ACC Football Power Rankings, Week 8: UNC runs over NC State, Wake Forest continues to climb

In this week’s ACC Football Power Rankings, we go through all 15 teams and try to make sense of the league’s murky middle tier.


No. 1 Clemson

Trevor Lawrence looked sorta pedestrian (6.7 yards per attempt) as Clemson played below expectations for the majority of Saturday’s 47-21 win over Syracuse; however, the Tigers closed strong with 20 unanswered points, including two rushing scores from Travis Etienne.

In total, Etienne finished with three rushing touchdowns and 106 yards from scrimmage. Etienne now has 64 career rushing touchdowns. For those keeping track at home, that’s a lot.

Next game: Boston College, Saturday (10/31), 12:00 p.m.

Record: 6-0


No. 2 Notre Dame

Notre Dame put forth its best game of the season with a dominant 45-3 victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday. Quarterback Ian Book threw for 312 yards, while averaging 10.4 yards per attempt, and three touchdowns — all season highs.

Next game: at Georgia Tech, Saturday (10/31), 3:30 p.m.

Record: 5-0


No. 3 Miami

For the third straight game, Miami struggled to run the ball; Virginia held the Hurricanes to just 2.54 yards per carry. D’Eriq King completed 21-of-30 pass attempts (70 percent) for 322 yards (10.7 yards per attempt) and a touchdown, though, which proved to be the difference.

Veteran receiver Mike Harley stepped up in the absence of Brevin Jordan; Harley hauled in 10 receptions for 170 yards (both career highs), including a 43-yard touchdown reception to open things up.

Next game: at NC State, Friday (11/6), 7:30 p.m.

Record: 5-1


No. 4 North Carolina

North Carolina won its second straight game over NC State with a powerful performance during Saturday’s 48-21 victory.

UNC avoided turnovers (+4 turnover margin) and racked up 578 yards of total offense. Sam Howell looked comfortable in the pocket, throwing for 252 yards. Once again, the Heels were led by the dynamic duo of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, who combined for 312 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns.

This marks just the fourth time since the 2000 season that UNC has run for 300+ yards and 5+ touchdowns in a single game — three of those performances have occurred over the last two seasons.

On the flip side, NC State was held to just 34 rushing yards, total. This game also marked just the second time since 2000 that UNC has run for 300+ yards while limiting an opponent to under 40 total rushing yards.

Next game: Virginia, Saturday (10/31), 8:00 p.m.

Record: 4-1


No.5 Wake Forest

Up to No. 15 in the Sagarin ratings (No. 4 amongst ACC teams), Wake Forest keeps on trucking. Dave Clawson’s squad has three straight wins — all at home — including last week’s 23-16 upset over nationally-ranked Virginia Tech.

Unheralded freshman safety Nick Andersen, a walk-on, stole the show vs. the Hokies: 11 total tackles and three interceptions. An unrated 2020 prospect — New Hampshire and Butler were the only two programs that offered scholarships — Andersen became just the second ACC player since 2000 to record 10+ tackles and three interceptions in the same game.

Next game: at Syracuse, Saturday (10/31), 12:00 p.m.

Record: 3-2


No. 6 Virginia Tech

After several prolific performances, Virginia Tech’s run game finally hit a wall. The Hokies still ran for 210 yards (4.9 per carry) in Winston-Salem, but it wasn’t enough to defeat Wake Forest. When the pass game was called on for help, Hendon Hooker and Virginia Tech simply didn’t have it.

Khalil Herbert was mostly held in check, too — rushing for 64 yards, the first game this season the Kansas transfer has run for fewer than 100 yards.

Next game: at Louisville, Saturday (10/31), 4:00 p.m.

Record: 3-2


No. 7 Boston College

Following a tough loss at Virginia Tech, which included five turnovers, Boston College responded on offense against Georgia Tech: zero turnovers and an average of 6.3 yards per play.

The Eagles ran the ball 44 times against the Yellow Jackets, compared to only 21 pass attempts from Phil Jurkovec. (Jurkovec did connect with CJ Lewis for two touchdowns in this game, though.) David Bailey got going, too, which is encouraging: 84 rushing yards (6.4 per carry) and two touchdowns.

Next game: at Clemson, Saturday (10/31), 12:00 p.m.

Record: 4-2


No. 8 NC State

No Devin Leary proved pivotal for NC State’s offense, which never quite found traction with Bailey Hockman under center. (The biggest issue of the Pack on Saturday came on defense, though: NC State did a poor job tackling.)

It’ll be interesting to see what the quarterback situation looks like going forward; true freshman Ben Finley made his college debut and showed some flashes in Chapel Hill, including a 42-yard touchdown connection with Emeka Emezie.

Next game: Miami, Friday (11/6), 7:30 p.m.

Record: 4-2


No. 9 Pittsburgh

Following Saturday’s blowout defeat at the hands of Notre Dame, Pitt has now lost four games in a row. The first two of those four were both tough one-point losses; subsequently things have gotten worse, though.

Pitt’s run defense was solid (once more) against Notre Dame, but the Panthers just can’t muster any offense minus Kenny Pickett.

Without Pickett, freshman Joey Yellen, in his second career start, completed just 10-of-27 pass attempts (37 percent) for 101 yards and three interceptions. Unenviably, Yellen became the 13th ACC quarterback since the 2000 season to throw 3+ interceptions and complete under 40 percent of his pass attempts (20+ attempts) in a game.

Pickett may be back in time for Florida State in two weeks, but that’s no certainty at the moment.

Next game: at Florida State, Saturday (11/7), 12:00 p.m.

Record: 3-4


No. 10 Virginia

Virginia has won three straight over North Carolina, but to keep that streak alive in 2020, the Cavaliers will need more from an offense that ranks outside the top 50 nationally in efficiency, per ESPN.

Next game: North Carolina, Saturday (10/31), 8:00 p.m.

Record: 1-4


No. 11 Louisville

It’s been an uneven season for Louisville thus far, but the Cards put together a good outing against an FSU team that was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Tutu Atwell recorded 131 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns on only four touches (32.8 yards per touch); however, it was running back Javian Hawkins that truly powered the offense. Hawkins ran for 174 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries.

Hawkins now has five career games with 150+ rushing yards, including three this season. He leads the ACC with 693 rushing yards.

Next game: Virginia Tech, Saturday (10/31), 4:00 p.m.

Record: 2-4


No. 12 Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech opened as an 18-point home underdog to Notre Dame. Buckle up.

Next game: Notre Dame, Saturday (10/31), 3:30 p.m.

Record: 2-4


No. 13 Florida State

The road matchup at Louisville was an ugly one for Florida State, which suffered 11 penalties for 104 yards, while its passing attack slumped, once more.

Jordan Travis completed 43.8 percent of his pass attempts while averaging only 4.4 yards per attempt. True freshman Chubba Purdy made his college debut in relief of Travis, but did so unceremoniously: attempting nine passes without a completion.

Next game: Pittsburgh, Saturday (11/7)

Record: 2-4


No. 14 Duke

Hopefully the open weekend bought Duke time to regroup and get ready for a Halloween matchup with Charlotte — this year’s lone non-conference game.

Next game: Charlotte, Saturday (10/31), 7:00 p.m.

Record: 1-5


No. 15 Syracuse

Syracuse played well at times against Clemson (and covered!), but the Orange still fell on the road by 26 points. Dino Babers and Syracuse have a point differential of -76 this season; all five of their losses have been by 11 or more points.

Next game: Wake Forest, Saturday (10/31), 12:00 p.m.

Record: 1-5


Contributor Rankings

Brian GeisingerJosh GrahamConsensus
2Notre DameNotre DameNotre Dame
4North CarolinaNorth CarolinaNorth Carolina
5Wake ForestWake ForestWake Forest
6Virginia TechBoston CollegeVirginia Tech
7Boston CollegeVirginia TechBoston College
8NC StateNC StateNC State
11VirginiaGeorgia TechLouisville
12Florida StateLouisvilleGeorgia Tech
13DukeFlorida StateFlorida State
15Georgia TechSyracuseSyracuse


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