The ACC's Early Struggles
BULK OF ACC STRUGGLING BADLY, HIDDEN BY SOFT EARLY SCHEDULES
If you're just looking at the won-lost records, you'd be thinking that the ACC was doing well this season. Florida State is undefeated at 5-0, and making a serious case for BCS Championship consideration. Clemson is 4-1, with their only loss coming to Florida State in a well-played game. Those teams sit atop the Atlantic Division. The Coastal Division has both Miami and Duke at 4-1.
What could be wrong?
Well, let's dig a little deeper. It's very easy to create a decent record for yourself five games into the season as a team or as a conference by:
Scheduling easy out of conference
Playing one or two games in conference because SOMEBODY has to win those
Heading into October, things can look good and competitive even with a bunch of mediocre (or worse...much worse) teams. We don't want to suggest Florida State and Clemson are pretenders. They've passed a few tests with flying colors. When you get past the big two though...well...
Let's start with the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game a few weeks ago that many of you watched on national TV. At the time, it was seen as the most important matchup of the season in the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech was favored to win that half of the league. Georgia Tech was hoping to do something about it. The teams played a thriller that Virginia Tech ultimately won in overtime. It wasn't a thing of beauty. But, it suggested a competitive season was at hand in the division.
Virginia Tech was soon embarrassed on the road by a Pittsburgh team that had been hysterically bad to start the season. The Hokies were humiliated by a team that just wasn't very good.
Virginia Tech then lost this past weekend to Cincinnati. That's 0-2 vs. the Big East! The Hokies were supposed to be serious threats to win the ACC. They were no longer serious threats to win the Big East had they been in that conference. Two outright losses as favorites in games that Frank Beamer would normally win in his sleep.
Georgia Tech followed up its loss to Virginia Tech with a high scoring but erratic loss to Miami of Florida. More on the Hurricanes in a moment. The low point for probably the last 10 years of Georgia Tech history came this past Saturday when the Rambling Wreck was truly wreckage in a 49-28 loss to Middle Tennessee of the Sun Belt. Tech was favored by 26 points, but lost by 21. That's a 41 point miss against the market! Dominated by Middle Tennessee!
Mix all that together...and you have Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech being much worse than irrelevant Pitt and Middle Tennessee, and worse than Cincinnati. Ugly.
Staying in the Coastal...
Miami is 4-1, with three wins within the ACC. When they stepped out of the league to play a real team from another conference, they were obliterated by Kansas State 52-13. That's one of the most hollow 4-1 records we've ever seen. Miami didn't even play well most of the game in their paycheck win over Bethune Cookman.
Duke is also 4-1 as we mentioned above. But, along with Miami, stepping up in class on the road against a real team in another conference saw them lose 50-13 at Stanford. That's the same Stanford team that just played horribly vs. Washington, and barely beat San Jose State. Miami and Duke may be 8-2 combined. They're down 102-26 on the scoreboard on the road vs. real teams.
Virginia is also in this division. They needed a slew of missed Penn State field goals to survive the Nittany Lions, then lost to TCU (27-7) and Louisiana Tech (44-38). The loss to La. Tech was at home...against a team from the disrespected WAC.
Only North Carolina has avoided a true debacle. But, two of their wins came against Elon and Idaho. They actually had a debacle first half against Louisville, but then rallied to make that a game. Basically, the best real "in context" highlight for the ACC Coastal Division this year vs. a meaningful opponent was the second half North Carolina played against Louisville in a loss. Unbelievable.
Things aren't this bad in the Atlantic Division because Florida State and Clemson have been getting some things done. We've talked in recent days about how bad things have been in the Big Ten this year. Nobody in the Big Ten is doing what Florida State is. And, Clemson has a pretty good resume all things considered. The ACC isn't "Big Ten Bad" right now because of the Seminoles and Tigers.
Elsewhere in the sixpack:
Wake Forest lost to FSU 52-0 in a game that was even worse than it sounds. They're 3-2 thanks to wins over teams like Libery (nailbiter) and Army (not beating Army as bad as Stony Brook did). They're way behind relevance even with a 3-2 early record.
NC State joins Wake Forest at 3-2. The Wolfpack lost to Tennessee by two touchdowns in their only sojourn into quality. Two of their wins have come against South Alabama and the Citadel.
Maryland sits at 2-2, with one of the wins being a 7-6 snoozer over William & Mary. The ACC is scheduling soft...yet still sweating games vs. minor entities.
Boston College has the worst current record of all ACC teams, with their only win in a 1-3 set coming against Maine.
Because the ACC plays conference games in September, that means they still have non-conference games ahead where you can fade them. Look to do so at reasonable prices when those pop up on the schedule. And, outside of FSU and Clemson, you should probably be looking to fade the ACC come bowl time. Of course, there are so many overrated teams this year (media and markets) that there may be a couple dozen bowls where logic dictates you fade both teams! At least the ACC won't run into the Big Ten much.
JIM HURLEY is always thinking ahead when handicapping college football. Anything that happens one week will have analytical ramifications a few times going forward. He's been closely watching the ACC ever since some of those non-conference surprises. He feels he is currently in synch with both divisions right now as they head into October.
This Saturday's ACC schedule (in rotation order):
Boston College at Army (non-conference, but Army is a "fade" right now too)
Georgia Tech at Clemson
Virginia at Duke
Florida State at NC State
Virginia Tech at North Carolina
Wake Forest at Maryland
Miami at Notre Dame (non-conference prime time on NBC)
There's a good chance NETWORK will be involved with at least one of those games in the service on Saturday. We're not going to say any more than that so we can protect the release for our clients.
Note that the NOTEBOOK will present stat previews of Georgia-South Carolina (a pair of Top Six teams!) in our Friday report...and West Virginia-Texas (a pair of Top 11 teams!) on Saturday. College football is about to hit another gear. So, be sure you're seat belts are fastened as JIM HURLEY races you to the winner's circle.
You can always purchase game day releases right here at the website with your credit card. If you're ready to sign up for the full season, you can take care of that online as well. Or, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Don't forget to check on postseason baseball when you call.
We'll cover an NFL topic here in the NOTEBOOK on Wednesday. Then another sequence of stat previews begins with Cardinals-Rams on Thursday. There's no football tonight, so it's the ideal time to set your plans in stone with the top handicapper on the planet, JIM HURLEY!
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