Your weekly ACC power rankings: Tough loss for UNC but it was a good sign

‘This one definitely hurts’: UNC’s Patrice Rene after loss to Virginia Tech

UNC defensive back Patrice Rene talks with reporters following the Tar Heels' loss to Virginia Tech Saturday night, Oct. 13, 3018.
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UNC defensive back Patrice Rene talks with reporters following the Tar Heels' loss to Virginia Tech Saturday night, Oct. 13, 3018.

Show me a team that doesn’t play well after a poor performance and I’ll show you a team that has given up on the season.

Show me a team that doesn’t play well after an open date on the schedule and I’ll show you a poorly-coached team.

North Carolina’s 22-19 home loss to Virginia Tech was undoubtedly a shot to the solar plexus but it was neither of the above.

The Tar Heels (1-4) rebounded from the embarrassing loss at Miami on Sept. 27 and came back with some fight against the Hokies.

After a week off, Larry Fedora’s seventh UNC team looked engaged and, quite frankly, different in building second-half leads of 16-7 and 19-14 over Virginia Tech.

A change at quarterback, freshman Cade Fortin for almost a half before an injury, had a lot do with that. Par for Fedora’s post-Mitch Trubisky course, Fortin couldn’t get out of the first half.

But in piling up yards, a season-high 522, against Bud Foster’s defense, UNC looked alive. If that doesn’t sound like much, consider Virginia Tech smashed UNC 59-7 last year and 34-3 the previous year.

So while no one at UNC is interested in “being close,” sometimes you need a horsehoes-and-hand-grenades loss to use as a port in the storm.

Twice this season, UNC has been wiped out (41-19 at ECU and 47-10 at Miami). Twice, Fedora has conjured the appropriate response in the next game: a 38-35 win over Pittsburgh and Saturday’s nailbiter.

At the risk of being obvious, the key here is to get the players’ attention without the lopsided loss. The way Syracuse can score points in a hurry, that could be an issue this week.

As painful as the outcome, Fedora needs more efforts like he got from his group on Saturday night because the final record (another 3-9 finish, or worse, is definitely in play) is unlikely to denote progress.

In a vacuum, you judge a coach by his ability to reach and motivate the players. Fedora did that on Saturday night and that’s his best hope going forward.

That and Fortin being the real deal.

On to the “Only* ACC Power Rankings That Matter:”

1. Clemson

Record: 6-0 (3-0 ACC)

Last game: at Wake Forest (W, 63-3)

Next game: Saturday, vs. N.C. State

Vegas is sweet on the Tigers, who opened as a 17-point favorite against N.C. State. The Tigers have played two competent teams this season and beat them by two points (Texas A&M) and four (Syracuse).

2. N.C. State

Record: 5-0 (2-0 ACC)

Last game: vs. Boston College (W, 28-23)

Next game: Saturday, at Clemson

The Wolfpack played its best game of the season against Clemson in 2016 (a 24-17 OT loss at Death Valley) and 2017 (a 38-31 home loss).

3. Duke

Record: 5-1 (1-1 ACC)

Last game: at Georgia Tech (W, 28-14)

Next game: Saturday, vs. Virginia

Great spot for the Blue Devils: they get the Wahoos after an emotional upset and at home.

4. Miami

Record: 5-2 (2-1 ACC)

Last game: at Virginia (L, 16-13)

Next game: Oct. 26, at Boston College

Mark Richt needs to convince his players the games against Virginia count the same as the ones against Virginia Tech.

5. Boston College

Record: 5-2 (2-1 ACC)

Last game: vs. Louisville (W, 38-20)

Next game: Oct. 26, vs. Miami

Much-needed rest for the Eagles before they have to go through a five-game wringer, starting with Miami next Friday.

6. Syracuse

Record: 4-2 (1-2 ACC)

Last game: at Pittsburgh (L, 44-37, OT)

Next game: Saturday, vs. UNC

And this is a sweetheart spot for the Orange: a week off after a fairly stupid loss and UNC trying to recover from an emotional stinger.

7. Virginia Tech

Record: 4-2 (3-0 ACC)

Last game: at UNC (W, 22-19)

Next game: Oct. 25, vs. Georgia Tech

If the Hokies wind up in Charlotte on Dec. 1, they can thank safety Tyree Rodgers for that game-saving, goal-line hit of UNC’s Michael Carter.

8. Virginia

Record: 4-2 (2-1 ACC)

Last game: vs. Miami (W, 16-13)

Next game: Saturday, at Duke

Huge win for the Wahoos’ bowl prospects. After this road trip to Duke, they hit a three-game soft spot (UNC, Pitt and Liberty all at home).

9. Florida State

Record: 3-3 (1-3 ACC)

Last game: at Miami (L, 28-27)

Next game: Saturday, vs. Wake Forest

The Seminoles host the Deacs in a must-win game for their 36-year bowl streak.

10. Pittsburgh

Record: 3-4 (2-1 ACC)

Last game: at Notre Dame (L, 19-14)

Next game: Oct. 27, vs. Duke

I give up on the Panthers. They’re spotting dimes (beating Syracuse, nearly beating Notre Dame) and eating onions (losing to UNC).

11. Wake Forest

Record: 3-3 (0-2 ACC)

Last game: vs. Clemson (L, 63-3)

Next game: Saturday, at Florida State

The Deacs could ruin what’s left of FSU’s season with their first win in Tallahassee since 2008.

12. Georgia Tech

Record: 3-4 (1-3 ACC)

Last game: vs. Duke (L, 28-14)

Next game: Oct. 25, at Virginia Tech

If Paul Johnson wants to be the smartest guy in the room, he needs to avoid David Cutcliffe.

13. UNC

Record: 1-4 (1-2 ACC)

Last game: vs. Virginia Tech (L, 22-19)

Next game: Saturday, at Syracuse

Syracuse has had some bad teams since it joined the ACC. This is not one of them. Definition of bad timing for the Tar Heels in their first conference tilt with the Orange.

14. Louisville

Record: 2-5 (0-4 ACC)

Last game: at Boston College (L, 38-20)

Next game: Oct. 27, vs. Wake Forest

Searches for something nice to write ... junior kicker Blanton Creque is a perfect 6 of 6 on field goals this season.

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