three of these matchups, including Louisville this Friday. As of right now, the Orange are likely to finish 2020 with a 1-10 record, among the worst seasons in program history.

Next up: Louisville, Friday (11/20), 7:00 p.m.

Record: 1-7

 

No. 15 Florida State

A challenging 2020 season continues to add more bumps and bruises for Florida State. The upcoming matchup with Clemson could get ugly.

Next up: Clemson, Saturday (11/21), 12:00 p.m.

Record: 2-6

 

Contributor Rankings

 Brian GeisingerJosh GrahamConsensus
1Notre DameNotre DameNotre Dame
2ClemsonClemsonClemson
3MiamiMiamiMiami
4North CarolinaNorth CarolinaNorth Carolina
5Wake ForestWake ForestWake Forest
6Virginia TechVirginia TechVirginia Tech
7NC StateNC StateNC State
8Boston CollegeBoston CollegeBoston College
9VirginiaPittVirginia
10PittVirginiaPitt
11LouisvilleGeorgia TechLouisville
12DukeLouisvilleGeorgia Tech
13SyracuseFlorida StateDuke
14Georgia TechDukeSyracuse
15Florida StateSyracuseFlorida State