1. Clemson (Last week: 52-14 W vs Georgia Tech)
Until proven otherwise, this will be where Clemson sits. Trevor Lawrence (13/23, 168 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT; 3 car, 24 yds, 1 TD) looked human, but Travis Etienne (12 car, 205 yds, 3 TD) bounced back from an early fumble to basically put on a showcase of how fast he can run various distances with people chasing - but not touching - him. The defense also stiffened when they needed to and had almost as many sacks (4) as Georgia Tech had completions (7).
2. NC State (Last week: 34-6 W vs East Carolina)
I don’t need to rehash too much of what the Wolfpack did in this one since, well, you are reading this on an NC State site, but suffice it to say that the offense looked good under first-time starting QB Matt McKay (25/37, 308 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT; 6 car, 35 yds, 2 TD), and the defense quickly and stifled the Pirates for the last three quarters of the game. The defense collected three sacks, a fumble recovery, and an interception, while the offensive line didn’t allow a sack all game and paved the way for the rushing attack to average 6.2 yards/carry on the day. Newcomer Tabari Hines (4 rec, 74 yds, TD; 1 car, 34 yds) looks to be a perfect fit in the offense.
3. Virginia (Last week: 30-14 W @ Pittsburgh)
A 16-point road conference win is impressive, even if it is against Pitt. Then again, Pitt was the Coastal representative in the ACC Championship Game last year. Then again, Pitt was the Coastal representative in the ACC Championship Game last year. The Wahoos actually trailed 14-13 at the half, but the defense adjusted well and shut out the Panthers in the second half with constant pressure on Pitt QB Kenny Pickett. Bryce Perkins (20/34, 181 yds, 2 TD, 0 INT; 18 car, 44 yds) wasn’t at his best, but he didn’t turn the ball over and was efficient enough. He’s a ticking time-bomb of a human highlight reel.
4. Boston College (Last week: 35-28 W vs Virginia Tech)
Down 14-7 in the 2nd quarter, Boston College reeled off three TDs (aided by a Virginia Tech fumbled punt), and that turned out to be the difference in the game. A.J. Dillon had a very pedestrian effort (for A.J. Dillon), carrying the ball 23 times for 81 yards and a TD. Anthony Brown was 15/26, 275 yards, 2 TD, and 0 INT, while also running 5 times for 15 yards and a TD (on a 28-yard run). The turnover gods smiled on BC in this one, as the Eagles enjoyed a +4 TO margin. That won’t happen every week, and the five total turnovers forced (3 INT, 2 fumbles) masked what was a very mediocre performance by the BC defense (442 total yards allowed).
5. Wake Forest (Last week: 38-35 W vs Utah State)
To the casual fan, a three-point home win versus Utah State seems like quite the underwhelming achievement, and more of a cause for concern than jubilation; however, this ain’t your daddy’s Utah State. The Aggies are coming off an 11-win season and are in the first year of the return of the last coach to win 11 games there, Gary Anderson (no, not the uni-barred former NFL kicker). Jamie Newman was fantastic for Wake in this one (34/47, 401 yds, 3 TD, 0 INT; 21 car, 36 yds, 1 TD) as the offense hummed along nicely, but the defense struggled to stop Utah State. He doesn’t play in the ACC, but huge credit to Utah State linebacker David Woodward who had 24 tackles (18 solo) in the game, including 3.5 TFL and a sack.
6. Syracuse (Last week: 24-0 W vs Liberty)
The Orange defense was outstanding in this one, holding Liberty to just 234 yards of total offense while racking up 8 sacks, 14 TFL, and forcing four turnovers (2 fumbles, 2 INT). The bad news for ‘Cuse is that the offense looked very “meh” behind a struggling
Danny Tommy DeVito (17/35, 176 yds, 0 TD, 2 INT; 6 car, 21 yds). The running game, outside of a 42-yard Moe Neal TD run, wasn’t exactly confidence inspiring, either, against one of the worst teams at the FBS level.
7. Virginia Tech (Last week: 28-35 L @ Boston College)
If it weren’t for turnovers, VT wins this game easy, but if you turn the ball over five times in a game, you really can’t expect to win. QB Ryan Willis surrendered four of those turnovers himself (3 INT, 1 fumble), in what otherwise would have been a great performance (29/47, 344 yds, 4 TD). The VT run game, though, couldn’t do much of anything, averaging just 2.3 yards/carry on 42 rushes. Defensively, the Hokies struggled to get much pressure on BC QB Anthony Brown, and that resulted in Brown being able to sit in the pocket long enough to uncork a few back-breaking long balls. VT has some issues that need correcting, but self-inflicted issues can be more easily corrected... well... sometimes.
8. North Carolina (Last week: 24-20 W vs South Carolina - in Charlotte)
In what ended up being the Pillow Fight of the Week, the Tar Heels managed to be the team to not trip over their own feet as much and wound up with a ‘W’ to their credit for not being stupid at football for one week. Javonte Williams ran 18 times for 102 yards and former QB Chazz Surratt proved just how horrible the UNC-CH defense was a year ago by instantly becoming their best defender and piling up 12 tackles and a sack. South Carolina QB Jake Bentley threw two INTs in the last three minutes, and then took a sack on the last play of the game rather than throwing the ball up. Also, hilarious moment: Mack Brown called for a UNC kneel down at midfield on 4th down with 11 seconds left in the game. That gave South Carolina the ball at the UNC 47 with an opportunity for a Hail Mary pass, but the Gamecocks pissed away that opportunity. Will Muschamp is totally getting fired this year, but... Mack is Back (to mediocre football), y’all!
9. Miami (Last week: 20-24 L vs Florida - in Orlando)
It looked for a while like Manny Diaz might have the Coastal Division favorite with a real life offense, but then the second half happened and it’s pretty apparent some of the same woes that burdened the Hurricanes last year are still present. A healthy DeeJay Dallas only getting 15 touches (11 car, 94 yds, 1 TD; 4 rec, 37 yds) is criminal and a complete indictment of the offensive play-calling in the game for Miami. Despite what most pundits tell you, Jarren Williams (19/30, 214 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT; 15 car, -43 yds) looked far from the answer at QB in his first start, although he was running for his life after the 2018 FSU O-line apparently transferred to Miami and got the start in this one. Looks like it might be another wasted year of a top-notch Hurricanes defense.
10. Florida State (Last week: 31-36 L vs Boise State)
Hey, it’s 2019; everyone knows there’s no shame in losing to Boise State. But, uh, Florida State... what happened?! The Seminoles had a 31-19 lead going into the half and then didn’t score again. The overall offensive numbers look good: Justin Blackman was 23/33 for 327 yards, 3 TD, and 0 INT, and Cam Akers ran for 116 yards and a TD on just 15 carries. However, the Seminoles failed to have a single second-half drive cover as much as 20 yards and squandered the one gifted possession they had when the FSU defense forced and recovered a fumble to start the offense off in Boise State territory. FSU gets a bad Louisiana-Monroe team next week before heading to Virginia to kick off conference play.
11. Louisville (Last week: 17-35 L vs Notre Dame)
Dang, if for a hot minute it didn’t seem like Scott Satterfield was going to instantly claim ACC Coach-of-the-Year. But with an opportunity to possibly take a lead into halftime, the Louisville offense got messy and gave up the lead, which they wouldn’t get back. Notre Dame forced Louisville to have to throw the ball more and the Cardinals simply can’t do that effectively right now. This Cardinals team did show a lot of promise in the loss, looking to have a lot more potential than some other ACC teams this week.
12. Pittsburgh (Last week: 14-30 L vs Virginia)
PItt just ain’t that good, y’all. Their defense did a commendable job against Bryce Perkins, though, limiting him big time and forcing him to beat them with his arm and a short, efficient passing game (unfortunately for the Panthers, he did beat them that way). The Pitt D was able to get pressure on Perkins, tallying 3 sacks and 6 QB hurries. Pitt’s player of the game was probably their punter, Kirk Christodoulou (4 punts, 43.0 yds/punt), so that should tell you all you need to know.
13. Duke (Last week: 3-42 L vs Alabama - in Atlanta)
I mean, it was 0-0 after the first quarter (cue Frank Beamer). Even being down 14-3 at the half had to seem like a small victory. The offense only managed 204 yards of total offense in the first game sans Daniel Jones. The Duke defense did manage to get a sack, but also failed to register a single QB hurry, deflect a pass, or force a fumble in the game. It was a rough game. The Blue Devils get NC A&T next and will hope things go better, but the Aggies are no joke.
14. Georgia Tech (Last week: 14-52 L @ Clemson)
Ain’t no shame in losing to Clemson, especially at Clemson, but if anyone wanted to know just how hard it is to rebuild a program after it’s lived in Tripleoptionville for about a decade, this game was evidence of that. Jordan Mason ran 13 times for 72 yards and a TD. That’s the extent of GT’s offensive highlights. The defense, meanwhile, forced three Clemson turnovers. GT is going to be the 2019 poor man’s version of 2018 Miami.