We know who’s at the top. It’s becoming increasingly clear who’s at the bottom. But as usual in the ACC, the middle is a jumbled mess, and the introduction of our former No. 1 -- Florida State -- that mess has only made things all the more interesting.
1. Clemson Tigers (4-0, 2-0 ACC)
Early in the fourth quarter, the Clemson fans in Death Valley were jeering the playcalling (something offensive coordinator Tony Elliott agreed with, by the way). Twenty minutes later, however, the Tigers were cruising to an easy 34-7 win. A little adversity may have been just what the doctor ordered -- well, that and Travis Etienne -- ahead of a showdown with Virginia Tech.
2. Virginia Tech Hokies (4-0, 0-0)
The win over West Virginia in the opener set the bar, but the Hokies have been on cruise control in the three weeks since, dominating overmatched opposition to the tune of a 129-17 combined score. Clemson, however, is a much bigger challenge, and the atmosphere in Blacksburg for the showdown between our top two teams on Saturday will be amazing.
3. Miami Hurricanes (2-0, 0-0)
The three-week wait to get back on the field seemed to have an early impact on Miami’s performance, as the Hurricanes struggled to put away Toledo. But RB Mark Walton was a dynamo, and once QB Malik Rosier found his footing, the Canes shifted into a new gear. The big question looming ahead of a Friday night showdown with undefeated Duke is whether wide receiver Ahmmon Richards will be back to help spark the offense.
4. NC State Wolfpack (3-1, 1-0)
Not to take away from the NC State celebration -- a well-deserved one -- but after Saturday’s 27-21 win at Florida State, it’s hard not to think how large that opening week loss to South Carolina might loom by season’s end. This is a legitimately good team with what now looks like a legitimately bad loss on the résumé.
5. Florida State Seminoles (0-2, 0-1)
A winless team at No. 5? No, Florida State hasn’t looked great, but if not for myriad self-inflicted wounds and countless red zone blunders, the Seminoles could just as easily be 2-0. But what’s clear from the first two games this season is that the offensive line remains a major weakness, a bad sign with Clemson and Miami still on the docket.
6. Louisville Cardinals (3-1, 1-1)
Kent State proved a nice elixir after Louisville was dismantled at home by Clemson. That the offense was so sharp without Jaylen Smith was also encouraging. Still, Louisville needs a marquee win before we can call the Cardinals one of the top teams in the ACC.
7. Duke Blue Devils (4-0, 1-0)
The beauty of Saturday’s 27-17 win over North Carolina, aside from getting a victory in Chapel Hill to lord over their rivals, was that the Blue Devils looked like such a balanced team, with Daniel Jones making some nice throws, Brittain Brown and Shaun Wilson running well, and the defense coming up with one big play after another.
8. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1, 1-0)
Much like NC State, it’s fair to wonder how long the Yellow Jackets will be kicking themselves for their inexplicable Week 1 loss to Tennessee. TaQuon Marshall continues to impress, and Georgia Tech looks like a real contender in the Coastal.
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-0, 1-0)
Dave Clawson said all week he was worried about Appalachian State, and his concerns proved reasonable. Still, Wake did what it needed to do, with John Wolford enjoying a strong second half. A big blocked kick at the end helping push the Deacons to 4-0 before hosting Florida State this weekend.
10. Virginia Cavaliers (3-1, 0-0)
The most unexpected outcome of the weekend? Yeah, that’d be Virginia, a team left for dead before the season even started that now appears to be a real threat to make a bowl game. Bronco Mendenhall has done a terrific job with this defense, and Kurt Benkert is off to a fine start at QB.
11. North Carolina Tar Heels (1-3, 0-2)
Things are bad at UNC, but also consider that the Heels have been competitive in all four games this year despite massive turnover on offense and shaky play from the defense. The latter issue seemed to take a step toward progress against Duke.
12. Syracuse Orange (2-2, 0-0)
Two things were evident in Saturday’s 35-26 loss to LSU. The first is that Syracuse isn’t going to be an easy out for anyone this year. The second is that the talent on defense is still developing, and there’s a long way to go.
13. Pitt Panthers (1-3, 0-1)
It’s hard to fault Pitt for struggling through an absolute gauntlet -- at Penn State, vs. Oklahoma State, at Georgia Tech. But this was in no way an encouraging 0-3. Pitt really wasn’t in any of the three games, and the Panthers were thumped by Georgia Tech despite getting four takeaways.
14. Boston College Eagles (1-3, 0-2)
Credit to the BC defense for taking it to Clemson in a game that will no doubt serve as a template for future Tigers opponents. But the bottom line is the Eagles simply don’t have the offensive firepower to capitalize on the defense’s strength at the moment.