ACC Power Rankings 2023: FSU Lives up to Preseason Expectation Atop the ACC

    FSU remains at the top of the latest ACC Power Rankings, as the conference continues to reveal the answers to many preseason questions.

    The biggest question ahead of the Atlantic Coast Conference season — if you don’t count potential realignment — was whether the Florida State Seminoles could topple the Clemson Tigers at the top of the conference.

    Well, the early season has answered that question, and many more facing the conference, with our updated ACC Power Rankings telling the story of the season so far.

    ACC Power Rankings 2023

    Our ACC Power Rankings for the 2023 college football season take into account a number of factors. Overall record is a consideration, but roster talent and depth, coaching staff, strength of schedule, plus offensive and defensive efficiency are taken into consideration in our latest update.

    14) Virginia Cavaliers

    Preseason Ranking: 14th

    No movement for the Virginia Cavaliers, who remain rooted to the foot of our ACC Power Rankings after a difficult start to the season on many levels. Tony Elliott’s team is the only one in the conference yet to register a win this season, going 0-4 against what we acknowledged in our preseason edition as a very challenging schedule.

    Tennessee and Maryland soundly beat the Cavaliers and, despite battling efforts, lost their conference opener at home to NC State.

    A loss to Group of Five James Madison isn’t the embarrassment many might portray, but there’s an accumulation of results that hurts Virginia. Freshman QB Anthony Colandrea has shown flashes, but there’s been no offensive consistency.

    13) Boston College Eagles

    Preseason Ranking: 11th

    Considered a preseason sleeper, the Boston College Eagles have actually sleepwalked their way through the opening four games of the 2023 college football season. They were beaten by MAC outfit Northern Illinois, who hasn’t won since, were obliterated by Louisville in Week 4, and the only win on the Eagles record right now is a narrow victory over FCS Holy Cross.

    There were signs of light in a close defeat to FSU, but that result was more emotion-fueled than a true reflection of what this Boston College team really is.

    Only Virginia has allowed more points per game, no other ACC team has given up more yards per play, and while the offense has been a little better than the defense, they slip two spots in our updated ACC Power Rankings.

    12) Virginia Tech Hokies

    Preseason Ranking: 13th

    The Virginia Tech Hokies have hardly been a rocket ship, but they gobble up Boston College to climb one place in our updated ACC Power Rankings. A comfortable opening-day win over Old Dominion is better than the teams below them, and they haven’t won since as the result of a low-scoring offense that hasn’t gotten past 17 points against Purdue, Rutgers, and Marshall.

    While Marshall is one of the top Group of Five programs in college football this year, their first win over the Hokies since the 1940s is something of an embarrassment to the Blacksburg outfit. Their defense has been far from the worst in the ACC so far, but they’ve struggled offensively.

    Kyron Drones has offered substantially more upside on that side of the ball.

    11) Pittsburgh Panthers

    Preseason Ranking: 8th

    The Pitt Panthers continue plummeting the ACC Power Rankings less than two years after claiming a conference crown. Pat Narduzzi’s team opened the year with a comfortable win over FCS Wofford, but the offense has been dire since putting up 45 points in Week 1.

    The result has been defeats to Big 12 opposition, including an embarrassment in the Back Yard Brawl.

    They’re also 0-1 in ACC play following a loss to North Carolina that saw their usually stern defense match the performance of their offense. There’s talent on this Pitt team, but it’s being held back by quarterback play — or maybe the calls behind it — for the second straight season.

    It feels a long time since Kenny Pickett was the signal-caller for a competitive Panthers team.

    10) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

    Preseason Ranking: 12th

    As Jeff Sims struggled to a benching in Nebraska, it almost seems comedic that his departure from the Yellow Jackets was one of the biggest concerns for Georgia Tech ahead of the season. Under transfer quarterback Haynes King, the offense has been night and day better than a year ago, almost doubling their points per game number.

    They got off to an electric start against Louisville, only to suffer a defensive capitulation that cost them a win that would have the team at 3-1 heading into Week 5. As it is, they’re at .500 with a conference win over Wake Forest under their belt.

    Defensive improvements could hasten an even more substantial rise up the ACC Power Rankings.

    9) North Carolina State Wolf Pack

    Preseason Ranking: 9th

    Is Dave Doeren’s team really as good as their 3-1 record indicates? The NC State Wolfpack started the year ranked ninth in the ACC Power Rankings, and their performances thus far haven’t really moved the needle much at all.

    Their one defeat came against Notre Dame, which cut them some slack, with the Fighting Irish proving to be one of the best teams in the nation.

    Virginia, UConn, and VMI aren’t in that same category and aside from the 45-7 win over the FCS element, NC State hasn’t blown away either of those 0-4 teams. Brennan Armstrong was bought into power the offense, but we’ve yet to see a prime play from the former UVA passer.

    The defense, led by Payton Wilson and Aydan White, has been a much brighter spot for the Wolfpack.

    8) Wake Forest Demon Deacons

    Preseason Ranking: 5th

    Many analysts and fans wondered what Wake Forest might look like without long-time offensive leader Sam Hartman under center. The answer isn’t quite as simple or as positive, as Demon Deacons fans might hope. They looked good, putting up 30+ points against Elon and Vanderbilt, but put up just 16 points on Georgia Tech in defeat in their first conference game.

    The defense has been an enigma, too.

    No team in the conference has logged as many sacks as the Demon Deacons so far this fall, with Jacob Roberts and Jasheen Davis proving a dangerous backfield duo. However, they rank in the bottom half of the conference for scoring defense and are middling in total defense.  Their toughest games of a difficult schedule are yet to come.

    7) Syracuse Orange

    Preseason Ranking: 10th

    After an offseason of discontent, Syracuse is proving to be one of the surprise teams in the ACC this fall. Offensively one of the most successful units in the conference, defensively as strong as anyone out there, and with an unblemished record heading into a crucial Week 5 clash against Clemson, they’ve earned their three-spot rise in our ACC Power Rankings.

    If anything, their seventh overall position might not be a high enough climb. Quarterback Garrett Shrader has looked like a world-beater at times for Dino Babers’ team, overcoming his offseason surgery. The defense has handled every challenge thrown at it so far.

    The only obstacle for the Orange is the weakest strength of schedule in the entire conference.

    6) Clemson Tigers

    Preseason Ranking: 2nd

    Is the Clemson era of dominance over under Dabo Swinney? It very much feels like it after one of the worst starts for the Tigers in recent memory. The opening weekend loss to the Duke Blue Devils wasn’t quite the shock it was portrayed as, but it proved that there is a whole new era in the ACC and Clemson doesn’t have the stranglehold it has enjoyed anymore.

    They put up a good fight against FSU, which helps cushion their free fall down the ACC Power Rankings and halt it here. The defense is riddled with playmakers — as you’d expect from a Clemson team — and has played better than their record suggests.

    However, offensive struggles continue to define their résumé — one that already has two conference defeats on it.

    5) Louisville Cardinals

    Preseason Ranking: 6th

    For one half in the season opener against Georgia Tech, Louisville looked lost under new leadership. Three and a half games later, four wins, including two in the conference, have solidified and even perhaps bolstered preseason expectations for the Louisville Cardinals.

    They rise one spot in our updated ACC Power Rankings.

    On his return home, Jeff Brohm has turned this Cardinals team into a juggernaut not seen since Lamar Jackson was roaming Cardinal Stadium. The stadium doesn’t bear that name anymore, and this offense doesn’t resemble that Jackson-led offense, but it’s putting up points at a terrifyingly successful rate.

    The defense has done enough to guide them to a 4-0 record.

    4) Miami (FL) Hurricanes

    Preseason Ranking: 7th

    Are the Miami Hurricanes back as a nationally relevant program?

    Mario Cristobal’s team has been extremely impressive early on, putting up over 40 points in their last three games as Tyler Van Dyke repairs a reputation damaged 12 months ago behind an offensive line that is starting to resemble an impressively cohesive unit.

    Miami is a team that has never been short on talent but perhaps short on how to maximize it. That’s not the case this season. They’ve been successful on both sides of the ball, and they’re one of just two teams in the conference with a win over an AP Top 25 ranked program — a beatdown of Texas A&M.

    The Hurricanes begin conference play, ready to blow through the ACC.

    3) North Carolina Tar Heels

    Preseason Ranking: 3rd

    Undefeated, nationally ranked, and led by arguably the best quarterback in college football, the North Carolina Tar Heels have enjoyed as good of a start to the 2023 college football season as possible. Drake Maye has meticulously devoured opposition defenses, even if it hasn’t been in the same gaudy way that fellow Heisman Trophy contenders have done early in the year.

    Offensive firepower hasn’t been the issue for the Tar Heels recently; defensive performance has.

    It’s not been perfect on that side of the ball for Mack Brown’s team early on, giving up 30 points to Appalachian State and allowing a poor Pitt offense to put up 24. Even amongst that, there have been standout performances, including edge presence Kaimon Rucker.

    2) Duke Blue Devils

    Preseason Ranking: 4th

    Coming in off a strong 2022 campaign under Mike Elko, the Duke Blue Devils started the season fourth in our ACC Power Rankings, which was probably a little rich for some people’s taste. All the program has done since has confirmed our priors, in fact, they’ve exceeded all expectations ahead of a game with Notre Dame where they’ll host ESPN flagship College GameDay in Durham.

    Duke’s national emergence is powered by quarterback Riley Leonard, whose performances have powered not just a 4-0 record with a conference win over Clemson but an ascent in NFL Draft circles.

    He isn’t the only standout offensively, while their conference-high scoring defense is loaded with playmakers from DeWayne Carter up front to Chandler Rivers in the secondary.

    1) Florida State Seminoles

    Preseason Ranking: 1st

    The preseason front-runner in our ACC Power Rankings have done nothing but assert their position at the very top.

    It took a minute, but Mike Norvell finally has this FSU team as a legitimate and nationally relevant contender in college football. They’re 4-0 heading into their bye week, with what we assumed to be their two hardest games safely tucked away under the win column.

    Although there have been back-to-back close calls against ACC opposition, you never believe that this Seminoles team led by Jordan Travis and a ludicrous wide receiver room — not to mention RB and TE talent — are ever out of a game.

    The defense has bent a little more than we expected, but it never breaks in the biggest moment and has some of the top talent in the nation.

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