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    [2021] ACC Power Rankings: Week 3

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    That's more like it! After the week from hell for the conference, the ACC rebounded quite nicely with a 6-1 record in non-conference games, although the one loss came from the Tigers in a prominent showdown with top-ranked Auburn. The first conference game of the season was a bit of a dud in terms of viewer experience, but the Hokies will take a dominant victory in Tallahassee any day of the week. A pivotal divisional clash takes place this weekend along with a huge out-of-conference showdown with a highly-ranked opponent. But for now, here's the current lay of the land.


    :louisville: 1. Louisville Cardinals (2-0, Prev. 2, +1)

    It wasn't the most convincing of performances, but a road win over a tough Fresno side definitely counts for something. DeSean Dockery continues to run like a madman, scorching the Bulldogs for 157 yards and 3 brutally fast touchdown runs. The offense is quite clearly looking like a one-man show however, with Harrison Pratt continuing to be just serviceable enough as the guy that hands it off to Dockery. This might have to change as Louisville clashes heads with Clemson this weekend in Death Valley. It's a series that Clemson has historically dominated, but Dockery and Co. won this game last year. Can they make it two in a row?


    :duke: 2. Duke Blue Devils (1-1, Prev. 3, +1)

    A much needed bye week for the Blue Devils after their somewhat stunning loss in Kalamazoo. A trip to Atlanta might fly under the radar for most college football fans, but make no mistake that this game could be about as exciting as any. Georgia Tech has averaged 359.5 yards per game through the air so far; that's more than 50 yards per game more than the next highest in the conference (Boston College). Duke leads the conference in total yards per game however, and this is a Yellow Jacket defense that considers defense to be optional at times. We could be in for a great shootout.


    :bc: 3. Boston College Eagles (1-1, Prev. 4, +1)

    The Eagles didn't have much planned after that crushing loss to Notre Dame, but they'll be back in action for a pivotal conference matchup against the up-and-coming Hurricanes of Miami. This is notably a rematch of the 2018 ACC Championship Game, where the 'Canes overcame the odds to shock an Alex Leshoure-led Eagles side behind the insane play of Brett Fisher. The names are a lot different this time, and both teams are still trying to find their way back to those glory days, but it will be intriguing to see how these two teams stack up to each other nowadays.


    :vt: 4. Virginia Tech Hokies (2-0, Prev. 5, +1)

    The Hokies are easily the surprise team of the year so far. Two weeks after pulling out a shocking win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater, the Hokies went to Tallahassee to beat the brakes off the Seminoles. Beckett Morrison has been nothing short of amazing in his first season as the starting quarterback, placing currently in the Top 3 in the conference for passing yards, touchdowns, and QB Rating. It helps to having a running back in Julius Whitaker that has only rushed for 100 yards exactly in both games so far. The defense could still use a tune up, but this team is looking great going into a clash against the 13th-ranked Longhorns of Texas. The threat of Simeon Wells is scary, but this is a defense that's given up on average 75.5 yards per game on the ground.


    :clemson: 5. Clemson Tigers (0-2, Prev. 1, -4)

    It's a hard drop, but a deserved one as Clemson couldn't come close to putting up a fight against Auburn. Granted, Auburn is currently the top-ranked team in the country, but it's the second game in a row in which the defense has had their hide handed to them. Believe it or not, it is Clemson that gives up the most yards per game in the conference, and a good bit of that damage comes from a rush defense that ranks 11th in the conference. SMU and Auburn make up what's been the hardest non-conference schedule for an ACC team though, and some slack should be given, but it has not looked good so far. How much can it change against a different kind of offense in Louisville?


    :miami: 6. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (2-0, Prev. 6, +/-0)

    It was as sloppy a win as any, with the 'Canes putting up a grand total of 207 yards of total offense in a 10-6 win over the UCF Knights, who only put up 147 yards of total offense. It's the second straight game in which Miami has had to fight tooth and nail for a win, but they're now 2-0 in such games. The pass defense has been inspiring so far, giving up just 176 yards per game through the air; this seems big going up against the conferences' second-best passing offense in Boston College. Akiem Pryor has been a great addition to this secondary, but this might be his most important game yet.


    :uva: 7. Virginia Cavaliers (1-1, Prev. 8, +1)

    One week after a rather embarrassing loss in West Virginia, the Cavaliers returned home to beat out a very tough Army side. Reginald Saunders has picked up where he left off from last year, fighting his way through defenses as the 2nd-best running back in the conference. The passing game remains to be consistent, but Mike Lucas took some steps forward this past week. The Cavs lost OLB Amadou Trotter for the season with a severe MCL rupture, so James Wolfe will slide in to a position lacking a bit in depth. Virginia plays host to an Eastern Michigan side that has kept games close with Illinois and Ohio, so it's pivotal that the Cavaliers don't overlook this game; they could find themselves on the wrong side of an upset.


    :pitt: 8. Pittsburgh Panthers (0-2, Prev. 7, -1)

    Pittsburgh drops as a result of Virginia's surprise win over Army, but there are other reasons to think of Pittsburgh as a team in the bottom half of the conference right now. A non-existent offense has been hurting a rather solid defense. For having played Penn State and Temple, the Panthers' defense has been very good in all aspects; unfortunately, this is an offense that averages just 237.5 yards per game, and the defense has tired down the line as a result. Change is expected to come against Wake Forest this week, but a trip to Winston-Salem shouldn't be taken lightly; Wake has looked surprisingly good, very lackluster competition aside.


    :wake: 9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-0, Prev. 10, +1)

    Wake's offense looked great against the Georgia State Panthers. Kyle Palmer has returned to form after sitting out all of last season via redshirt. James Betts has added a new element in the passing game, and receivers Deshaun Pickens and Abdoulaye Hawkins are finally adding the flair that the Demon Deacons desperately needed downfield. The issues seem to lie defensively, however. Evan Grant put up 174 yards and 3 touchdowns on Wake, averaging nearly 5 yards per carry in a very one-dimensional offense. A win is a win, and while Georgia State and UTEP are kinda really bad, Wake has done what they've needed to so far. Can they keep the momentum against Pittsburgh?


    :cuse: 10. Syracuse Orange (1-1, Prev. 9, -1)

    It's hard to find faith in the Orange right now, but they've looked alright for what they've been given. Aaden Trammell has been surprisingly effective on the ground, rushing for 163 yards over their first two games. Christian Coates is yet to look as clean as he did a year ago, but it hasn't been a terrible fall off yet. The defense has been pretty good at keeping teams out of the endzone, but the offense hasn't been as efficient in scoring either. It's a somewhat bland look for Syracuse right now, and unfortunately that's not going to cut it in conference. They should look a lot better against Tulane this week though.


    :gt: 11. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-0, Prev. 12, +1)

    This is about what we expected from Georgia Tech honestly, although their last win over UL-Lafayette was a bit of a refresher. The offense has been electric behind Anthony Swanson and Jahmir Rolle, and the defense has been more than porous, giving up a very concerning 360 yards per game, including nearly 300 yards per game through the air. Nothing about the Yellow Jackets has been surprising thus far, but 2-0 is indeed 2-0, and that's nearly progress from the disastrous season a year ago. Duke is next in what could be a very entertaining offensive showcase.


    :ncsu: 12. North Carolina State Wolpack (1-1, Prev. 13, +1)

    It took them a few years, but the Wolfpack finally triumphed over in-state rivals East Carolina, beating the Pirates in Greenville. The defense came to play with solid outings from Jamari Lloyd (2.0 sacks, 1 TFL), Emmanuel McDermott (1.0 sack, 1 FF), and Rory Foote (1 PD, 1 FR), all underclassmen. The offense remains merely average as expected, and like other teams before them on this list, their defense will not be able to play up to standards forever. Up next is a home date with a San Jose State team mired in a coaching debacle, with notoriousbigej filling in as interim head coach. Whether or not his gameplan will be ready by then is a mystery.


    :fsu: 13. Florida State Seminoles (0-3, Prev. 11, -2)

    Another week, another blowout loss. Communication was at an all-time low as Red Mosher unexpectedly started the game over Brett England, and the results simply didn't change. Mosher wasn't good, and Noah Wooten could do no better on the ground. Throw in a long-term injury to receiver Mateo Gates and you've got an offense that's just downright awful right now. England will get the nod for sure in two weeks when the 'Noles take on Arkansas State, and Wyatt Cornett will be another step closer to being back alongside Desean Starks. This bye week might be the best thing to happen to Florida State so far.


    :unc: 14. North Carolina Tar Heels (0-2, Prev. 14, +/-0)

    Thank goodness for bye weeks. UNC needed to regroup after a firm spanking by the hands of Nebraska, but next on the list comes another Power 5 opponent in Kansas State. I'll give props to UNC in their scheduling; they certainly didn't shy away from competition, but with an offense as dreadful as this (25 rushing yards per game, 2nd-fewest offensive snaps in the conference, tied with the most turnovers, tied with the most yards per game), one has to wonder why they would schedule teams way better than them. Kansas State looked questionable against Akron, but can we honestly say that UNC compares to Akron? We'll find out soon enough.

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