ACC Round-Up: Week 5

The ACC continues to make national headlines as we enter week 5 of the college football season. In this week’s installment of the ACC Round-Up, we look at how offense is taking over the league, and we do our first conference rankings as we approach the mid-point of the season.

Offenses across the country to continue to be ahead of the defenses, and that trend is highlighted with what we’ve seen from the ACC so far this season. Clemson is the only conference team playing above-average to great defense, and that is a major reason they are #1 and have the most well-rounded team nationally. Four weeks in let’s take a glimpse at some of the national stats that have ACC players leading the pack:

Passing Yards:

#1 Kenny Pickett from Pittsburgh – 1,389

#5 Chase Brice from Duke – 1,263

#7 Phil Jurkovec from Boston College – 1,181

#10 Trevor Lawrence (in a lot less game time) – 1,140

Read more:

Rushing Yards:

#3 Javian Hawkins from Louisville – 468

#4 Khalil Herbert from Virginia Tech – 450

#6 Michael Carter from North Carolina – 413

#7 Dion Jackson from Duke – 412

#9 Travis Etienne – 392

Total Offense:

#6 Clemson

#7 North Carolina

#11 Virginia Tech

#19 Georgia Tech

Rushing Offense:

#3 Virginia Tech

#4 Notre Dame

#7 North Carolina

#14 Georgia Tech

Yards per Play:

#5 North Carolina 7.3

#7 Virginia Tech 6.9

#8 Notre Dame 6.8

#12 Clemson 6.4

#20 Georgia Tech 6.1

All 15 conference teams are in action this weekend, with everyone except Syracuse playing a conference game. Here is how we see the teams stack up as they head into this weekend’s match-ups.

1. Clemson: 4-0 (3-0 in ACC)

Clemson dominated Miami last week, beating the Canes 42-17 in a game that was close at the half due to a special teams score for Miami. The gap may not be as wide as it is right now in the ACC as the Tigers are far and away better than anyone else. Clemson’s defense finally showed up as they pressured D’Eriq King all night and forced him into two costly interceptions. They face one of the nation’s best running teams in Georgia Tech this weekend, but the only thing that will stop Clemson from a 6th straight playoff appearance is complacency.

2. Notre Dame: 3-0 (2-0)

Notre Dame showed some physicality that we haven’t seen from them in some time as they ran for 353 yards against Florida State last weekend. Kyren Williams continues to be the leader for the Irish as he averaged nearly 10 yards per rush.  FSU was able to hang 26 points on Notre Dame, and frankly it could have been more. Nonetheless, it looks as though Notre Dame is the only team ready to challenge Clemson for the ACC this season. They play at home this weekend against Louisville, a team that has struggled to play consistently on defense in 2020.

3. North Carolina: 3-0 (3-0)

North Carolina is one of the most interesting teams in the nation right now. Their offense may be the most well-rounded in the country led by super sophomore Sam Howell. They have two lethal receivers and maybe the best 1-2 combo at running back nationally. Simply put, they can score on anyone. Last week’s 56 point performance was an offensive clinic. On the flip side of that coin is their defense. They gave up 45 points last week to Virginia Tech, and they haven’t progressed enough yet to be a true threat in the ACC. They travel to FSU this weekend ranked 5th nationally. Expect a shoot out in Tallahassee.

4. Miami: 3-1 (2-1)

Miami got a dose of reality Saturday night, but minus one or two teams right now everyone would lose to the Tigers in that fashion. The challenge now for the Canes is to change the narrative – do they keep fighting or do they collapse like they’ve done every year in recent years. They face a tough Pitt teams that has lost back to back one point games. 

5. Virginia Tech: 2-1 (2-1)

The Hokies have been ravaged by the pandemic, and last week they played North Carolina down 17 players still. With Hendon Hooker back and Khalil Herbert running well, the offense is for real. They almost came back against UNC after being down big – that is something to hang their hats on as they’ve had a lot of adversity thus far. They play an emerging Boston College team this weekend in what should be one of the better games no one is talking about.

6. Boston College: 3-1 (2-1)

Jeff Hafley is getting early results in Chestnut Hill. Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec has been very solid for the Eagles, throwing for 300plus yards 3 times already. As a point of reference the Eagles didn’t throw for 300 yards once last year. Jurkovec enters this week as PFF’s 4th highest graded QB nationally with a chance to put up more points against a still undermanned Hokies defense. The Eagles have significantly exceeded expectations four games in in 2020.

7. Pittsburgh: 3-2 (2-2)

Pittsburg has found some interesting ways to lose the past two weeks, as they lost in overtime vs. Boston College on a missed PAT. Entering the season it was expected that the Panthers would once again have a dominant defense to go along with a struggling offense. Those roles have reversed as the Panthers are struggling against passing teams. They’ve given up 700 yards passing the past two weeks. It’s a bad time to be struggling in the back end as they face Miami this weekend.

8. N.C. State: 3-1 (3-1)

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. Despite being out gained the past two weeks the Wolfpack have been able to beat Pitt and Virginia two weeks straight due to forcing turnovers. They face Chase Brice and an efficient Duke offense this week. If they can’t get better QB play look for N.C. State to struggle this weekend.

9. Georgia Tech: 2-2 (2-1) 

The Yellow Jackets continue to look improved in year 2 under Geoff Collins. Last week versus Louisville, Jeff Sims played arguably the best game of his college career so far. Sims was PFF’s highest rated passer under pressure at 143.8. Despite continuing to struggle on downfield throws, Sims threw for 249 yards, ran for 64, and threw two touchdowns. 

10. Virginia: 1-2 (1-2)

The Cavs have serious issues at quarterback, and it looks like that will be a challenge for Bronco Mendenhall all season. The defense will keep them in games, though.

11. Louisville: 1-3 (0-3)

Great offense, really bad defense. Same story as last season for Scott Satterfield’s squad. Louisville was an early season sleeper for some analysts but they just haven’t been able to shut down anyone this year. There’s no doubt the offense is a threat, but they can’t turn the ball over like they did in their loss to the Yellow Jackets. They head to Notre Dame this weekend to face an uphill battle.

12. Wake Forest: 1-2 (0-2)

Wake fought Clemson hard in Week 1, blew out Campbell in their out of conference game, and lost a tight game to N.C. State. Despite losing Jamie Newman and Sage Surratt the Deacons are putting up 40.3 points per game. Expect a low scoring, tight game this week vs. UVA.

13. Florida State: 1-3 (0-3)

13th best team in the ACC. Man, FSU is struggling. Offensively the team’s improving quickly under Jordan Travis, and the offensive line has been better than expected. The Seminoles defense is ghastly, and that is why the Seminoles continue to lose games. They face a tough, tough test this week with UNC. Can the offense score enough to pull off the upset?

14. Duke: 1-4 (1-4) 

Duke’s been hamstrung by their inability to take care of the ball. They lead the nation with 19 turnovers. You aren’t going to win against anyone giving the ball up 4 times a game. 

15. Syracuse: 1-3 (1-3)

The Orange have been decimated by injuries, highlighted by their best defender in Andre Cisco. Tommy DeVito is also out. A team that ranks last in conference in total offense and defense, Syracuse is far away from that 10 win play they had in 2018.

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