Week one has come and gone. The ACC picture is slightly different than I anticipated heading into the season, although we will get a much clearer picture when the conference matchups kick up. After the jump, you'll find my rankings. Let me know where you all agree or disagree. Spoiler Alert: I may have overreacted to the Wake-Liberty game.
1. Florida State (W 69-3 vs. Murray State)
Next Week: Savannah State
The Florida State defense was as good as advertised against the Murray State Racers. The Seminoles forced 3 turnovers, had 6 sacks, and only allowed 156 yards of total offense. Offensively they had 5 running backs average more than 5 yards per carry. E.J. Manuel did have one interception which is something that will need to be corrected as they move forward on their march towards the BCS.
2. Clemson (W 26-19 vs. Auburn)
Next Week: Ball State
No Sammy Watkins, no problem. Deandre Hopkins was more than capable filling in for Sammy Watkins, as he finished the night with a school record 13 receptions. Running back Andre Ellington was sensational against this touted Auburn defensive line. Ellington finished with 231 rushing yards on just 26 carries, good for an average of 8.9 yards/rush. Clemson will not be tested in their next two games against Ball State and Furman respectively, but their September 22 showdown at Tallahassee promises to be a great one.
3. Virginia Tech (W 20-17 vs. Georgia Tech)
Next Week: Austin Peay
Virginia Tech managed to escape and find a way to win in Blacksburg on Labor Day. This is a game they absolutely had to win when you consider that they face Clemson and Florida State from the Atlantic, while Georgia Tech faces Clemson, but avoids Florida State. Last night showed that Virginia Tech is going to greatly miss David Wilson, Danny Coale, and Jarrett Boykin. Suddenly that November 8th game against Florida State looks a lot more winnable for the Seminoles.
4. North Carolina (W 62-0 vs. Elon)
Next Week: at Wake Forest
I know it's only Elon, but 62-0 is still very impressive. I was hyping up Giovanni Bernard last year, and yesterday he started his campaign for ACC Offensive Player of the Year. Bernard had 203 all-purpose yards including a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown, and punt return touchdown. The Carolina defense was also very impressive, as they only allowed Elon to gain 170 yards of total offense. Carolina is not bowl eligible this year, and therefore cannot participate in the ACC Championship game, but because they do not have to play Clemson or Florida State they have a very realistic chance to finish with the best record in the Coastal.
5. Georgia Tech (L 20-17 at Virginia Tech)
Next Week: Presbyterian
Tevin Washington appeared much improved until it counted on 3rd down in overtime. He committed the cardinal skin and threw the ball off his back foot into coverage. Washington just needed it to throw it away and live to attempt the field goal. The Yellow Jackets played very admirably and were really a missed tackle away from winning in regulation. I'm really looking forward to their September 15th game against Virginia.
6. Virginia (W 43-19 vs. Richmond)
Next Week: vs. Penn State
Virginia just dominated Richmond of Saturday. They outgained the Spiders by nearly 300 yards and almost doubled them in time of possession. Michael Rocco was very efficient, completing more than two-thirds of his passes, and finished with more than 300 yards and had no turnovers. Virginia has a very manageable schedule this year, and could be heading into their road game at Virginia Tech with a chance to win the Coastal. It's very important for them to continue their momentum against Penn State next week, who is coming off a loss to Ohio.
7. North Carolina State (L 35-21 vs. Tennessee)
Next Week: at Connecticut
There were lofty expectations for the Wolfpack coming into this season. In the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff special, they did not meet those expectations. Tennessee was able to burn N.C. State through the air at will, and on the flip side Mike Glennon had 4 costly interceptions. The Wolfpack defense allowed 524 yards of offense, and receivers like Sammy Watkins will absolutely burn them when the face each other. It's beginning to look more and more like another average year for the Wolfpack.
8. Miami (W 41-32 at Boston College)
Next Week: at Kansas State
Duke Johnson, welcome to the ACC. Johnson was absolutely sensational in his first collegiate game. He finished with 135 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on only 9 carriers. Al Golden needs to ensure that Johnson gets fed the rock on a far more regular basis. If they are going to be bowl eligible, however, their defense must improve. Teams can't allow 542 yards of offense on a consistent basis and expect to be competitive. It's just asking far too much on the offense. Johnson is an early favorite for ACC Freshman of the Year, but he's going to need the defense to step up for them to be playing in late December.
9. Duke (W 46-26 vs. Florida International)
Next Week: at Stanford
Duke gave up a 67 yard touchdown pass early, but then quickly recovered and never looked back en route to a 20 point victory over Florida International. Conner Vernon was a stud at wide receiver, grabbing 10 balls for 180 yards and a touchdown. Because their schedule is so difficult, I'm still not entirely sure they will make a bowl, but they're now squarely on the bowl bubble.
10. Boston College (L 41-32 vs. Miami)
Next Week: Maine
This is a critical season for head coach Frank Spaziani. Some talking heads were even calling yesterday a must-win game for the Eagles. They simply couldn't get it done, and now non-conference matchups at Northwestern and against Notre Dame appear to be very difficult ones. When you factor in those road games, plus conference games against Clemson, Virginia Tech, and at Florida State, it appears that Spaziani will be gone after the season especially considering the new athletic director.
11. Wake Forest (W 20-17 vs. Liberty)
Next Week: North Carolina
I'm suddenly not nearly as optimistic about this season as I was going into Saturday. I can understand getting beat deep once on a touchdown, but Liberty was able to move the ball with relative ease against our defense. Bud Noel will clearly allow our secondary to cover receivers for a longer period of time. Hopefully this allows enough time for our pass rush to get to the opposing quarterbacks. Our offensive line wasn't as bad as anticipated, but the next two weeks will be huge tests for them. Wake needs Terrence Davis back very soon. Michael Campanaro was awesome yesterday, but Matt James was just completely unreliable. He dropped to critical, wide-open 3rd down balls. Tanner put them both right on the money, and they were just dropped. I really liked what I saw out of Deandre Martin when Josh Harris went out with a concussion. From the special teams, I really liked what I saw out of Alex Kinal. Jimmy Newman needed to make his field goal. I can understand not having enough leg, but he had enough leg and just pulled it. Additionally, Wake can't afford to have any mishaps on extra points. That point was critical absolutely critical, and we can't afford to blow an opportunity on 4 points on special teams and expect to beat good teams.
12. Maryland (W 7-6 vs. William & Mary)
Next Week: at Temple
Thank God for Maryland, otherwise I'd have to put Wake last in this week's power rankings. Maryland was only able to gain 236 yards of offense against the Tribe of William & Mary. Freshman Perry Hills had 3 interceptions, and this is a team that absolutely has no margin of error for turnovers. Freshman receive Stefon Diggs is going to be a playmaker in this league, but he's going to need a quaterback who can get him the ball. This game reaffirmed my preseason belief that this team will not win a game in conference.