A review of the ACC Football Conference through six weeks
Before the season, The Athletic’s Matt Brown Tweeted, “The ACC championship game may just need to be a Clemson intrasquad scrimmage.” He may have hit the nail on the head.
A disastrous week four derailed the hype train for Clemson’s top challengers in Virginia Tech and Boston College.
Tech, typically known for its strong defense, allowed backup QB Blake LaRussa to throw for 495 yards in a shootout loss to Conference-USA punching bag Old Dominion.
BC’s high-powered offense hit a brick wall in West Lafayette against Purdue. The Eagles came in ranked for the first time in a decade and failed to live up to expectations. The nation knew Purdue was better than its 0-3 record, but the Boilermakers pounded BC. Anthony Brown threw four interceptions, and AJ Dillon was held to 59 yards.
Both teams bounced back in week five but fell to quality opponents in week six; it still appears as if Clemson has no legitimate challenger in the ACC.
UNC, Pitt, and Georgia Tech were never going to compete in the ACC. UNC’s early-season resume includes only one win (over Pitt) and a clunker against East Carolina. Pitt does possess an upset win over Syracuse but has been stomped by UCF and Penn State. And Georgia Tech has only beaten Alcorn St. and Bowling Green.
FSU and Louisville were both overhyped coming into the season. Deondre Francois, the supposed savior of the Seminole squad, threw three picks in the season opener. The next week, the Noles barely beat Samford (yes, you read that right; it wasn’t a Stanford typo). Louisville somehow landed a nationally-televised kickoff game against Alabama; the Cardinals were promptly destroyed by the Tide. The offense has simply been atrocious for Bobby Petrino’s squad thus far. Oh, and the Cardinals gave up 66 points to a Georgia Tech team that threw the ball only twice, so the defense isn’t that hot either.
Wake Forest has had an odd start to the season, to say the least. The Demon Deacons needed overtime to beat Tulane in the opener. In the ACC opener a few weeks later, Wake’s defense made BC’s offense look a whole lot better than it has proven to be in the weeks that followed. Just a week later, they hung with Notre Dame for a while, before getting shredded in the second half. Rookie QB Sam Hartman has impressed, but the defense has struggled.
Syracuse, Duke, and Virginia have all been pleasant surprises but still aren’t true threats. The Orange hung with Clemson, but the game wouldn’t have been close with a healthy Trevor Lawrence. Duke has wins over Army and Northwestern that look more impressive by the week. And Virginia has proven to no longer be the doormat of the conference.
BC and Va. Tech, as mentioned, both had one bad week. The bad week was really bad, no doubt, but it shouldn’t be enough to knock the teams out of the national spotlight. AJ Dillon is still one of the top players in the nation, and the Hokies still possess the talent and the home field advantage to be dangerous.
That leaves only two: Miami and NC State. Through six weeks, these two deserve to be labeled as the top two challengers to Clemson’s throne. The Canes struggled in an opening night loss to an LSU team that has since proven to be a legit national title contender. After week one, Miami switched to N’Kosi Perry at QB and hasn’t looked back.
The Wolfpack hadn’t played a quality opponent until defeating BC this week, but Ryan Finley continues to show why he is a pro-ready QB, despite losing weapons to the draft.
All in all, it’s Clemson’s conference to lose. There shouldn’t be a scenario in which the Tigers miss out on the College Football Playoff.
Expect Clemson at Boston College to be the Tigers’ toughest game of the season. BC has cooled off of late, but, bias aside, the Eagles are the team best suited to beat Clemson. The defensive line can pressure Trevor Lawrence, and AJ Dillon will prove to be the single toughest player that the Clemson defense will have to face in the regular season.
Don’t bank on an upset, but circle November 10th on the calendar. This is officially an early heads-up to Gameday to show up on the Heights for the BC-Clemson showdown.