ACC Analysis: Clemson Solidifies Dominance, Virginia Awakens and Notre Dame Lurks

Week 9 provided all sorts of headlines from the ACC. Not only did Duke drop a 50-burger on Charlotte in shocking fashion, but another ranked ACC team fell to an unranked opponent.

Let’s dive right into this week’s ACC Analysis.

Clemson is going nowhere

No Trevor Lawrence? No problem.

The Tigers’ star quarterback and Heisman candidate missed Saturday’s game vs. Boston College after testing positive for COVID-19, leading many to question the Tigers’ chances with a true freshman quarterback.

DJ Uiagalelei was having none of that. He threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns as Clemson downed Boston College in comeback fashion.

Clemson faltered in the first half, but they corrected the record after halftime. The Tigers defense pitched a second-half shutout as Clemson scored the game’s final 25 points.

Clemson showed once again why they’re the best team in the ACC. They have depth and talent like no one else in the conference and only a few teams in the nation can match them. They play winning football when it matters and that’s what counts.

The Tigers face a challenge this coming weekend — a road trip to South Bend without Lawrence. He’ll be unavailable once again because of COVID-19 protocols.

Irish validate elite status

Notre Dame is an elite program. If that offends you, I’m not sorry.

The Irish won again this weekend, dispatching Georgia Tech with relative ease. Notre Dame outgained the Yellow Jackets by nearly 190 yards, earned seven more first downs and won the possession battle by more than 13 minutes.

Notre Dame’s defense has allowed 13 or fewer points in five of their six contests in 2020. Meanwhile, the offense seems to have found their footing after scoring just 12 points vs. Louisville’s substandard defense just two weeks ago.

Brian Kelly is one of the best coaches in America. He consistently outperforms his recruiting record and since Notre Dame’s 4-8 record in 2016, Kelly has won 33 games. Add in the vacated wins from 2012 and 2013, and Kelly has won 10 or more games five times since arriving in 2010.

Notre Dame is the clear alternative to Clemson in the ACC, and we’ll learn more about just how wide that gap is this coming weekend. Even if the Irish lose, they’ve got a great chance at facing off with the Tigers again in the ACC Championship Game. If Notre Dame sticks around in the ACC, which at this point they should, they are easily the second-best program in the conference.

Armstrong revives Virginia’s offense

Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong is finding a groove after returning from his concussion a few weeks ago. After a two-touchdown performance vs. Miami, Armstrong scored four times against North Carolina in the ‘Hoos upset of the Heels.

Armstrong wasn’t necessarily efficient through the air — he completed only 54.5 percent of his passes and did toss an interception — but he is Virginia’s only reliable form of offense. The Cavaliers clearly need him on the field, or else their offense is on life support.

The Cavaliers’ defense has fallen off considerably. Outside of the Miami game, when Virginia allowed just 19 points in the middle of a rainstorm, Virginia is allowing 36 points per game.

Much like a year ago, it seems like Virginia’s chances reside almost entirely on a mobile quarterback. Bryce Perkins was a blessing for Virginia, almost single-handedly winning the ACC Coastal. Armstrong is going to have to perform similarly just for Virginia to get back to .500.

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