ACC Power Rankings: This is the league’s biggest problem

A case of Florida State-itis is spreading throughout the ACC and that’s a problem.

The decline of FSU’s program, from winning a national title in 2013 and going to the College Football Playoff in 2014, is directly tied to the quality of its offensive line.

The good news for FSU: it no longer has the worst line in the ACC.

The bad news for the ACC: there are two teams worse (and FSU’s line, while improved, is still pretty bad).

Syracuse and Miami have both eclipsed FSU for the “worst” distinction. Injuries can usually be blamed for blocking dysfunction. Poor recruiting and poor coaching should also be factored. The answer for the Orange and Hurricanes is probably “all of the above.”

(Related, if you do find a good offensive line coach, don’t let him go. Not surprisingly, Clemson has the best one in the business in Robbie Caldwell.)

But what’s really at play here, if you want to see the forest from the trees, is this is not going to be a problem limited to the ACC. This is an everyone problem.

The game of football has changed, at all levels. For obvious safety reasons, there is less time spent in practice on basic football fundamentals (blocking, tackling).

Safety and progress come at a price. You can’t expect a player to be able to consistently block or tackle when they don’t consistently practice how to block or tackle.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? For some ACC offensive lines, they better buy a ticket because practice isn’t enough.

Participation levels are down in youth football. The ones who do play, don’t want to be blockers. They want to play quarterback or receiver. And those position groups, you’ll note, are better than ever thanks to the extra reps in 7-on-7 camps for youth and high school teams.

The more you do something, the better you are at it. Amazing.

As ESPN’s David Hale pointed out on Twitter, 12 “Power 5” conference teams have allowed 20 or more sacks this season. Seven of them are in the ACC, led by Syracuse (35) and Miami (31).

(FSU, after giving up 4.0 sacks per game last season, is down to 3.3 this season!)

Syracuse’s drop from 10 wins a year ago, and preseason top 25, is not a mystery. The Orange have allowed 25 sacks in three ACC games. They’re going to run out of healthy quarterbacks before the season ends.

Former Orange quarterback Eric Dungey has already wrapped up the Lamar Jackson Award (the player we really didn’t know how good he was until he was gone) for this season.

So the next time someone asks you, “What’s wrong with ACC football?” Tell them “It’s the line play, stupid!” and that basketball season starts in 15 days.

On with the “Only* ACC Power Rankings That Matter:”

1. Clemson

Record: 7-0, 5-0 ACC

Previous ranking: No. 1

Last game: won at Louisville, 45-10

Next game: vs. Boston College (Saturday)

How are the same top-25 voters punishing Clemson, for not living up to its previous standard, rewarding Alabama?

2. Wake Forest

Record: 6-1, 2-1 ACC

Previous ranking: No. 2

Last game: beat Florida State, 22-20

Next game: vs. N.C. State (Nov. 2)

The Deacs actually snuck Sam Swank back into school and changed his name to “Nick Sciba.” Very clever.

3. Virginia

Record: 5-2, 3-1 ACC

Previous ranking: No. 3

Last game: beat Duke, 48-14

Next game: at Louisville (Saturday)

Blasted Duke and got some help from the Hokies. Saturday was a good day for the Hoos.

4. Pittsburgh

Record: 5-2, 2-1 ACC

Previous ranking: No. 4

Last game: won at Syracuse, 27-20

Next game: vs. Miami (Saturday)

The Panthers are just 3-15 in conference games with Miami but two of those wins have come in ACC play.

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T5. Louisville

Record: 4-3, 2-2 ACC

Previous ranking: No. 5

Last game: lost to Clemson, 45-10

Next game: vs. Virginia (Saturday)

Is the “Clemson hangover” taking a year off? ACC teams are 3-1 the week after losing to the Tigers this season.

T5. Florida State

Record: 3-4, 2-3 ACC

Previous ranking: No. 9

Last game: lost at Wake Forest, 22-20

Next game: vs. Syracuse (Saturday)

Need to win three of the final five to start a new bowl streak. Almost certainly that math has to include a win over the Orange.

T7. Duke

Record: 4-3, 2-2 ACC

Previous ranking: No. 6

Last game: lost at Virginia, 48-14

Next game: at UNC (Saturday)

Duke has won five of the past seven over the Tar Heels with “Victory Bell” road wins in Chapel Hill in 2017 and ‘13.


Record: 3-4, 2-2 ACC

Previous ranking: No. 7

Last game: lost at Virginia Tech, 43-41 (OT)

Next game: Duke (Saturday)

There are better teams in the country but no one has had a more interesting season than the Tar Heels.

T7. Virginia Tech

Record: 5-2, 2-2 ACC

Previous ranking: No. 12

Last game: beat UNC, 43-41 (OT)

Next game: at Notre Dame (Nov. 2)

There’s new hope for the Hokies after that overtime win over UNC.

T7. Boston College

Record: 4-3, 2-2 ACC

Previous ranking: No. 11

Last game: beat N.C. State, 45-24

Next game: at Clemson (Saturday)

As long as you keep the Eagles out of the Big 12, they’ll be fine.

11. Miami

Record: 3-4, 1-3 ACC

Previous ranking: No. 8

Last game: lost to Georgia Tech, 28-21 (OT)

Next game: at Pittsburgh (Saturday)

There is no rhyme or reason to the Coastal. After that unbelievably awful and inexcusable loss to Georgia Tech, watch Miami turn around and beat Pitt.

12. N.C. State

Record: 4-3, 1-2 ACC

Previous ranking: No. 10

Last game: lost at Boston College, 45-24

Next game: at Wake Forest (Nov. 2)

Picked the wrong year for the “injury luck” to run out.

13. Georgia Tech

Record: 2-5, 1-3 ACC

Last week: No. 14

Last game: won at Miami, 28-21 (OT)

Next game: vs. Pittsburgh (Nov. 2)

The Yellow Jackets are 2-0 vs. teams from Florida this season and 0-5 vs. every other state.

14. Syracuse

Record: 3-4, 0-3 ACC

Previous ranking: No. 13

Last game: lost to Pittsburgh, 27-20

Next game: at Florida State (Saturday)

Fear not, it’s almost “Dolezaj time.“

Joe Giglio has worked at The N&O since 1995 and has regularly reported on the ACC since 2005. He grew up in Ringwood, N.J. and graduated from N.C. State.
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