With one game in the books for each ACC team, the question becomes how to balance first impressions with preseason expectations. Some teams displayed more than others in Week 1, but all have plenty of time to change things, of course.
With that being said, here is my estimation of how the Virginia Cavaliers and the ACC as a whole stack up at this moment, from 14 to 1.
14. Boston College Eagles
After showing flashes of light early on in his tenure, Jeff Hafley has reached rock bottom in the beginning of year four. The Eagles fell to Northern Illinois in overtime, 27-24, and at this point, it is easier to attribute this to the state of the program, rather than a fluke. Boston College now has the task of taking down a local FCS power in Holy Cross. They will host the ‘Hoos in Week 5.
13. Virginia Cavaliers
Tony Elliott’s squad had major concerns going into 2023. While getting blown out by Tennessee was the expectation, the process by which it happened confirmed many of these issues. UVA’s offensive line looked especially overwhelmed by the task at hand. Regardless of quarterback health, opening as a touchdown underdog to James Madison at home makes it clear what oddsmakers think of them.
12. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
After leading for a majority of the game, Brent Key’s first game as a full-time head coach ended in a comeback loss. The Jackets showed encouraging signs of what is to come, especially with explosive plays on offense. While it remains a work in progress, the team Virginia sees in early November should be better than what we are accustomed to.
11. Virginia Tech Hokies
Third try is the charm, I suppose. Not only did Virginia Tech finally take down Old Dominion but they did so in the way that a power conference program should. While there are still apparent issues with the quarterback position, the receiver position, led by former Monarch Ali Jennings, looks vastly improved.
10. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Beating an FCS team 37-17 does not sound entirely overwhelming, but all of Elon’s points occurred when the game was late and already out of hand. Quarterback Mitch Griffis looked good, not great. As one would expect, the defense was dominating in the trenches.
9. Syracuse Orange
Syracuse dominated Colgate, 65-0. Hard to have any negative takeaways there. I guess you can call it revenge for the recent basketball history between these two.
8. Miami Hurricanes
Nothing the ‘Canes could have done this week could have possibly addressed their major concerns but they did exactly what was asked this week, defeating the “other” Miami, 38-3. Miami will host Virginia in late October.
7. Louisville Cardinals
Growing pains are expected under a first year head coach, and Louisville felt that immediately, finding themselves down to Georgia Tech 28-13 at halftime. However, they eventually started to figure out how to operate with a balanced attack and made a few key stops in the process. The Cardinals will host UVA in November.
6. Pitt Panthers
Pat Narduzzi debuted his 2023 season by handling Wofford, 45-7. New quarterback Phil Jurkovec looked comfortable running the offense but there are no other major takeaways to be made.
5. North Carolina State Wolfpack
Many will see NC State’s 24-14 win over UConn and consider it underwhelming. While this is fair, consider that offensive coordinator Robert Anae did not want to open up the playbook, which could explain the lack of explosiveness on offense. Brennan Armstrong showed the running ability and toughness that we are accustomed to seeing, but it is yet to be determined if his passing accuracy is back to 2021 form.
4. Clemson Tigers
Boy, how the mighty have fallen. Clemson fell to Duke in the first game of their season and was significantly outplayed in every facet. The offense showed no signs of life, even under new offensive coordinator, Garrett Riley. The receiving room appears to be a major issue. The talk around the country is how Dabo Swinney’s reluctance to utilize the transfer portal is catching up to him.
3. Duke Blue Devils
Not the same old Duke, that’s for sure. Riley Leonard did not even have his best game passing the ball but the offense made enough key plays against Clemson. The defense was simply dominant. The Blue Devils made it clear that Mike Elko’s first season was not a fluke and they are here to stay. Duke travels to Charlottesville on the second to last weekend of the regular season.
2. North Carolina Tar Heels
We were looking for moderate improvement for the UNC defense against South Carolina and they simply looked like a completely different group, especially up front. Of course, we will see how it sustains, but holding the offense to 17 points and leaving the rest of the game in Drake Maye’s hands is not a bad recipe for success. Like I said, we have been fooled before by Mack Brown’s teams so let’s at least wait another few weeks. When they play Virginia in late October, we will have a clearer picture of what this team truly is.
1. Florida State Seminoles
Not only were the ‘Noles the story of the ACC but the story of college football this week. Mike Norvell’s squad entered the season with high expectations and right away, he was challenged with a top-10 matchup. Many of us remained skeptical, simply because they have not been there in a while.
Florida State made a statement, pulling away from LSU, for a final score of 45-24. The talent was evident on both sides, but the Seminoles looked much more polished and well-coached. As we stand in between Weeks 1 and 2, it is already Florida State’s conference to lose.