We have a new king atop the ACC power rankings after Georgia Tech fell at Notre Dame. The other two top teams in the ACC didn’t exactly look great in midweek games but remained undefeated. Meanwhile, our big climbers in Week 3 were Miami (from No. 6 to No. 4) and North Carolina (from No. 9 to No. 6).
1. Clemson Tigers (3-0, 1-0 ACC)
Sure, it wasn’t an entirely perfect performance for the Tigers, as Deshaun Watson threw two interceptions and Louisville kept things close throughout. Still, a conference road game on short rest is never easy, and Wayne Gallman's stellar performance (24 carries, 139 yards) was made all the more impressive given that Clemson was without its starting center.
2. Florida State Seminoles (3-0, 1-0 ACC)
Boston College bottled up the running game, and Everett Golson hardly looked ready to carry the load on his own, throwing for just 119 yards (5.0 per attempt). But while the passing game gets the kinks worked out, FSU’s defense looks much improved, led by Terrance Smith and Jalen Ramsey, who combined to cause a fumble and return it for a score.
3. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1)
They made a late run, and they missed two field goals, but Notre Dame did something to the Yellow Jackets no one has accomplished in a while: The Irish completely stifled the triple option. Justin Thomas and the Georgia Tech offense found precious little running room, and the passing game is clearly not what it was a year ago without two receivers now on NFL rosters.
4. Miami Hurricanes (3-0)
We’re choosing to focus on Miami’s dominance over three quarters rather than the utter collapse down the stretch. There are obviously still some big concerns for the Hurricanes to address, but the win over Nebraska was a good step forward in a key nonconference game, and Brad Kaaya has so many weapons to play with on offense that Miami has earned its spot in the top four.
5. NC State Wolfpack (3-0)
Have the Wolfpack played anyone of consequence? No. But they have done everything asked of them, winning three games with relative ease despite the lack of tough competition. Jacoby Brissett has excelled by using his tailbacks and short passing game, but if NC State wants to compete with the big boys, he’ll need to get on the same page with receivers on the deep ball, too.
6 (tie). Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1)
Brenden Motley isn’t convincing anyone he’s a Heisman contender, but he has done a nice job of managing the offense and limiting his mistakes to keep the Hokies chugging along without starter Michael Brewer. Motley accounted for three touchdowns against Purdue in his first road start, and Virginia Tech racked up offensive, defensive and special-teams touchdowns in the same game for the first time since 2007.
6 (tie). North Carolina Tar Heels (2-1)
If not for some foolish mistakes in an opening week loss to South Carolina, UNC might be 3-0 and making a case for the top spot in our power rankings. As it is, the Tar Heels had no problem thumping previously undefeated Illinois, with Marquise Williams looking like he’s completely rebounded from that rough first outing.
8 (tie). Pittsburgh Panthers
Despite early QB struggles and little production from the run game, Pitt fought back from a 17-7 halftime deficit and looked to send it to overtime against Iowa. Instead, the Hawkeyes drilled a 57-yard field goal to win it as time expired, and Pitt has now lost 32 consecutive games in which it has trailed in the fourth quarter.
8 (tie). Duke Blue Devils (2-1)
The concern in the first two wins of the season was that Thomas Sirk hadn’t really been tested. When he finally faced a real challenge against Northwestern, things didn’t look good. Duke’s D continues to impress, but Sirk found virtually no room to work, averaging just 3.8 yards per pass. With no downfield passing game to speak of, Duke finished just 3-of-17 on third-down tries.
10. Syracuse Orange (3-0, 1-0 ACC)
Life gets tough when Leonard Fournette and LSU come to town next week, and the QB troubles continue for Syracuse after Eric Dungey went down with an injury against Central Michigan. But the important thing for now, according to head coach Scott Shafer, is that the Orange are 3-0.
11. Boston College Eagles (2-1, 0-1 ACC)
BC’s defense proved once again that it’s among the best in the country, confounding Florida State and holding Dalvin Cook to just 54 yards on 14 carries. The problem, however, is that the offense is in shambles, and starting QB Darius Wade is now done for the season with a broken ankle.
12. Louisville Cardinals (0-3, 0-1 ACC)
Where does Bobby Petrino even start to look for answers? The Cardinals have started three quarterbacks in three games. The running backs have done virtually nothing. The offensive line is a mess. Yes, Louisville has played three relatively tough opponents, but it’s clear Petrino has his work cut out for him if he wants to salvage the season.
13. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-1, 0-1 ACC)
Add John Wolford to the list of the ACC’s wounded QBs, but Kendall Hinton came in and looked good. Sure, he tossed two interceptions that underscored his inexperience, but he also added a serious jolt to a Deacons offense that has long been in need of one. His versatility as both a runner and a thrower might actually make Wake more dangerous moving forward.
14. Virginia Cavaliers (1-2)
It’s possible the lone win Virginia has had so far -- 35-29 over William & Mary on Saturday -- was its least impressive performance. Coming on the heels of a near upset of Notre Dame, this was supposed to be a chance for the Hoos to flex their muscles. Instead, they nearly blew a lead in the fourth quarter and enter a final nonconference matchup against Boise State with plenty of questions still to answer.