Tuesday, October 21, 2008

do we know anything about the ACC these days?

No, seriously.

This was supposed to be a weekend in which we learned stuff about the ACC. All the teams were playing each other, things were going to shake out some, fall into place some, real nice. It was not to be. With six games there were 64 possible outcomes to the weekend; of all possible outcomes we received the one that caused the second most confusion, perplexion, and downright befuddlement, and we'd have had a perfecta if NC State had beaten the Seminoles, which they damn near did.

So what on earth now? A scientific-ish approach to a damn unscientific problem, that's what.

What we know:

- NC State does in fact stink. This is inescapable. They are last in the conference in total offense, which is really hard to do when UVA checks in at 104th in the land and VT bottoms out at 110th. (Fun fact: Wake Forest is 99th, just four yards per game away from ensuring that the ACC has no less than five teams outside the top 100 in total offense.) NC State is also dead last in total defense, by a huge margin. They are a bad football team. And they're the only team that can be definitively pegged as either good or bad.

- Pretty much every other team has a Good Team and a Bad Team. There is Good Maryland (beat Cal) and Bad Maryland (lost to MTSU.) There is Good Virginia (beat Maryland) and Bad Virginia (lost to Duke.) Good Wake beat FSU. Bad Wake lost to Maryland. Messrs. Jekyll and Hyde have made appearances as living metaphors in ACC blogs the nation over.

- The Atlantic race is almost certainly down to four teams; the Coastal race is almost entirely anyone's game. Even Duke has a shot - a slim one, but a shot.

What we don't know:

- Anything else. Most especially who will win in any given matchup. Even NC State has an upset left in them somewhere.

What we think (OK, what I think):

- The Atlantic really is as wide-open as it looks with four 2-1 teams all hanging around. In point of fact only two of them - Boston College and Maryland - actually control their destiny; that is, they could win out, damn everyone else, and place themselves in the title game. However, there is no way Maryland is consistent enough to finish the season undefeated. Somewhere in that schedule is a loss, maybe two or three, and an ugly one at that; it's just that nobody knows where. The pundits know this and this is why BC is generally said to have the inside track for Tampa.

- For the sake of the ACC, that can't happen. I like Boston College. Nice stadium, good looking campus, generally amiable fans. But you saw the stadium in Jacksonville last year. Boston is so far from Florida that BC fans are going to wait for the bowl game to make their travel plans. If Boston College makes the ACCCG, there will be another attendance debacle at the game.

- Fear not, however. BC is the only team of the four that has three road games remaining, and worse yet, they're as follows: UNC, FSU, Wake. That's right: two of their fellow contenders get them at home, and only Maryland has to visit Alumni Stadium.

- Over in the Coastal, things are equally nuts. Two teams (UVA and VT) control their destiny; GT needs just one more VT loss, and Miami needs another UNC loss. UNC needs more help - two more losses each for UVA and VT - but do you doubt that could happen?

- The problem for the division is that Georgia Tech has it made. Only one road game left on the conference schedule, and that's to UNC. UVA, FSU, and Miami all have to go to Atlanta. They do need a Virginia Tech loss, but that's coming again, sooner or later.

- Here's the kicker, really. Granted, the middle of the season is always going to see a lot of teams in contention. Right now the Big 12 has three undefeated teams in the South division.....and then Oklahoma. But we know Texas is f'n good. And sure, the Big Ten already has five bowl-eligible teams. But these conferences have a hierarchy. If all continues to go as it has gone, the Big Ten, as well as the two divisions of the SEC, have one game left to decide everything. The Pac-10 would seem to be wide open, with four teams at 3-1, but USC will not lose again, Oregon State will, and that's that. But the ACC. If all continues to go as it has already gone, the ACC's divisions will probably be decided on tiebreakers between at least two teams with at least two losses each. One team will go to the Orange Bowl; another with maybe the same record will end up in Orlando playing the Big Ten in the undercard to the Citrus Bowl.

- All of this adds up to one more thing we know: Between now and the end of the season, this is going to be the best conference in the land to watch. The Big Ten is going to be decided this Saturday in Columbus. The WLOCP in two weeks will decide the SEC East; the West will follow the week after when Alabama treks to LSU. The ACC won't be decided until the final week, and that seems to be the only prediction that can stand on solid ground. So strap in.

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