Would you rather have a square one? No, round'll be fine.
After far too long a hiatus, the ACC Roundtable returns. Goody, because I like this stuff. BC Interruption hosts this season's kickoff roundtable, so, look for an entertaining roundup in that corner of the internet by the end of the week. An initiation for the unfamiliar: one host blog fires off a list of questions, the rest of us answer, and a roundup is posted by the host later in such a way as to entertain and beguile. Let's begin this therapy session:
1. Most ACC programs are hitting the snooze button for the first two weeks of the season before hosting four preseason top 25 programs in week 3 -- #1 Oklahoma, #18 Ohio State, #23 Auburn and #24 West Virginia. How's week 3 in the ACC go down? Can the conference win a majority of those four high-profile games on Sept. 17?
Miami is going to get crushed. So is Maryland, probably. Either team winning would be a pretty big upset, despite Ohio State having personnel issues of its own. Clemson and FSU are in better shape; probably 50/50 games for both teams unless I'm underrating Oklahoma, which is possible because everyone seems to think they're a major-league national title competitor. But the game's in Tallahassee, so.
Anyway, no, I definitely do not think the ACC goes 3-1. 2-2 is the realistic best-case scenario, I think. 0-4 is more likely than 3-1, and yes that would suck for the conference so Clemson and FSU and the rest of those guys better get on their horses.
2. What's the one game on the schedule that your respective fan bases have circled on this year's sched? (Conference-wide bloggers -- what are the handful of can't miss games on the regular season sched?).
Spoken like a fan of a team without a set end-of-year rivalry game. (OK, that was mean.) The answer is obviously Tech and not the Atlanta version, but I also think a lot of Virginia fans - myself included - are secretly looking forward to the Duke game, on account of having lost to them entirely too much recently. Beating Duke would let us breathe a sigh of relief that the football program is at least out of the doldrums and headed for bluer skies.
3. Name one ACC program that's not Florida State or Virginia Tech that has a legitimate shot at winning this year's ACC football title. Your ACC's football champion dark horse is:
North Carolina. They have questions to answer in the passing game on both sides of the ball and a new head coach, but they have no excuses not to be able to run the ball at will against just about anyone. If Bryn Renner is halfway decent and the secondary isn't a toxic disaster zone, they stand a good chance.
Plus, I'll throw a shameless suck-up bone to the hosts and say that if Boston College plays defense like they did last year and the offense is even slightly mediocre, they'll make a case too. But the Eagles have a much tougher row to hoe on their schedule.
4. It's been an offseason to forget with major NCAA infractions / investigations into the North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Miami programs. Can the conference as a whole move forward from this whole mess? How do you expect this all to shake out?
Well, GT got the instant car-wash instead of the anal probe and came out little the worse for wear as far as their future ability to compete goes. UNC's hearing is October 28, too late to have any effect on this season other than the distraction aspect; the NCAA doesn't hand down punishments til like six weeks afterwards, minimum, which means December when the Heels have already accepted a bowl invite. Awkward timing, really, because I expect the NCAA to ban them from postseason competition for perhaps one season and they'll probably have to announce that after UNC has already accepted a bowl invite. I don't think anything for this year, but they'll probably have to go into 2012 knowing they can't have their bowl game swag bags.
Miami....whooph. After what UNC went through last season I can't imagine Miami will get to use most of those 12 or 13 players for a huge chunk of the season, if not all of it. That's just for starters. I don't know where the NCAA stands on its investigation but I would hazard a bet that their Notice of Allegations drops sometime during the season. NOAs detail everything - like, every five dollar Happy Meal an athlete takes or every two minute phone call from Bruce Pearl or every fifteen minute stretching session over the limit - so this NOA is going to cost us a national forest somewhere. So that's going to be a media orgy right there. Given the pace of NCAA procedures - the school gets ages to gin up a response, for example - there won't be a hearing until at least next summer, I figure.
But the punishment? People talk death penalty and I don't think Miami will get that, but in this case it's fair to at least include it in the discussion. The NCAA might have to get creative. Something people don't always remember is that the NCAA only banned SMU for one season (1987) and for 1988, banned them from playing home games. (It was SMU that decided not to play the 1988 season either.) In this day and age where TV bans are impractical, scheduling is halfway to impossible and back because games are agreed upon five years in advance, and revenue is king and lord, the death penalty carries tricky implications. Forcing a team to play all road games does not. The NCAA might keep this bit of ammo handy.
I've also argued that the ACC needs to study the implications of giving Miami the boot, and I'm sticking with my guns on that one.
5. You can also add conference realignment rumors to the 2011 offseason to forget. With A&M set to divorce the Big 12 and move to the SEC, rumors swirl about a 14th program coming from the ACC. Now's the time to pledge your allegiance to John Swofford and the ACC. Or don't. Either way, tell us what you think the endgame is for the next round of conference musical chairs.
I suppose there are those who'd call me an ostrich for this, but the ACC is in much better shape than some of our brother conferences. Namely the Big 12 with its uneasy love-hate relationship with Texas and the teetering conglomeration that is the Big East, which I think will last only about as long it takes to sign a disappointing TV deal that doesn't live up to their expectations.
I don't expect the SEC to take any ACC teams, for two reasons: I believe the rumors about there being a bloc of SEC teams voting down any expansion from their respective states, which rules out FSU, Clemson, GT, and Miami. And I don't think the remaining teams (VT mostly, but also NC State) would be willing to go. VT likes the academic association with the ACC (and so, importantly, does the Va. legislature, which kicked up the original hissy fit to get VT in the club in the first place.) NC State, I can't see them leaving their Triangle brethren behind just to fill a numbers game. So I think the SEC's 14th team will also be from outside the footprint - think Mizzou or West Virginia - and the ACC will be intact. Even if not, the ACC shouldn't have much trouble bringing Syracuse aboard if a team gets poached, and we just keep going on as before.
I don't think there's an "endgame" per se, since I don't believe in the 4x16 model of superconferences. That'd require conferences to bring on teams they don't want and wouldn't really help the per-team revenue numbers. People who say things like that also say things like Cincinnati will end up in the Big Ten and ECU in the ACC, which is basically retarded and proof positive they pulled that shit right out of their hairy colon.
So yes, I think UVA's just fine in the ACC, with no reason to panic and try and bolt anywhere. In the second shameless plug in a row for an archive post, I'll tell you why UVA would fare very badly in the Big Ten (the usual non-ACC suggestion for UVA's end location.) The Cliff Notes version is that our recruiting would be in shambles since we wouldn't really recruit any better in Big Ten territory like Ohio and Chicago, but all those guys - particularly Michigan and Ohio State - would be raiding the state of Virginia like it had a Free Cookies sign. Texas A&M is going to learn this lesson the hard way in five years.
6. Last one, and recycled from last year. a) What do you expect out of your team, b) What kind of season would keep you content and happy, c) What kind of season would be a disappointment?
UVA is at that special place where there's no point getting greedy about what bowl we go to, but eligibility itself is possible, even plausible. The schedule allows it. The rebuilding procedure half demands it, especially given next year's extremely demanding schedule that puts both TCU and Penn State on the slate. That big bold line between bowl eligibility and not bowl eligibility looms large, and it's the season's only goal. Six wins good, five wins bad.