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ACC Football Power Rankings, Week 7: Trapped in eternal (Coastal) Chaos

The last two weeks have been, um, rather interesting for the ACC. In this week’s ACC Football Power Rankings, we try (desperately) to make sense of where the league stands.

 

No. 1 Clemson

The final score of 45-14 is gaudy, but Clemson’s dominant win over Florida State really wasn’t even that close. On defense, the Tigers thrashed James Blackman in his return at quarterback — two interceptions, 2.9 yards per pass attempt.

Offensively, Clemson was strong, though not without hitting a few bumps in the road, too. Travis Etienne did his thing — 127 yards rushing — while Justyn Ross caught two touchdown passes (his first touchdown since the Texas A&M game).

Clemson’s first team offense racked up over 430 yard of total offense in the first 35 minutes of this game. Amari Rodger, after tearing his ACL back in March, continues to impress since his return to the lineup.

Up next: at Louisville

 

No. 2 Virginia

In theory, there shouldn’t be much shame in losing at Miami — a road game against plenty of future NFL talent. However, this was a tough loss for the Cavaliers. Virginia’s defense was impressive, though, once again: UVA allowed just 265 yards of total offense and sacked N’Kosi Perry three times. (It can’t be overrated just how much of a bummer the season-ending injury to Bryce Hall is, though.)

This type of defensive effort, however, couldn’t offset the team’s offensive issues. All season long, Virginia has moved the ball from station to station. That cautious approach proved to be an issue at Miami. For the third straight game, Virginia averaged under 4.7 yards per play — a season-low 4.42 yards. And while Virginia converted on 50 percent of its third-down plays (9-of-18), the Cavs had just three trips into Miami’s red zone. On all three red zone possessions, Virginia failed to score a touchdown — instead settling for field goals. The offensive line is a problem.

Up next: Duke

 

No. 3 Pittsburgh

Unless you’re Clemson, the bye week continues to be the safest place in the ACC, especially in the Coastal Division. At the end of the day, Pitt has just two losses, which came against good teams: Virginia and a nail-bitter at Penn State.

The Panthers also have wins over Duke and UCF — a top-15 team at the time. Pitt’s sack-happy defense, which ranks 27th nationally in efficiency, will continue to be a problem for opponents.

Up next: at Syracuse (Friday, 10/18)

 

No. 4 Louisville

It was obvious from the jump this season: Louisville, under Scott Satterfield, is a different football program. Another prominent member of Sattfield’s staff — offensive coordinator Dwayne Ledford, formerly the offensive line coach at NC State — deserves some serious praise, too.

Wherever Ledford coaches, man, can his teams really run the football. Louisville already has four games this season of at least 200 yards rushing while also averaging over five yards per carry. As a team, Louisville ranks third in the ACC with 227 rushing yards per game.

Over the last two games, Louisville has run for six touchdowns and 461 yards — 5.24 yards per carry. The Cards have done all this while shuffling through multiple quarterbacks. Freshman running back Javian Hawkins has been a serious breakthrough player for the Cardinals, too: 5.6 yards per carry.

Up next: at Clemson

 

No. 5 Duke (tie)

After a disappointing home loss to Pittsburgh, Duke got exactly what the doctor ordered on Saturday: Georgia Tech in Durham. Duke took advantage of its get-right game: during the first half, the Blue Devils scored four unanswered touchdowns in the span of about 12 minutes of game play.

Deon Jackson ran for two scores, which makes this his first career multi-touchdown game. As a whole, Duke proved to be rather efficient in the red zone, too. The Blue Devil had six trips into the red zone, scoring all six times, including four rushing touchdowns.

For Duke, the next two weeks are crucial as the Blue Devils take aim at their second division title under David Cutcliffe: at Virginia and at North Carolina.

Up next: at Virginia

 

No. 5 Wake Forest (tie)

For the second straight game, Wake Forest’s defense looked a little shaky; however, in Saturday’s wild home loss, Louisville took it one step further. Wake Forest allowed 520 yards of total offense — 7.5 yards per play. Evan Conley and Micale Cunningham combined 295 passing yards — on 24 attempts — and four touchdowns.

The Demon Deacons have fallen to 80th in the FBS in terms of defensive efficiency, according to ESPN. Not all hope is lost just yet, though. Wake Forest (5-1) still has the chance for a big season in 2019. Over the next three weeks, Wake will host Florida State and NC State. Those become critical contests for the Deacs.

Up next: Florida State

 

No. 7 North Carolina

After six games in six weeks, North Carolina finally had an off week to regroup. The Tar Heels, amid the chaos, slid down a few notches in this week’s ACC Football Power Rankings. That may be unjust; however, good luck trying to make sense of the Coastal Division and the league’s larger hierarchy — outside of Clemson.

Regardless, some of the advanced numbers really like Carolina’s chances in the Coastal. Next week, up in Blacksburg, presents a major opportunity for UNC.

Up next: at Virginia Tech

 

No. 8 Virginia Tech

Hendon Hooker has picked up two wins in his first two games as Virginia Tech’s starting quarterback. While Hooker may not be perfect, he’s managed to throw six touchdown passes and no interceptions against Miami and Rhode Island — 9.5 yards per pass attempt, too. He’s also given the Hokies a run element at quarterback: 119 rushing yards on 31 official carries.

One of the things going for Hooker has been the return of wide receiver Damon Hazelton Jr. After hauling in a 72-yard score against Duke, Hazelton truly announced his return against Rhode Island. The veteran wideout snagged five balls for 93 yards and two touchdowns.

As good as Hazelton was, Virginia Tech’s most impressive offensive play/effort came from running back Deshawn McClease — unfortunately on a catch that doesn’t officially count.

Up next: North Carolina

 

No. 9 Miami

So far this season, no team has moved up and down these rankings as violently as Miami. This week’s ranking likely doesn’t do this team justice, unfortunately. Give that some time, though. There’s no questioning this team’s talent, especially on defense, and the win over Virginia on Friday was solid.

If you still own stock in the Hurricanes, don’t sell it just yet. Lining up against Georgia Tech next week should help pad the numbers some, too.

Also: man, Brevin Jordan continues to be an absolute stud. Jordan caught just two passes against Virginia, but he’s now up to 25 receptions for the season (No. 14 in the ACC). The sophomore tight end averages 69.5 receiving yards per game, good for No. 10 in the ACC. He’s one of only two tight ends to rank inside the top 20 of the league in yards per game.

Jordan now has nine receptions of 20+ yards this season, which is tied for second in the ACC: 36 percent of his catches this year have gone for 20 or more yards.

Up next: Georgia Tech

 

No. 10 Florida State

The struggles of Florida State on the road against Clemson shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. (#ROYBusSZN) But, wow, did things look chaotic for Florida State on Saturday, which is a problematic trend under Willie Taggart.

With James Blackman back under center, FSU managed just 253 yards of total offense. Blackman averaged under three yards per pass attempt, and tossed two interceptions, too.

Someone free poor Cam Akers, please.

Up next: at Wake Forest

 

No. 11 NC State

Similar to Miami, behind a strong defense, there’s opportunity for NC State to ascend in these rankings as well. Remember: it’s the ACC — just wait a week, everything can change.

Back on Saturday, we detailed just how strong NC State’s pass rush has been this season, especially over the last two games. (Make sure to check that out.) Larrell Murchison has played like a mad man up front for NC State; he registered 5.5 sacks, alone, against Florida State and Syracuse. That two-week total is more than eight FBS teams have so far this season, including Boston College (5).

The Wolfpack flexed some defensive muscles last Thursday against Syracuse — coming off a bye week. Now, with a long week to prepare, NC State must travel north for Boston College, which will be without Anthony Brown at quarterback.

Up next: at Boston College

 

No. 12 Syracuse

It’s been rough times on offense for Dino Babers and Syracuse this season; the loss of Eric Dungey has proven to be critical. Syracuse now ranks 94th nationally in offensive efficiency, per ESPN — only Georgia Tech ranks lower among ACC teams.

Things won’t get any easier this week, either.

Up next: Pitt (Friday, 10/18)

 

No. 13 Boston College

As we discussed last week, Boston College’s defense has really struggled this season — ranked No. 101 nationally in efficiency. The Eagles are now without veteran quarterback Anthony Brown, a three-year starter, for the rest of the season.

AJ Dillon is already overtaxed; the junior back averages 24 carries per game, which ranks second most in the FBS. However, BC may now need to feed Dillon more than ever before.

Up next: NC State

 

No. 14 Georgia Tech

The loss at Duke was Georgia Tech’s fourth in a row; in three road games this season, the Yellow Jackets are winless and have a point differential of -78.

After Georgia Tech scored first in this game, Duke ripped off 38 unanswered points. The Blue Devils scored every time they had the ball in the first half — all five possessions.

On the sneak, though, Jordan Mason is having a nice season out of the backfield for the Yellow Jackets.

Up next: at Miami

 

Contributor Rankings

 David GlennBrian GeisingerJosh GrahamConsensus
1ClemsonClemsonClemsonClemson
2VirginiaVirginiaVirginiaVirginia
3PittPittPittPitt
4DukeLouisvilleWake ForestLouisville
5LouisvilleUNCDukeDuke
6Wake ForestWake ForestLouisvilleWake Forest
7UNCDukeUNCUNC
8Virginia TechMiamiVirginia TechVirginia Tech
9MiamiVirginia TechMiamiMiami
10Florida StateNC StateFlorida StateFlorida State
11NC StateFlorida StateNC StateNC State
12SyracuseSyracuseSyracuseSyracuse
13Boston CollegeBoston CollegeBoston CollegeBoston College
14Georgia TechGeorgia TechGeorgia TechGeorgia Tech

 

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