2016 North Carolina Power Rankings: Week 3

North State Journals sports staff picks their top college football teams from the state each week.

Bob Donnan—USA Today Sports
North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Ryan Switzer (3) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium on Sept. 16

College football season is already three weeks in, so it seems like the perfect time to start looking at the North Carolina landscape. Now that nearly every team has played at least one quality opponent, we can begin to get a grasp on where they all rank in the state.So how did we go about ranking the teams? At the conclusion of play on Saturday, R. Cory Smith, Shawn Krest and Brett Friedlander all submit our personal rankings. We then calculate points for each team based on where each team was ranked, coming up with a consensus list each week.This week, North Carolina was listed at the top of every poll while every pick after that was a toss up. Wake Forest was listed as high as No. 2, but as low as No. 4. Appalachian State’s 1-2 start put it in the top five in two polls while it fell to No. 8 in another.Luckily, every team across the state has a chance to change our minds over the next several weeks. But after three games, here’s a look at where the N.C. power rankings currently stand.1. North Carolina (30)The consensus No. 1 in all three polls, North Carolina proved on Saturday why it’s still a force in the state. After a sloppy first quarter, the Tar Heels defense settled in against James Madison for a 56-28 rout of the Dukes.What makes UNC so scary in the ACC, however, is its offense. We already knew about Elijah Hood, Ryan Switzer, Mack Hollins and Mitch Trubisky, but T.J. Logan has been on fire for the Heels. His 188.3 all-purpose yards per game are second in the ACC while his six total TDs are tied for third.UNC can score at will, but the defense will be the question mark moving forward. But with a 2-1 record, the true tests lie ahead against Pittsburgh, No. 13 Florida State, Virginia Tech and No. 15 Miami over the next four weeks.2. East Carolina (26)Zay Jones held on for 22 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown to set a new AAC record for receptions in a single game. Unfortunately, the story for the Pirates was more about the balls they couldn’t hold onto in the 20-15 loss at South Carolina.Philip Nelson had two passes intercepted in the red zone while Anthony Scott fumbled on the five-yard line. Nelson also fumbled a ball early as ECU finished with four turnovers with three near the goal line. Those miscues can’t happen against a Virginia Tech team comin†g off a 49-0 shellacking of Boston College.3. Wake Forest (24)Dave Clawson said this was the year it would all come together. We just didn’t believe him. After a 3-0 start including a 10-point win over Duke, Wake is knocking on the door as the top team in the state.The status of Kendall Hinton after suffering a knee injury against Delaware will be a story to watch, but the return of Cade Carney is equally important. Losing both against Indiana and/or NC State would be critical, but the Demon Deacons appear to be ready to take the next step this season.4. NC State (22)The Wolfpack rebounded from a heartbreaking loss in Greenville to trounce Old Dominion, 49-22. Ryan Finley is still mistake free with 80 straight passing attempts without an interception heading into the off week before playing Wake Forest.Along with Finley, Jaylen Samuels and Matt Dayes have remained the offensive weapons NC State desperately needs. Dayes is third in the ACC with 104 rushing yards per game while Samuels is scoring one touchdown per every 4.1 touches.If Stephen Louis can continue his recent tear and the defense can limit Wake, the Pack could very well be 3-1 heading into the ACC gauntlet against Notre Dame, No. 5 Clemson and No. 3 Louisville in October.5. Duke (16)After several seasons of being on the rise, Duke is going through a down year. The Blue Devils have dropped their last two games against Wake Forest and Northwestern while averaging just 13.5 points on offense. That’s due, in part, to Daniel Jones not throwing a touchdown pass since Week 1 while throwing an interception in each of the last two games.Meanwhile, the defense has allowed 24 points in each of the last two weeks. Wake was understandable, but Northwestern was 0-2 after losses to Western Michigan and Illinois State. Notre Dame is an entirely different beast, and the Fighting Irish will look to get right against Duke in a big way.6. Appalachian State (15)Unlike Duke, Appalachian State is much better than its record shows. But the Mountaineers find themselves one notch behind the Blue Devils this week after getting trounced by No. 15 Miami.The hype built for the entire summer before Saturday, but the Hurricanes left no doubt who the better team was. With two losses against Top 25 opponents, however, App State now faces Akron before starting Sun Belt play.Miami and Tennessee were difficult teams, but the Zips are no joke this season, either. Akron is 2-1 after a 65-38 win over Marshall with head coach Terry Bowden, Bobby’s son, and defensive coordinator Chuck Amato. Expect some fireworks in Ohio this Saturday afternoon.7. UNC Pembroke (12)Just below the Mountaineers in this week’s rankings, UNC Pembroke is running roughshod over Division II opponents this season. The Braves are off to a 3-0 start with wins over Winston-Salem State, Fayetteville State and Shaw by an average margin of 14.6 points per game.Led by Charlotte transfer quarterback Patrick O’Brien and receiver B.J. Bunn, Pembroke is on the rise. And with the likes of North Greenville, Tuskegee and Lenoir-Rhyne coming up, the Braves have a chance to remain inside the state rankings for weeks to come.8. NC A&T (11)Despite a 58-21 loss to Tulsa, NC A&T has proved early on this season that it is worthy of being one of the top 10 programs in the state. The Aggies curb stomped St. Augustine’s, 62-0, to start the season and pulled off a four-overtime win against Kent State the following week.NC A&T is battle tested heading into the MEAC conference schedule with three straight Thursday night games on ESPNU against Hampton, Norfolk State and Bethune-Cookman. Currently holding the only winning record in the MEAC, look for the Aggies to remain near the top of the conference this season.9. Wingate (6)Much like UNC Pembroke, Wingate benefitted early on this season thanks to a contest against Shaw. That 56-7 win was sandwiched in between two other high-powered offensive victories for the Bulldogs.Wingate is led by junior running back Lawrence Pittman, who has 10 touchdowns through three games while averaging 135.7 rushing yards per game. With eight games remaining, Pittman could account for an unreal 30 touchdowns on the season. That’s a huge step up from 11 rushing scores last season.10. Davidson (2)The final spot was a tough one, but Davidson gets the nod. Following a blowout loss to Georgetown to start the season, the Wildcats have rattled off two straight wins in convincing fashion. With Pioneer play starting this weekend against Valparaiso, Davidson has a chance to prove its the best PFL team in the state.Also listed: Campbell (1)