We’re halfway through the season and the way I see it, there’s five tiers of talent amongst the ACC. The argument could be made for four tiers depending on how you choose to consolidate the meaty middle, but for the sake of this exercise, I’m contending that there’s five divides separating the levels of this conference, which are:
Tier 1: Clemson – clearly the .01%
Tier 2: Miami, NC State – the other Top 25 teams
Tier 3: Duke, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Boston College – The box of chocolates tier, you never know what you’re gonna get
Tier 4: Georgia Tech, Pitt, Wake Forest, Virginia – a narrow margin from tier 3 but a divide nonetheless
Tier 5: Florida State, North Carolina, Louisville – rock bottom
The league saw three teams on the bye and only one matchup versus a non-conference opponent (sort of) in Notre Dame, but everyone else was embroiled in ACC-play. Here’s how the rankings look midway through the season:
1. #4 Clemson (6-0 Overall, 3-0 Conference) (LW: #1)
Clemson finished with 698 yards of total offense and had three running backs that rushed for at least 125 yards in their 63-3 dismantling of Wake Forest. Travis Etienne tallied 167 yards and 3 TDs, Lyn-J Dixon totaled 163 yards and 2 TDs, and Adam Choice finished with 128 yards and a score. What’s more, each of those guys did it on the exact same number of carries – 10. Pretty impressive.
Up next: Bye
2. #16 Miami (5-1 Overall, 2-0 Conference) (LW: #2)
The Hurricanes erased a 20-point deficit and pulled off their biggest comeback ever against rival Florida State, beating the Seminoles 28-27. N’Kosi Perry threw 3 second-half TDs and 4 total to push the Canes to their fifth win of the season and remain at the No. 2 spot in the rankings.
Up next: Saturday 10/13 at Virginia (3-2) at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2
3. #20 NC State (5-0 Overall, 2-0 Conference) (LW: #3)
NC State retains their third-place spot after their 28-23 win against Boston College. Ryan Finley went 25-of-34 for 308 yards and 2 TDs, and the Wolfpack combined for 533 yards of total offense as they held on and stifled a late BC-rally to remain undefeated and secure their best start since 2002.
Up next: Bye
4. Duke (4-1 Overall, 0-1 Conference) (LW: #7)
A bye and losses from the few teams above them results in the three-spot leap for the Blue Devils in this week’s power rankings.
Up next: Saturday 10/13 at Georgia Tech (3-3) at 12:20 p.m. on ACC Network
5. Virginia Tech (3-2 Overall, 2-0 Conference) (LW: #4)
The Hokies actually entered halftime against Notre Dame only down 17-16, but the Fighting Irish scored 28 second-half points to crush any chance at an upset, the final score 45-28. Despite outgaining Notre Dame 441 yards to 438 and earning six more first downs, Virginia Tech was ultimately outmatched as turnovers and a porous defense led to their demise.
Up next: Saturday 10/13 at North Carolina (1-3) at 7:00 p.m. on ESPNU
6. Syracuse (4-2 Overall, 1-2 Conference) (LW: #5)
Syracuse had their momentum stunted by weather delays in their contest against Pitt, ultimately leading to their downfall in overtime, 44-37. The Orange have now lost back-to-back conference losses as they failed to put Clemson away two weeks ago, losing that game 27-23.
Up next: Bye
7. Boston College (4-2 Overall, 1-1 Conference) (LW: #6)
Despite storming back from a 28-3 third quarter deficit, the AJ Dillon-less Eagles just didn’t have the juice to finish off the comeback against NC State. Wide receiver Ben Glines stepped up in Dillon’s absence, carrying the ball 16 times for 90 yards and a touchdown in the 28-23 loss; he also caught two passes for 19 yards and a score. BC was 1-for-10 on third down conversions and for those of you keeping score at home, that’s pretty awful.
Up next: Saturday 10/13 vs. Louisville (2-4) at 12:30 p.m. on ACC Network
8. Georgia Tech (3-3 Overall, 1-2 Conference) (LW: #9)
The Yellowjackets went on the road to Louisville where their triple-option attack proved to be dominant against the Cards – they rushed for 542 yards and 8 TDs in the 66-31 rout. Six different players accounted for a rushing touchdown, and TaQuon Marshall threw the ball only twice, completing one of those attempts for 12 yards. Just for good measure, Juanyeh Thomas punctuated the win with an exclamation point and a good ‘ole LMAO with his 95-yard interception return for a touchdown with just 2:18 left in the game.
Up next: Saturday 10/13 vs. Duke (4-1) at 12:20 p.m. on ACC Network
9. Pittsburgh (3-3 Overall, 2-1 Conference) (LW: #13)
Qadree Ollison racked up 192 yards and a score and Darrin Hall added two more touchdowns plus 107 yards as the Panthers came away with the 44-37 overtime win against Syracuse. Pitt does move up several spots in this week’s power rankings, but they cap out amongst their tier of conference talent. After all, how high can one win really prop a team up?
Up next: Saturday 10/13 at #5 Notre Dame (6-0) at 2:30 p.m. on NBC
10. Wake Forest (3-3 Overall, 0-2 Conference) (LW: #8)
Nothing went right for the Demon Deacons as they got blasted at home by Clemson, 63-3. Between the three guys who took snaps for them at QB, Wake was 7-for-27 for 74 yards and an interception. And further proving Murphy’s Law to be painfully true, Greg Dortch even fumbled the ball, so yeah, it was a bad day all-around.
Up next: Bye
11. Virginia (3-2 Overall, 1-1 Conference) (LW: #10)
The Cavs are coming off a bye week and their one-spot slide is due to Pitt’s little jump. Rest assured that Virginia is securely in the bottom tier of the conference.
Up next: Saturday 10/13 vs. #16 Miami (5-1) at 7:00 pm on ESPN2
12. Florida State (3-3 Overall, 1-3 Conference) (LW: #11)
FSU almost pulled off the upset against Miami in their rivalry game, but alas, they fell on the road, 28-27. They were setup with great field position all day thanks to D.J. Matthews, who returned five punts for 145 yards and a touchdown. Florida State’s wins have come against Samford, NIU and Louisville, so while their effort against the Canes is admirable, they’re still left wallowing at the bottom of the barrel.
Up next: Bye
13. North Carolina (1-3 Overall, 1-1 Conference) (LW: #12)
UNC is fresh off a bye week, but don’t expect that to change anything. Their only win of the season came on an overtime field goal against Pitt and if it weren’t for that, plus Hurricane Florence cancelling their game against #18 UCF, the Tar Heels very well could be winless right now. Over/under on how much longer Larry Fedora is in Chapel Hill?
Up next: Saturday 10/13 vs. Virginia Tech (3-2) at 7:00 p.m. on ESPNU
14. Louisville (2-4 Overall, 0-3 Conference) (LW: #14)
Even more embarrassing than UNC is Louisville. The Cards got absolutely destroyed at home against Georgia Tech, allowing 542 rushing yards in the 66-31 loss. Not exactly the way you want to follow up the blown opportunity against FSU the week prior. Vegas has the Cards slated as underdogs in every single one of their remaining six games, so short of some kind of divine intervention, expect them to be holding down this No. 14 spot from here on out.
Up next: Saturday 10/13 at Boston College (4-2) at 12:30 p.m. on ACC Network