ACC Mid-Season Power Rankings

Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman (10) throws a pass against ACC foe Louisville – Oct. 2, 2021. Photo courtesy of Reinhold Matay – USA Today Sports

  1. #16 Wake Forest Demon Deacons – 6-0 (4-0 ACC)

The Deacs are off to their best start since the 1940s and are the favorite right now to win the ACC. Wake Forest’s high powered offense is led by QB Sam Hartman who is averaging close to 270 passing yards a game and already has 14 TDs to just three INTs. The defense for Wake Forest got off to a terrific start in 2021, however the last two games have seen opponents put up over 1,000 yards of offense and 71 points. The Deacs are coming off a bye week and will look to regain the same edge on defense that they had earlier on in the year. The schedule only gets tougher down the stretch as Wake Forest has four road games in the their final six regular season match-ups as they travel to Army, UNC, Clemson and Boston College. They also have to host #18 NC State in November, a game that could decide the fate of the ACC Atlantic.

2. #18 NC State Wolfpack – 5-1 (2-0 ACC)

Speaking of NC State, the Wolfpack are right where they want to be as they head into the back half of their schedule. QB Devin Leary has been great so far this season on offense and the Wolfpack defense has been stout. NC State leads the ACC is yards allowed per game (294.7) and is second to only Clemson in the ACC in ppg allowed (14.3). A game against Miami this weekend shouldn’t provide too much of an issue for the Pack, however there are a couple of tricky games still left on the schedule to get through – Louisville, at Wake Forest and then the rivalry game with UNC. However, right now, this NC State team looks different and seem poised to take the next step and make a run at an ACC title.

3. #23 Pitt Panthers – 5-1 (2-0 ACC)

With all the focus in the ACC being on the Atlantic Division, the woes of Clemson’s offense and the rise of Wake Forest and NC State, Pitt has quietly been going about their business this year. Kenny Pickett may just be the best quarterback in the ACC this year as he as done nothing but torch defenses through the air. Pickett has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards and 21 TDs in the Panthers first six games. The Pitt offense is electric, averaging 48.3 ppg and is fourth best in all of college football in total offense. With wins over Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, this Pitt team will face its biggest challenge this weekend as they host Clemson. I know the Tigers aren’t the same dominant team we’ve seen in past seasons, this is still a tough challenge for a Panthers team that is trying to establish themselves as legitimate conference contenders this season. If they can get through the Tigers, Pitt has fairly easy stretch to finish the season.

4. Clemson Tigers – 4-2 (3-1 ACC)

The struggles for the Clemson offense continue. Many thought that the bye week would have helped the Tigers get the offense off and running. That didn’t happen as Clemson was only able to put up 17 points against Syracuse last Friday night. The Tigers are next to last in the ACC in total offense (only Virginia Tech is worse) and last in points per game. The saving grace for Clemson is the defense. The defense will need to be on their A+ game this weekend as they take on the best offense in the ACC in Pitt. The Panthers lethal aerial attack will provide a real challenge for this Clemson secondary. Pitt is going to score, the question is if Clemson’s offense can finally start clicking and also score. Even though Clemson hasn’t been great this year, they are still sitting pretty in the ACC and have a path to Charlotte, but they will need some help.

5. Louisville Cardinals – 3-3 (1-2 ACC)

It sort of felt that this season was going to be a bust when Louisville struggled to move the ball against Ole Miss in the opener. However, give the Cardinals some credit as the bounced back and got nice wins over UCF and Florida State in back to back weeks. The offense got it rolling and QB Malik Cunningham has been playing really well. Since then though have been a string of tough losses to Wake and Virginia in which Louisville lost those games by a combined 4 points. They may be 1-2 in the ACC, but a win over BC on Saturday will make Cardinal fans feel much better heading into the 10/30 matchup with NC State.

6. Boston College Eagles – 4-2 (0-2 ACC)

2021 began with a lot of promise for the Eagles as they were able to go 4-0 against their non-conference opponents. Then came the Clemson game. BC had its chances to win, but critical mistakes on offense down the stretch crushed any hopes of beating the Tigers on the road. After a bye week, the Eagles followed up with a blowout loss to NC State at home. Needless to say, things are not trending in the right direction. QB Dennis Grosel has played well since having to take over the starting job after Phil Jurkovec went out for the year. The Eagles have some nice pieces on offense, but need to get better in the running game. It helps that Boston College has one of the better defenses in the league as well. I still believe BC is one of the better teams in the ACC, but this week’s contest with Louisville feels like a must win for the Eagles.

7. Virginia Tech Hokies – 3-3 (1-1 ACC)

I had really high hopes for the Hokies after they knocked off North Carolina in the season opener. But that has pretty much been the high point this year. The offense is really struggling, having only put up over 30 points in a game once this season (against Middle Tennessee). The Hokies finds them dead last in the ACC in total offense and are 13th in ppg (only ahead of Clemson). The defense has been good enough to win games, but because of the lack of offense, they’ve had to stay out on the field a lot. The Hokies have a two game stretch now where they should be able to get some wins as the remaining six opponents are a combined 5-14 in ACC play this season.

8. North Carolina Tar Heels – 4-3 (3-3 ACC)

It has been a weird season for the Tar Heels so far here in 2021. North Carolina was one of the pre-season favorites to win the ACC Coastal this season, but after getting off to a disappointing start in Week 1, the Heels have been on an up and down roller coaster ride that doesn’t have any end in sight. From week to week, you never know what you are going to get from this Mack Brown team. They looked like they were getting back on track with a win over UVA, but since then have been double digit loses to two of the worst teams in the ACC (Georgia Tech and Florida State). It may not get better for Tar Heel faithful as UNC finishes the season with four games against teams currently ranked in the Top 25.

9. Virginia Cavaliers – 5-2 (3-2 ACC)

The Cavs took a bit of a nose dive early on in the season when they were blown out by both UNC and Wake Forest. However, Virginia has gotten it going since those two losses by rattling off three straight over ACC foes. Brennan Armstrong continues to be at the top of country in passing stats as he as put up over 2,800 yards and 19 TDs through the air. Unfortunately for UVA, its been the defense that has been the problem this season. The Hoos hosts Georgia Tech this weekend, but then they have several tough tests to end the season – BYU, Notre Dame, Pitt and Virginia Tech.

10. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets – 3-3 (2-2 ACC)

If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that Georgia Tech would have more conference wins than Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech combined, I would have called you a liar. No the Jackets aren’t where they want to be, but honestly being .500 through the first half is an incredible achievement for Geoff Collins’ bunch. The issue with Georgia Tech is that they still don’t have much of an identity on offense where they really struggle to move the ball at times. Tech started with a bad loss to Northern Illinois, but looked to have turned a page with a close loss to Clemson and a dominating win over UNC. The Jackets were able to get a come from behind victory on the road at Duke last week, but with games still to play against both ACC Virginia schools, Boston College, Notre Dame and Georgia, the Yellow Jackets might do good to get to five wins.

11. Florida State Seminoles – 2-4 (2-2 ACC)

My how things can change in just a short period of time. Two weeks ago, the Noles were sitting at 0-4 and were by far the worst team in the ACC. Give Mike Norvell and the Noles some credit… they’ve continued to fight and scrap. Back to back wins over Syracuse and North Carolina, now have FSU in a position to try to get to six wins. They shouldn’t have any issue with UMass this week (although this FSU team did lose to Jacksonville State earlier this season). The Noles still aren’t good, as they rank 12th in the ACC in both total offense and defense. They have problems scoring and stopping their opponents.

12. Syracuse Orange – 3-4 (0-3 ACC)

It has been yet another season to forget for Syracuse fans. Time to countdown to basketball season. The Cuse have been fairly mediocre on offense, but have had a defense that has played well most of the year. However, they already have a double digit loss to Rutgers and are off to a winless start in league play. And with the way that the schedule is set up, Syracuse might not get an ACC win this season.

13. Duke Blue Devils – 3-4 (0-3 ACC)

Much like Syracuse… it is time to start looking ahead to basketball season. The Blue Devils have been just awful on defense in 2021 as they are giving up over 440 yards and 31.6 points per game. The only reason I’m giving Duke the nod above Miami is because at least the Blue Devils have wins over Power 5 teams this season (Northwestern & Kansas).

14. Miami Hurricanes – 2-4 (0-2 ACC)

The Hurricanes have turned into nothing more than a slight rain shower. The Hurricanes have by far been the most disappointing team in the ACC. Say what you will about UNC and Clemson, at least those two teams have found ways to win at times. Miami has all but thrown in the towel here in 2021, especially now that star QB D’Eriq King is done for the year with another injury. Miami is the only team in the ACC to not have a win over a Power 5 school. Their only wins have come against App State and FCS opponent Central Connecticut State. The next two weeks are going to be tough for the Canes has they face NC State and Pitt. Miami could very well be sitting at 2-6 (0-4) going into the November 6th game with Georgia Tech. If I’m Manny Diaz, its probably time to start finding a good realtor, as he probably won’t be in Miami for much longer.

Week 8 ACC Schedule

Saturday, October 23

#16Wake ForestArmy12:00 PMCBSSNTickets as low as $43Michie Stadium, West Point, NY
UMassFlorida State12:00 PMACCNTickets as low as $16Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
SyracuseVirginia Tech12:30 PMBally SportsTickets as low as $34Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
Clemson#23Pittsburgh3:30 PMESPNTickets as low as $52Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Boston CollegeLouisville4:00 PMACCNTickets as low as $20Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY
#18NC StateMiami7:30 PMESPN 2Tickets as low as $12Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
Georgia TechVirginia7:30 PMACCNTickets as low as $18Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA

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