ACC Power Rankings: Just like hoops, the league needs Virginia

The ink is basically already dry on the ACC’s feeble resume this season but Virginia has a chance to annotate it with a win at Notre Dame this Saturday.

The Cavaliers (4-0) are up to No. 18 in the national rankings and the league’s best shot, along with Wake Forest (4-0), at any kind of respectability for the non-Clemson division.

Most of the nonconference action is in the books. The ACC went 3-7 against other “Power 5” teams. Clemson (Texas A&M) and UNC (South Carolina) picked up wins over the SEC. Boston College’s win over Rutgers isn’t exactly worth bragging about.

There’s still the end-of-season ACC/SEC rivalry games but Notre Dame really is the only chance to move the needle. The Irish have four ACC games left after opening the season with a win at Louisville. They have won 10 of their past 11 regular-season games against ACC opponents since going 2-3 in 2016 as a part of its half-pregnant arrangement with the league.

This is actually a great spot for Virginia to catch Notre Dame, after its 23-17 at Georgia. The Fighting Irish (2-1) are in playoff-mode. The next loss will knock them out of the College Football Playoff race and probably into the ACC bowl order.

The league’s hope is that whoever wins the Coastal Division can get to the Dec. 7 title game in Charlotte with a number next to its name. Virginia, sloppy in an in-state win over Old Dominion last week, has the best chance at that (although don’t count Miami out just yet).

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has pulled its weight the past two weeks with a close loss at Penn State and a thrilling win over Central Florida. The Panthers, like a good tennis partner, are better when the opponent is better.

Of course, the ACC won’t get any credit for Pitt’s win over UCF, just as UCF didn’t get any credit for blasting the Coastal Division champions last season.

The only way to impress most national folks is to involve the SEC. And then even when you beat them, there’s always a perfectly legitimate reason (draft distractions, coaching distractions, fatigue from the SEC Grinder!) why.

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

1. Clemson

Record: 4-0, 2-0 ACC

Last week: No. 1

Last game: beat Charlotte, 52-10

Next game: at UNC (Saturday)

The Tigers and Dabo Swinney actually lost their last trip to Chapel Hill (21-16 in 2010). Nothing much has changed since then.

2. Wake Forest

Record: 4-0, 0-0 ACC

Last week: No. 2

Last game: beat Elon, 49-7

Next game: at Boston College (Saturday)

You throw out the records when it comes to “The Rivalry.” The road team has won the past five in this Atlantic Division matchup.

3. Virginia

Record: 4-0, 2-0 ACC

Last week: No. 3

Last game: beat Old Dominion, 28-17

Next game: at Notre Dame (Saturday)

The Wahoos have never beaten Notre Dame. They’ve only played twice (1989 and 2015) but that’s besides the point.

4. Pittsburgh

Record: 2-2, 0-1 ACC

Last week: No. 9

Last game: beat UCF, 35-34

Next game: vs. Delaware (Saturday)

The Panthers’ resiliency is admirable. So was that fourth-down trickeration to hand UCF its first regular-season loss since 2016.

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5. Duke

Record: 2-1, 0-0 ACC

Last week: No. 5

Last game: beat Middle Tennessee, 41-18

Next game: at Virginia Tech (Friday)

The Blue Devils have a division coin-toss in four of their next five games. You figure they’ll split the difference.

6. UNC

Record: 2-2, 1-0 ACC

Last week: No. 4

Last game: lost to Appalachian State, 34-31

Next game: vs. Clemson (Saturday)

The schedule is about to open up for the Tar Heels. Just one teensy speed bump ahead.

7. Miami

Record: 2-2, 0-1 ACC

Last week: No. 6

Last game: beat Central Michigan, 17-12

Next game: vs. Virginia Tech (Oct. 5)

The Canes get a week off to tinker with the running game (51 yards on 34 carries vs. Central Michigan).

8. Florida State

Record: 2-2, 1-1 ACC

Last week: No. 13

Last game: beat Louisville, 35-24

Next game: vs. N.C. State (Saturday)

Wisconsin fans probably didn’t recognize that version of Alex Hornibrook (15 of 20, 255 yards, two TDs). The grad transfer might have saved FSU’s season.

9. N.C. State

Record: 3-1, 0-0 ACC

Last week: No. 7

Last game: beat Ball State, 34-23

Next game: at Florida State (Saturday)

N.C. State has started 1-0 in the ACC with a division road win only once ... in 2017 after beating Florida State 27-21.

10. Syracuse

Record: 2-2, 0-1 ACC

Last week: No. 8

Last game: beat Western Michigan, 52-33

Next game: vs. Holy Cross (Saturday)

Better late than never for quarterback Tommy DeVito (five total TDs), who looked like he might have figured some things out in the win over Western Michigan.

11. Boston College

Record: 3-1, 1-0 ACC

Last week: No. 11

Last game: won at Rutgers, 30-16

Next game: vs. Wake Forest (Saturday)

One easy way to get the stink off that Kansas loss: derail Wake Forest’s perfect start.

12. Louisville

Record: 2-2, 0-1 ACC

Last week: No. 10

Last game: lost at Florida State, 35-24

Next game: vs. Boston College (Oct. 5)

Spunky comeback at FSU falls short. Now a week off to prep for the most winnable game on its ACC schedule.

13. Virginia Tech

Record: 2-1, 0-1 ACC

Last week: No. 12

Last game: beat Furman, 24-17

Next game: vs. Duke (Friday)

Maybe the Hokies are better than they have shown in the first three games. Maybe.

14. Georgia Tech

Record: 1-2, 0-1 ACC

Last week: No. 14

Last game: lost to The Citadel, 27-24 (OT)

Next game: at Temple (Saturday)

Geoff Collins’ old team (Temple) meets his new one.

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Joe Giglio has worked at The N&O since 1995 and has regularly reported on the ACC since 2005. He grew up in Ringwood, N.J. and graduated from N.C. State.
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