The college football season is almost halfway over and we are finally to the point where we can accurately assess a conference, as ACC play is in full swing. We are gearing up for a messy run of conference games, as no one team besides Florida State (which has looked a bit shaky so far) has emerged as a force of dominance. It appears that, for now, the ACC teams will continue trading blows and knocking each other down in the rankings, which seems to be one thing that the ACC truly does better than anyone else.
1st: Virginia Cavaliers (3-2, 1-0 ACC)
Ranking: NR in either major poll
Previous Result: 45-13 W versus Kent State
This season looks like it'll be the one that allows Mike London to keep his job for another year or two. Despite having two losses this early in the season, I still think Virginia is the best team in the Coastal Division for a few reasons. For one, their defense has been superb throughout, allowing an average of 23 points per game, as well as leading the nation in turnovers forced (18 so far), accounting for a +5 turnover margin. Their defense has been stifling and has made up for any offensive shortcomings they may have. Another reason is for their ability to hang close with some of the nation's top teams. They gave UCLA and their high-powered offense quite the scare in week one and then managed to hang close with BYU in week four. The Cavaliers from a few years ago would have been blown out in those games. There's something different with this team.
2nd: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-0, 1-0 ACC)
Ranking: NR in either major poll
Previous Result: 27-24 W at Virginia Tech
Georgia Tech may have had a bye this week, but I am still satisfied with their performance against Virginia Tech who, albeit, was a bit shaky after their shocking loss to East Carolina. As usual, Georgia Tech's rushing game is one of the best in the country, something that comes with running a successful option scheme. They've had some close calls in recent weeks, but their ability to run their offense with few turnovers (4 on the season so far) is what has kept them in games and allowed them to rally two weeks ago against Virginia Tech (not to mention picking off Michael Brewer thrice).
3rd: Miami Hurricanes (3-2, 1-1 ACC)
Previous Result: 22-10 W versus Duke
Despite starting out with a crushing loss against Louisville, Miami has managed to recover well, losing a game to Nebraska in which the Hurricanes' run defense was atrocious, allowing 343 rushing yards. Conversely, they held Duke to only 85 rushing yards this week, showing exactly how unpredictable the ACC is. Miami is headed to Atlanta next week and it will be so interesting to see how their defense holds up against a run-centered offense.
4th: Duke Blue Devils (4-1, 0-1 ACC)
Previous Result: 22-10 L at Miami
Saturday night's showdown with Miami served as Duke's first real test of the season after beating four subpar teams (the combined records of Kansas, Elon, Tulane, and Troy is 4-14) to start 4-0. Duke looked solid in all of those games, but it was due in part to the lack of competition. Miami capitalized on Duke's mediocre passing game and held them to an uncharacteristically low 85 rushing yards. Duke will have a bye next week before facing Georgia Tech, meaning that they will have some time to rest and regroup after that uncharacteristic loss.
5th: Virginia Tech Hokies (3-2, 0-1 ACC)
Previous Result: 35-17 W versus Western Michigan
I can't believe that only three weeks ago we were discussing how great the Hokies looked. They were fresh off the upset of Ohio State, a team that many were predicting would go to the football final four. Since then, the Hokies have been stunned late by East Carolina and Georgia Tech, as they have been very prone to turning the ball over. Virginia Tech plays UNC next and will likely put up 50 points on them, as UNC's defense is, well, ghastly.
6th: Pittsburgh Panthers (3-2, 1-0 ACC)
Previous Result: 21-10 L versus Akron
What went wrong? If you had asked me at the beginning of the season which team I thought was most likely to win the Coastal Division, I would have answered you with "Pitt." And, up through week three, I was becoming more and more confident with that pick. The past two weeks, however, have been horrible for Pitt, which has lost to an Iowa team that is somehow above .500 and an Akron team that barely scores 20 points per game. The Panthers play Virginia next and God only knows how much their offense will be stifled by the Cavaliers' defense.
7th: North Carolina Tar Heels (2-2, 0-1 ACC)
Previous Result: 50-35 L at Clemson
Their defense is hemorrhaging points. They're giving up 44 points per game, third-most in the entire nation. 70 points allowed against East Carolina. 50 points allowed against Clemson. The hits just keep on coming.
1st: Florida State Seminoles (4-0, 2-0 ACC)
Ranking: 1 (AP)/ 2 (Coaches)
Previous Result: 56-41 W at NC State
Despite the 4-0 start, it's easy to say that Florida State may not be as good as we had originally thought. After pulling off large comebacks in consecutive weeks against Clemson and NC State, the Noles have looked a bit shaky, much to the chagrin of many FSU fans. After their close encounter with the Wolfpack this past weekend, FSU has dropped a spot in the Coaches Poll, meaning that many are taking notice of the notion that the Seminoles can be beat.
2nd: Clemson Tigers (2-2, 1-1 ACC)
Previous Result: 50-35 W versus North Carolina
After what many refer to as "Clemsoning" against Florida State two weekends ago, the Clemson offense came out at home against an atrocious North Carolina defense and set out to work. Picking apart every bit of UNC's secondary, Clemson's Deshaun Watson threw for 435 and 6 touchdowns, showcasing their offense and the glaring weaknesses of the Tar Heels' defense. The two losses already shouldn't mean much when you think of Clemson's quality. They just had a tough time against two extremely talented opponents (FSU and Georgia).
3rd: Louisville Cardinals (4-1, 2-1 ACC)
Previous Result: 20-10 W versus Wake Forest
I'm sure Louisville would like to pretend that everything up until the fourth quarter didn't happen in their encounter with Wake Forest last Saturday. While it took a while for Louisville's offense to put any amount of points on the board, their defense has continued to be their bread and butter, holding the Demon Deacons to only 100 yards of offense. If the Cardinals' offense could seem to find its groove and stay in it, this team could go rolling through conference play.
4th: NC State Wolfpack (4-1, 0-1 ACC)
Previous Result: 56-41 L versus Florida State
What can I say? That matchup with Florida State was intense. Not only did that game show that the Wolfpack can hang with teams in the upper echelons of college football, but it also showed the world who Jacoby Brissett is and just exactly what he is capable of (I'll give you a hint). Despite losing it at the end, a game like that is definitely a morale booster for both the team and the fanbase.
5th: Boston College Eagles (3-2, 0-1 ACC)
Previous Result: 24-21 L versus Colorado State
Had Boston College won this week against Colorado State, I would have had them a spot or two higher in these rankings. That win earlier this season against USC was so impressive, but this loss to the Rams has me reeling, as they managed to go scoreless the entire fourth quarter. In a game that Boston College needed to win, they couldn't afford to lay an egg like that.
6th: Syracuse Orange (2-2, 0-0 ACC)
Previous Result: 31-15 L versus Notre Dame
I think these just about sum up how Syracuse played last week. They, well, they sure are jerseys!
7th: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-3, 0-1 ACC)
Previous Result: 20-10 L at Louisville
Wake Forest was in this game all the way until the final quarter and looked as if they could pull the upset from the get-go. Their offense never was really there, as they ran for -22 yards, but they were fortunate that Louisville's offense could not find its rhythm either. Wake Forest couldn't hold off the Cardinals forever, however, and that's why they're 2-3. I'll be shocked if they win more than three games this season.