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ACC power rankings: Tigers, Cards alone at the top; Duke and Wake surge

NC State's Doeren: 'We want to be a better team in week 3 than week 2'

NC State head football coach Dave Doeren talks about the Wolfpack's victory over Marshall and the upcoming game against Furman during a media availability Monday, Sept. 11, 2017.
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NC State head football coach Dave Doeren talks about the Wolfpack's victory over Marshall and the upcoming game against Furman during a media availability Monday, Sept. 11, 2017.

Clemson and Louisville answered their two biggest questions and now they get to face each other.

Now the winner between the Tigers and Cardinals this week will be the ACC’s best shot at sending a team to the College Football Playoff for a fourth straight year.

The biggest question in the preseason for Clemson was, after years of being identified by their offense, could the Tigers win with defense?

Auburn ran for 38 yards (on 42 carries) and threw for 79 (on 24 passes) in a 14-6 loss to Clemson this past Saturday. In eight quarters of football this season, Clemson has not given up a touchdown.

Florida State, the preseason favorite, will still be a factor once its season gets untracked, and the Coastal Division is still the Coastal Division, but Saturday’s game at Louisville feels like one of those “playoff for the playoff” type games.

Louisville, after losing its final three games of 2016, had its own pressing question coming into the season: Is Lamar Jackson still Lamar Jackson?

Listen to UNC football coach Larry Fedora's press conference following the Tar Heels' loss to Louisville in their ACC opener.

Breaking news: The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner is still really good. Jackson produced more than 500 yards and six touchdowns in Louisville’s 47-35 win at North Carolina. It’s downright unfair how he can routinely turn nothing into something. With a running game emerging to save some hits on Jackson, the Cardinals will be even more dangerous.

Preseason lists are pointless, and worrying about them even moreso, but when ESPN didn’t list Jackson as one of the five best players in college football this summer, that seemed foolish.

The Cards’ offensive line is not great, their defense is full of holes and they take way too many dumb penalties but Jackson gives them a chance to knock off Clemson this week and set them up for a special season.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

Ranking the ACC

1. Clemson

Record: 2-0 (0-0 ACC)

Last game: beat Auburn, 14-6. Next game: at Louisville.

For all of their recruiting riches, a shortfall at running back might be the Tigers’ undoing. They need to figure out a way to run the ball more effectively.

2. Louisville

Record: 2-0 (1-0 ACC)

Last game: won at UNC, 47-35. Next game: vs. Clemson

Now we know what “Super Saiyan” (a Dragon Ball reference) means to Lamar Jackson: 525 total yards, 6 touchdowns.

3. Miami

Record: 1-0 (0-0 ACC)

Last game: at Arkansas State, ppd. Next game: vs. Toledo (Sept. 23)

With half of the city underwater after Hurricane Irma, football is secondary for Miami.

4. Florida State

Record: 0-1 (0-0 ACC)

Last game: vs. Louisiana-Monroe, ppd. Next game: vs. N.C. State (Sept. 23)

Same for the Seminoles, who will go 20 days between games.

5. Virginia Tech

Record: 2-0 (0-0 ACC)

Last game: beat Delaware, 27-0. Next game: at ECU

The Hokies’ lost last their last trip to Greenville (in 2015). Odds of that happening again? Slim.

6. Georgia Tech

Record: 1-1 (0-0 ACC)

Last game: beat Jacksonville State, 37-10. Next game: vs. Pittsburgh (Sept. 23)

After 44 rushing attempts in the opener, quarterback TaQuon Marshall had only 13 against Jacksonville State. He did manage to throw for three touchdowns (on only seven pass attempts).

7. N.C. State

Record: 1-1 (0-0 ACC)

Last game: beat Marshall, 37-20. Next game: vs. Furman

Dynamics of the FSU trip (Sept. 23) have changed but not the stakes.

8. Duke

Record: 2-0 (0-0 ACC)

Last game: beat Northwestern, 41-17. Next game: vs. Baylor

Third-year quarterback Daniel Jones (413 total yards, 4 TDs) began his career as a walk-on. He will probably end his career in the NFL.

9. Wake Forest

Record: 2-0 (1-0 ACC)

Last game: won at Boston College, 34-10. Next game: vs. Utah State

No nonsense by the Deacs in their ACC opener. The next two weeks (Utah State, at Appalachian State) might actually be more difficult.

10. UNC

Record: 0-2 (0-1 ACC)

Last game: lost to Louisville, 47-35. Next game: at Old Dominion

High point: 384 passing yards from two quarterbacks.

Low point: Trash-talking Lamar Jackson.

11. Pittsburgh

Record: 1-1 (0-0 ACC)

Last game: lost at Penn State, 33-14 Next game: vs. Oklahoma State

Who made the Panthers’ schedule? The Pokes might hang 60 on them this week.

12. Syracuse

Record: 1-1 (0-0 ACC)

Last game: lost to Middle Tennessee, 30-23 Next game: vs. Central Michigan

The bowl math doesn’t work without a home win over Middle Tennessee.

13. Virginia

Record: 1-1 (0-0 ACC)

Last game: lost to Indiana, 34-17 Next game: vs. Connecticut

That was a “show me” game for the Cavaliers. Bronco Mendenhall, in Year 2, didn’t have to win but he had to show more fight than that.

14. Boston College

Record: 1-1 (0-1 ACC)

Last game: lost to Wake Forest, 34-10 Next game: vs. Notre Dame

Only nine more weeks until the N.C. State game!

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