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ACC Football Power Rankings: Clemson roars, while Pitt, NC State tumble

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(© Jamie Lamor Thompson – Shutterstock)

Clemson took a huge step toward the Atlantic Division title with an impressive 30-20 win over NC State Saturday night. The Tigers stretched the nation’s best home winning streak to 37 games.

Meanwhile in the Steel City, Pitt had the biggest headscratcher of Week 5. The Panthers were a three-touchdown favorite against Georgia Tech, but after losing running back Israel Abankanda to injury, the offense sputtered during a 26-21 loss.

Down in Florida, FSU had a chance for a statement win against Wake Forest. The Seminoles didn’t make a statement, but Wake did in a 31-21 win.

After the marquee matchups of Clemson-NC State, Wake-FSU, the rest of the ACC weekend slate was, well, lame.

ACC Atlantic

  1. Clemson (5-0, 3-0 ACC) The Tigers are starting to look like the Tigers again. The biggest ACC game of the season to this point turned out to be a statement being made by Clemson. The Tiger defense limited NC State to under 100 rushing yards. Does the win mean Clemson is “back” as a national power? The verdict is still out, but the jury must accept the fact that Clemson has two wins over division and conference title contenders.
  2. Wake Forest (4-1, 1-1 ACC) After last week’s 51-45 double-overtime loss to Clemson, the Deacons bounced back with a 31-21 win over FSU. What a way to bounce back. The win marks Wake’s fourth win all-time in Tallahassee and their third straight win over the Seminoles. How head coach Dave Clawson continues to fly under the radar is mind-boggling.
  3. NC State (4-1, 0-1 ACC) In the program’s biggest game to date, the Wolfpack fell flat. Losing 30-20 to Clemson, the game never felt close in the second half. Critical Wolfpack turnovers and an offense with no identity proved too high a hurdle for NC State.
  4. Syracuse (50, 2-0 ACC) The Orange continues to be perfect in 2022 with a 59-0 win over Wagner. Wagner? OK, but things get tough in two weeks against NC State.
  5. FSU (4-1, 2-1 ACC) FSU failed to overcome a poor first half and fell to No. 23 Wake Forest. Trailing 21-7 at intermission after an impressive 83-yard touchdown drive to start the contest, the offense’s inability to stay on the field, and the defense’s inability to get off it, did the ‘Noles in.
  6. Boston College (2-3, 1-1 ACC) BC won its first ACC game of the season over Louisville. The Eagles, coming off a 30-point loss at Florida State, rode the hot passing of QB Phil Jurovec to pick up the upset win. Jurovec finished a stellar game with 304 passing yards, going 18-of-21.
  7. Louisville (2-3, 0-3 ACC) The Cardinals fell to 0-3 in conference play losing to BC. Once considered a darkhorse in the Atlantic, Louisville has fallen drastically. Louisville’s inconsistencies on offense continues to cost the team.

  Coastal Division

  1. Pitt (3-2, 0-1 ACC) OK, someone must be number one, right? Then it’s Pitt, by default. The Panthers certainly did not earn it with that horrendous performance at home against Georgia Tech.
  2. Duke (4-1, 1-0 ACC) Coming off a tough loss at Kansas, Duke raced to a big early lead and cruised past Virginia 38-17 in Durham. The loss, at still unbeaten Kansas, is looking stronger for the Blue Devils. Against UVA, Duke was simply better in all aspects of the game.
  3. UNC (4-1, 1-0 ACC) The UNC defense made a statement on Saturday. Leading 24-10 at halftime, the Tar Heel defense pitched a second half shutout in a 41-10 win. North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye did it all on Saturday vs. the Hokies. Maye was 26-for-36 for 363 passing yards and three touchdowns. He also made plays with his legs, running the ball 13 times for 73 yards and two scores.
  4. Miami (2-2, 0-0 ACC) Miami had a bye week. The Hurricanes must endure another week to ponder the inexplicable 45-31 loss to Middle Tennessee. The Hurricanes face UNC next weekend.
  5. Georgia Tech (2-3, 1-1 ACC) Five days after coach Geoff Collins was fired four games into his fourth season, GT responded with a stunning 26-21 victory over No. 24 Pitt, 26-21. The Yellow Jackets forced three turnovers in the span of four Pitt possessions in the second half and scored after all three takeaways.
  6. Virginia Tech (2-3, 1-1 ACC) An anemic Tech offense was shutout in the second half in a 41-10 loss at UNC. It was the second straight blowout loss for the Hokies, and just like last week’s 33-10 loss to West Virginia, Tech went into halftime still in the game. Tech’s offense struggled in the second half, forcing the defense to be on the field far too long.
  7. Virginia (2-3, 0-2 ACC) A once-promising season continues to spiral out of control for a team that appears completely lost. The struggles of QB Brennan Armstrong grabs the headlines, but penalties, lack of intensity and focus also play into the Cavalier misfortunes. The good news for the Cavaliers? Louisville comes to town next weekend.

Scott German

Scott German covers UVA Athletics for AFP, and is the co-host of “Street Knowledge” podcasts focusing on UVA Athletics with AFP editor Chris Graham. Scott has been around the ‘Hoos his whole life. As a reporter, he was on site for UVA basketball’s Final Fours, in 1981 and 1984, and has covered UVA football in bowl games dating back to its first, the 1984 Peach Bowl.