Column | Despite slow start, Clemson remains ACC’s team to beat


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Redshirt senior quarterback Kenny Pickett has posted 939 yards and 10 touchdowns with one interception in his first three games.

By Sam Krimins, Staff Writer

Fans are back in the stands, bands are blaring their horns and unranked teams are pulling off thrilling upsets — college football is back. The ACC came into the season with high hopes after three teams were ranked in the Associated Press top 25.

But after three weeks of football, the ACC looks vulnerable. With the ACC’s perennial juggernaut Clemson Tigers losing their first game this year, the ACC could be up for grabs.

There still may be some hope for the ACC, though, with a couple of teams showing promise. Here are the top 10 teams in the ACC — from first to worst.

  1. Clemson (2-1)

Despite Clemson’s week one loss, the Tigers still hold the No. 1 spot. It’s worth mentioning that No. 2 Georgia was the team to hand the Tigers their only loss. Despite this early loss, Clemson’s talent is far deeper than anyone else’s in the ACC. The Tigers don’t look as strong as past seasons, considering they only beat Georgia Tech by six points last week — a game they should have won handily given the talent gap.

Clemson’s glaring weakness thus far has been the play of their sophomore quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei. He threw for 178 yards and a pick in the season opener, then 171 yards and a pick the next game. His week one performance was understandable playing against a highly ranked team, but his performance against South Carolina State was concerning.

  1. North Carolina (2-1)

The Tar Heels bounced back last week after their week one loss to Virginia Tech. UNC obliterated George State by 42 points in week two and beat ACC opponent Virginia this past weekend, scoring 59 points.

The Tar Heels are led by junior quarterback Sam Howell. Howell is not only an elite passer, but is also second in rushing yards for the Tar Heels.

  1. Virginia Tech (2-1)

Virginia Tech has looked very impressive, including an impressive win against ACC opponent North Carolina. The Hokies are led by their stellar defense, holding their opponents to a combined 24 points through the first two weeks of the season. But the defense wasn’t enough this past week, falling to West Virginia.

Unfortunately, the Hokies lost junior tight end James Mitchell. The veteran tight end played a huge role in their offense, putting up 52 receptions for 838 yards to go along with seven touchdowns in his first two years with the Hokies. It will be interesting to see how Tech’s offense responds to a key loss.

  1. Pitt (2-1)

The Panthers looked great in their first two games, including a solid win over the SEC’s Tennesse Volunteers in week two.

But any momentum the Panthers had built up dissipated this past weekend.

Pitt was stunned by Western Michigan, losing a close game due to poor defense. Redshirt senior quarterback Kenny Pickett had a career day with six touchdowns, but his effort still wasn’t enough to propel the Panthers ahead.

Pickett has looked amazing, posting 939 yards and 10 touchdowns with one interception in his first three games.

  1. Virginia (2-1)

The Cavaliers have looked extremely impressive over the first three weeks despite a tough loss to a very good opponent in North Carolina. The offense in particular has looked spectacular, especially the passing game, scoring over 130 points through three games.

Junior quarterback Brennan Armstrong has played particularly well. Armstrong has thrown for 1,298 yards to go along with 11 touchdowns, including a phenomenal game against Illinois, in which the veteran quarterback threw for 405 yards with five touchdowns.

  1. 6. Wake Forest (3-0)

The Demon Deacons have yet to play a particularly tough opponent and are one of two ACC teams remaining without a loss. But Wake Forest won’t have to wait long for a good test, as the Demon Deacons will travel to Virginia to face one of the ACC best quarterbacks this weekend.

Both junior wide receiver Jaquarii Roberson and sophomore wide receiver A.T. Perry have played exceptionally well this season. Roberson has recorded 154 yards and two touchdowns on 12 receptions. Perry has registered 255 yards and two touchdowns on 13 receptions. The Demon Deacons have themselves a lethal wide receiver duo that every team should fear.

  1. Boston College (3-0)

Boston College has looked good over the past three games, scoring more than 45 points in their first two games, including a 51-0 win over Colgate. Unfortunately, the Eagles lost a key player in junior quarterback Phil Jurkovec.

Jurkovec’s season is in doubt after suffering a wrist injury — a huge loss so early in the season.

  1. Miami (1-2)

There can be a case made that Miami should be a lot lower on this list. Considering their horrible loss to Alabama in week one, only winning by two points against Appalachian State and losing to Michigan State this past week, the Hurricanes have been underwhelming. 

One of the only bright spots for the Hurricanes has been junior running back Cam’ron Harris. The back has rushed for 172 yards on 41 attempts, averaging 4.2 yards per carry so far. 

Miami will look to lean on their running back for the rest of the season after the injury to their quarterback, senior De’Eriq King, has left their offense bleak.

  1. North Carolina State (2-1)

The Wolfpack easily defeated week one opponent South Florida and week two opponent Furman, but lost this past week to Mississippi State. Defensively this team has looked great but the offense lacks firepower. The offense will need to step up since this week will be their hardest test of the year, facing off against Clemson.

Sophomore linebacker Drake Thomas has been the standout performer so far, recording 25 tackles and one interception. If Thomas can keep this pace, the ACC could be watching a breakout season for the young linebacker.

  1. Louisville (2-1)

Louisville hasn’t looked good since Heisman winning quarterback Lamar Jackson left them in 2017. 

They looked decent in 2019, going 8-5, but the Cardinals have looked awful otherwise, going 16-23 over the past four years. This year could very well mark the end of Scott Satterfield’s career as Louisville’s head coach.