1. Duke (last week: 41-7 W @ UConn)
Just another week of the Blue Devils taking care of business. Duke was 12 seconds shy of a pitching a shutout of the Huskies. UConn managed just 203 yards of total offense; they had 295 yards punting. Duke hosts Notre Dame on Saturday night in Durham.
2. Miami (last week: 41-7 W @ Temple)
Like Duke, Miami just continues to take care of business, this week destroying Temple in the Manny Diaz Bowl. The Hurricanes have been balanced on offense while the defense suffocated the Owls, including holding them to 11 yards on 16 carries. Miami hits a bye week before opening ACC play against Georgia Tech on Oct. 7th.
3. Florida State (last week: 31-24 W @ Clemson)
If you missed this game, you missed one of the two best games of the weekend (Notre Dame vs Ohio State being the other), and you should probably go back and watch it. FSU did not look like the better team for the majority of this game, but they made the big plays they had to and survived Death Valley with an OT win. QB Jordan Travis was clearly banged up, but still led his team to victory. The ACC looks like a three-team race right now at the top.
4. Clemson (last week: 24-31 L vs Florida State)
As mentioned, the Tigers looked like the better team for the vast majority of Saturday’s tilt, but ultimately ended up falling to 0-2 in ACC play on the season. RB Will Shipley is a great player, but the Clemson offense runs through him far too often. Shipley accounted for 1⁄3 of the Tigers offensive plays on Saturday. Unless Garrett Riley’s offense can start spreading the ball around a bit more, defenses are going to continue to have a slightly easier time being able to key on a single player.
5. North Carolina (last week: 41-24 W @ Pittsburgh)
UNC continues their easy scheduling jaunt through severely flawed opponents. This week, they played a Pitt team that is apparently seeing just how far a team can go while barely fielding an offense. Despite losing their starting QB in the 2nd quarter and their starting RB in the 4th quarter, the Panthers managed to top 300 yards of offense against an FBS team for the first time this year. That’s not a good look for UNC. Next up for the Tar Heels is a bye week, followed up by a home game against Syracuse, which conveniently for UNC will be coming fresh off a game against Clemson’s five-star laden roster.
6. Louisville (last week: 56-28 W vs Boston College)
The Cards currently sit atop the ACC standings with Florida State. Louisville’s offense continues to impress, this week posting 582 yards of offense and putting up a 56-spot on a Boston College team that pushed FSU to the wire last week. The defense has its flaws, but is plenty good enough, especially if the Cards’ offense produces the way it did this week.
7. Georgia Tech (last week: 30-16 W @ Wake Forest)
Yeah, I didn’t see this one coming. The Yellow Jackets had played better than their 1-2 record heading into the game indicated, but they were in control of this one pretty much from start to finish. Even Wake’s brief 3-0 lead saw the GT defense bow up to keep the Deacs out of the endzone early. That turned out to be a tone-setter for the win. This isn’t a great GT team, but they’re showing improvement. Three of the next five are clearly winnable games (Bowling Green, Boston College, @ Virginia), so the Jackets should - or at least could - be on the doorstep of bowl eligibility with three weeks to play.
8. NC State (last week: 24-21 W @ Virginia)
Even more than the season opener at UConn, this was a Wolfpack win that didn’t quite feel like it. NC State did just about everything it could to lose on Friday in Charlottesville, and truth be told, they probably should have lost. This is a very flawed State team right now with a fairly daunting ACC schedule ahead of them. With injuries stacking up, especially in the secondary, and continued erratic play from the QB position, the Wolfpack have a lot to clean up and little time to do it should they accomplish what they intend to this year.
9. Syracuse (last week: 29-16 W vs Army)
After a game-opening 75-yard TD drive by Army, Syracuse’s defense bowed up and allowed less than 200 yards the rest of the game. The Orange offense was the issue, tallying just 77 yards of offense and 3 points in the 1st half. They did come alive in the 2nd half, though. With Clemson up next, this coming Saturday’s game will likely mark the 4th straight week of the Syracuse offense scoring fewer points than the week before. The good news is that after that, they play UNC, whose defense - while improved, no doubt - is a funhouse mirror that makes opposing offenses look mightier than they really are.
10. Virginia (last week: 21-24 L vs NC State)
The Cavaliers put together their best effort of the season, coming agonizingly close to topping NC State and former Wahoo QB Brennan Armstrong. Alas, it wasn’t enough and the Cavaliers dropped to 0-4 on the year. Virginia played aggressive early when they shouldn’t have, setting up State with a 49-yard TD drive to open the scoring, and then played conservative in the 3rd quarter settling for a pair of FGs deep in NC State territory. Those decisions, plus the the shooting-themselves-in-the-foot penalties at the end of the game, ended up handing the win to the Wolfpack. There are a pair of winnable contests immediately on the horizon, with tilts at Boston College and home against William & Mary.
11. Pittsburgh (24-41 L vs North Carolina)
For a bit there in the first half, it actually looked like Pitt was going to be able to stick with UNC, but ultimately the Panthers lack of an actual offense caught up with them. Of Pitt’s 307 total yards in the game, 153 came on the first two drives of the game. What hope Pitt had of a comeback was wiped out when UNC’s Tayon Halloway took a cheap shot on QB Phil Jurkovec that knocked Jurkovec out of the game (Halloway was ejected) late in the first half. Even with Jurkovec, Pitt’s offense is awful. Without him it’s far worse.
12. Wake Forest (last week: 16-30 L vs Georgia Tech)
Wake isn’t actually as bad as last week’s outcome would indicate. It took a lot of sloppy play, to the tune of five turnovers, for the game to turn out like it did. The Deacs actually outgained GT (only by 6 yards, but still), played relatively clean outside of the turnovers (2 penalities for 15 yards), and held the ball for almost four minutes more than the Jackets, but being -4 in turnover margin is going to doom most any team. Dave Clawson has a bye week to clean it up before facing Clemson.
13. Boston College (last week: 28-56 L @ Louisville)
Last week’s almost upset of Florida State is certainly far in the rearview now. The Eagles were put away quickly by Louisville, although the good news for BC is that the offense did tally 427 yards of offense and was able to find success on the ground while playing a turnover-free game. The remaining schedule is actually about as kind as it can be (minus the season-ender against Miami): Virginia, @ Army, @ GT, UConn, @ Cuse, VT, @ Pitt. There’s a path to a bowl game for the Eagles.
14. Virginia Tech (last week: 17-24 L @ Marshall)
Brent Pry had a very successful run as defensive coordinator under James Franklin at Vanderbilt and Penn State. He should highlight those years on his resume and maybe just list 2022 and 2023 as sabbatical years in his next interviews.