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Where does the ACC stand following early chaos?

Katie Bradham
Duke upset Clemson 28-7 on Sept. 4, leading to the Tigers eventually falling outside of the AP Top 25.

Following the chaos of the first three weekends of college football, the ACC standings are beginning to take shape as the powerhouses and dark horses emerge — and the Clemson Tigers are up against a bit of a wall if they want to compete for a trip to the ACC Championship in December.

After two shaky weeks to start the season, the first of which was a loss to Duke, the Tigers finally played a complete game in last Saturday’s dominant win over Florida Atlantic. Clemson came out of the gate fast and refused to slow down.

Signs of life have come just in time for the Florida State Seminoles to arrive in Death Valley. With a win over Florida State, the Tigers are back in playoff contention, but a loss against the Seminoles will lead to them clawing for a New Year’s Six bowl game the rest of the season.

The underdog team to watch is no other than No. 18 Duke (3-0). Following the Blue Devils’ Week 1 win over the Tigers, they have continued to prove themselves by steamrolling Lafayette and Northwestern, proving that they are a team to be reckoned with in the ACC.

Dabo Swinney had impressive things to say about the Duke coaching staff earlier this year.

“I think Coach Elko is one of the best coaches in the country. I can’t get away from the guy,” he said. “He is a great coach. Man, what an unbelievable job he did last year, he and his staff. They got about everybody back.”

The Blue Devils have been emulating a bend-don’t-break defense, thanks to Elko’s decade-plus of experience as defensive coordinator at various universities. Just three weeks into their season, they have outscored opponents 102-64.

The ACC’s highest-ranked team hardly comes as a surprise. No. 4 Florida State (3-0) has been an unstoppable force thus far, including a Week 1 win against then-No. 5 LSU, where they outscored the Tigers 31-7 in the second half.

After narrowly escaping Boston College (1-2) by just two points last weekend, the Seminoles will come into Death Valley to take on the Tigers at noon on Saturday. Quarterback Jordan Travis has been leading the charge thus far, throwing 729 passing yards, eight touchdowns, and just one interception.

Meanwhile, originally unranked, the Miami Hurricanes have also made a name for themselves as a top team in the ACC. After an opening day win against Miami (Ohio), they turned some heads by upsetting Texas A&M in an offensive battle, as Tyler Van Dyke threw for five touchdowns. The Hurricanes cemented themselves as a legitimate contender for the ACC title, but they will still need to go through Florida State, North Carolina and Clemson.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Tar Heels survived a week two nail-biter against Appalachian State in a game that lasted two overtimes. However, Drake Maye has yet to look like the Heisman Trophy candidate that fans were expecting, and the team has not shown any impressive marks that indicate that it will make a legitimate run at the ACC. Nevertheless, the Tar Heels hold a top spot in the standings with a 3-0 start to the year.

The preseason hype surrounding Clemson indicated that it would once again take home the conference championship for the eighth time in nine years. The Tigers seemed to finally wake up from the offseason in the second half of the Sept. 9 game against Charleston Southern after their Week 1 loss and continued their dominance against the Owls last weekend.

Although still unranked, a solid performance against Florida State next week could allow Clemson to reenter the top 25.

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About the Contributors
Brett Porter, Senior Reporter
Katie Bradham
Katie Bradham, Senior Videographer
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