Taking a Look Around the ACC Four Weeks into the Season…

Four weeks into the ACC season, a spin around the ACC reveals at least one thing we already knew…pre-season predictions are a ridiculous exercise in guesswork. 

While Clemson is 4-0 with a nice road win at Texas A&M, I don’t think Clemson has hit their stride yet. The defense has not been as dominant as expected and the Tigers need to sort out their quarterback strategy, but Clemson is clearly the best team in the ACC. The second best team in the ACC is so far behind Clemson, it’s not really a relevant discussion. 

Georgia Tech can score a lot of points but can give up even more. The switch back to the 3-4 defense might take a while to settle in. The faithful in Atlanta are not nearly as impatient as many programs in the south, but this transition has not been pretty and new defensive coordinator Nate Woody’s seat might start getting warm if things don’t improve throughout the season. 

ODU? Really? Apparently, ODU is an offensive juggernaut. Against a defense that confounded Florida State on Labor Day weekend, ODU piled up 49 points and over 600 yards of total offense. The Monarchs were unstoppable in the second half. Who knew? Bud Foster better get his defense back on track this week. The Hokies travel to Durham to face David Cutcliffe’s Duke Blue Devils. When playing Duke, assume coach Cut will have his guys ready to play…and Duke may have their most athletic team in the past 10 years. If Virginia Tech doesn’t play their best game of the season, they are going to head back to Blacksburg with a 2 game losing streak. 

While Syracuse definitely “scheduled for success” this season, they won all of the expected cupcake games, and also won their surprise cupcake game against Florida State. If anyone projected Syracuse to be 4-0 to start the season, they should buy lottery tickets before their luck changes. Syracuse’ luck may change as their schedule stiffens a bit, but with 4 wins already in the bank, the Orange are a lock to overachieve pre-season expectations.

Several pundits predicted that Virginia would win but one ACC game this season. Good thing the ‘Hoos got that one locked down on their first try. It’s all upside from here. 

I guess Miami assumed they needed a three-week breather after opening their season with an ugly loss against SEC contender, LSU. While the ‘Canes crushed hapless Savannah State, they haven’t exactly cruised to wins over Toledo and Florida International. Is Miami any good? I have no idea, but they need to get their quarterback situation settled before the respite is over and real competition starts again. 

The distant second biggest surprise of the of the weekend in the ACC might have been Boston College’s loss to Purdue. BC was more than solid last year and is quietly putting together a very respectable program in Chestnut Hill. Road games are always a concern, but I fully expected BC to take care of business against a Purdue team that is not expected to make much noise in the Big10. As both ODU and Purdue showed this weekend…it’s why we play the games on the field, not on paper. 

I wonder if the pre-season hype that surrounded Louisville was just a ploy by the networks to plug the season opener against Alabama. Lamar Jackson is gone and Bobby Petrino doesn’t look like he has much of a plan for life after Lamar. Louisville might be the biggest downside surprise in the ACC this year. 

North Carolina came back to notch their first victory of the season against what looks to be an imploding Pitt team. Has Carolina improved from their 3-9 season last year and a 0-2 start to 2018 or is just Pitt regressing to the mean? After getting absolutely drilled by Penn State, Pitt needed to make a statement against UNC which they started to do and then sputtered at the end. I am not sure what to make of either of these teams yet. The good news for both of them is that there are enough bowl games that neither has to be particularly good to play in the postseason. 

Wake Forest lost for the second week in a row, finding that Boston College and Notre Dame are far more formidable opponents that Towson and Tulane. Expectations for Dave Clawson’s Demon Deacons were on the rise for 2018. Losses to BC and ND are no reason to panic as Wake has adeptly scheduled Rice in the heart of their schedule, right before they have back-to-backs against Clemson and Florida State. The Wake Forest defense needs prove it can play against P5 competition. I think Clawson has done a nice job at Wake which can be a tough place to win, but he doesn’t have the offensive firepower to win while giving up 40+ per game. 

Follow David on Twitter @DMRayner.