Remember when everyone was sure Clemson and North Carolina were the clear-cut favorites to meet in the ACC Championship? The Tar Heels were even pegged as a potential dark horse to make the playoffs this year with Sam Howell returning to lead the offense. Well, week four just wrapped up and Clemson is out of the playoff picture and doesn’t even control its own destiny in the Atlantic division. North Carolina is effectively dead in the water with two Coastal losses to both Techs who look to now be above everyone else with Pitt in the mix.
North Carolina State has to feel great with the boogie man put to bed this week but Wake Forest and Boston College seem capable of racking up the wins in the Atlantic as well. Louisville has been up and down but could be turning a corner to at least push some teams and ruin someone’s hopes later in the year.
The Coastal seems the more tamed at this point. It’s early to be claiming the contenders but UNC and UVA already sit with two conference losses. Miami, Duke, and Pitt have yet to play a conference foe, but Miami appears horrid on defense and QB D’Eriq King could be out for some time. Duke has been showing signs of regression to their yesteryears before Coach Cutcliffe. That really leaves Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Pitt as the teams to watch and we get one of those matchups this coming week with Pitt visiting Georgia Tech.
- Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons are getting the slight nod for being undefeated and looking solid through their first four games. It hasn’t been a brutal schedule but no game has ever been in doubt as their offense is averaging 38.8 points per game and the defense is only allowing 14.3 points a game. The schedule also sets up nicely with the potential to be 9-0 heading into their last three games against NC State, Clemson, and Boston College.
- North Carolina State – The Wolfpack would be the definite top team after downing Clemson if not for the mishap against Mississippi State. Everyone knows at this point that Clemson has some serious issues but credit to NC State for being the first of the ACC teams to cash in on the Tiger’s struggles. The one issue is they were the first team outside SC State to let Clemson get some offensive production.
- Boston College – ACC! ACC! ACC! It’s always a good day when the SEC is handed some humble pie by another conference and the Eagles delivered that to Missouri while on the road. Boston College is the only other undefeated left in the conference but Clemson and NC State are next and they draw the two Techs from the Coastal side so this could be a temporary stay in the top 3.
- Clemson – For the time being, Clemson only falls so far but it’s likely they take a few more lumps this season. Running back Will Shipley has been their lone bright spot on offense and he is now out for a few weeks along with Bryan Bresee who is out for the year and has been the defensive anchor for this team.
- Georgia Tech – Yes, your Yellow Jackets have made the leap this week by their performance and the lack of performance by their conference peers. Quarterback Sims returned and lit a fire back under the offense after a rough start and injury in the NIU game. The defense is starting to develop nicely with pass rushing and the havoc caused by the forced fumbles on Howell is just the cherry on top. The Yellow Jackets own their destiny now and a win over Pitt coming up would set them up for a run.
- Virginia Tech – The Hokies sit atop the Coastal standings for now but haven’t shown a lot of offense through four games. It took a punt return to pull more than one score away from FCS Richmond this week and while they also beat UNC it was a much closer affair. The Irish come to Blacksburg this week and four of the last five ACC games are on the road.
- Louisville – On the reverse side, Louisville has done well with scoring points but can’t seem to limit their opponent either. Their lone loss was to a good Ole Miss team but UCF played them hard and FSU tried to make things interesting late this week. The other issue is only one other player besides QB Malik Cunningham has recorded a rushing touchdown this season. The Cardinals need to find a few more playmakers if they want to contend deep into conference play.
- Pittsburgh – The Pitt Panthers are a team on the fence right now. They show signs of being a contender for the Coastal but also some areas of concern. Kenny Pickett has been great with protecting the ball and finding touchdowns in the passing game with a 15:1 TD to INT ratio. Though most of that has come against New Hampshire and a losing effort against Western Michigan. The defense hasn’t exactly been great against the better competition of Tennessee and WMU either.
- North Carolina – The Tar Heels can score with Sam Howell but he hasn’t been consistent this year. Receiver Josh Downs is a threat but there is no run game to take the pressure off of him and the offensive line is struggling. The defense has been a sieve most of the year giving up big plays to UVA and Georgia Tech. UNC will win a few more because the quality just drops for the remaining teams but this isn’t the year they expected.
- Duke – The Blue Devils are 3-1 but the loss came against Charlotte and the three teams they beat are a combined 2-7 including an FCS team who remains winless. Running back Mataeo Durant is the only bright spot for this offense as he accounts for one-fourth of their offensive yardage. It won’t be easy for Duke to keep pace with tougher competition having allowed over 400 yards to each FBS opponent.
- Syracuse – The Orange are also a paper 3-1 team who have yet to win a game against a Power 5 opponent this year. They should have a solid chance against FSU coming up but that isn’t saying much considering the Seminoles are winless. They’ve thrown a 2:3 touchdown to interception ratio between two QBs and all of that came against FCS Albany.
- Miami – The Hurricanes statistically had the worst defense in the ACC before a shutout to a terrible Central Connecticut team. Quarterback D’Eriq King could be out for some time and that’s bad news for an offense that just stalls without him. The offensive line has been poor at blocking to make matters worse for backup Tyler Van Dyke. Central Connecticut still managed three sacks and you can expect that number to grow among ACC competition.
- Virginia – The new worst defense in the ACC belongs to the Virginia Cavaliers and despite racking up the offense against their first three opponents they were held in check against Wake Forest. They get Miami next and that could be the match-up to decide the bottom of the Coastal.
- Florida State – After wading through the muck there is somehow a deeper layer among the bottom of the ACC swamp and it fittingly resides in Florida. Looking at FSU’s schedule there are two potential wins remaining with Syracuse and UMass, but even Syracuse will be a toss-up with how this program is unraveling.