Sports Geek — The ACC Football Disaster?

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Full Disclosure: I’m a born and bred Kentuckian. I’ve lived here in the heart of the Atlantic Coast Conference for 10 years. I have no loyalty for any school’s athletics in the ACC. I respect UNC/Chapel Hill and Duke’s basketball program for the success that they have earned. UNC and Duke have had success in non-money sports like Soccer, Lacrosse and Baseball and those programs deserve respect as well.

All opinions expressed herein are of course tainted.

What I can’t fathom is why that people here worry about how the conference is seen as a whole. Growing up in SEC land and spending a lot of time around Big 10, Big 12 and Big East teams and fans, listening to news casts and talk radio hosts in these markets, I don’t ever remember much more than a passing mention about how the conference was fairing against other conferences. But that seems to dominate the fans and local media in in ACC land. Maybe these other conferences are secure in their standings?

What should be important and discussed is one simple question “Is my team going to kick your team’s behind next week?”

What I’ve learned since living here is that the ACC has an ego that pretty much isn’t present in other conferences and its bruised. No one at Florida cared how the ACC teams did this past week. They didn’t care how the SEC teams did as a conference either. Its just “How good is Tennessee and Alabama and will they be in our way to a national championship?” Maybe Florida cared how the Miami-Florida State game fared, but beyond that practically no one in Gainesville could even tell you that the ACC was 5-7 on opening weekend.

This morning while driving in to work, 850 the Buzz (WRBZ 850 AM) and Adam Gold made it to my radio. It was so much fun listening to him complain about the ACC’s embarrassing opening weekend. He suggested (and I saw a similar suggestion in Caulton Tudor’s column in the News & Observer) that the ACC should play conference games on opening weekend. What? That has to be one of the craziest suggestions I’ve ever heard.

Why you ask?

The ACC is struggling with football mediocrity. They opened the season 5-7 and had what seems to be several embarrassing losses. But this suggestion would guarantee that every year they would start out 6-6. Isn’t 50-50 the very definition of mediocrity? You want to bring your self-esteem up by insuring that you can never be better than average?

Well when you loose games to “piddly Division I-AA teams” I guess that should be a concern. But lets look at reality. Using the Jeff Sarigan computer rankings (since it gives us a look at the whole 200+ teams in Division I football), this is how things looked going into this past weekend’s opening games:

Rank Team Opponent Rank Result
20 Fla. State Miami 36 Loss
52 UNC/CH Citadel 146 Win
60 NC State S. Carolina 31 Loss
89 Duke Richmond 75 Loss

*NOTE: I don’t feel like analyzing all the schools. These are the key ones for the Raleigh-Durham market. You shouldn’t really care that Virginia (46th) lost to William and Mary (117th).

*NOTE 2: Actually this may have been the biggest embarrassment for the conference. A 46th rank team shouldn’t get their behinds handed to them by a team ranked 117. Maybe we should care about that game after all?

Based on rankings, the above results were almost perfect except for Florida State loosing to Miami. South Carolina (31st) beat NCSU (60th). In fact, NCSU improved in the rankings to 58th in this weeks ratings. The Tar Heals killed the Citadel which a team some 90 ranks above should do. The AP had UNC in the top 25, though Sarigan has them well out of the top 25 at 52nd. We will see what happens when UNC plays a stronger opponent.

There has been a lot of tears spent on the Duke loss to Richmond. There shouldn’t be. Richmond was the computer favorite coming into the weekend. The difference between Division I-A and I-AA is 15 scholarships. A well coached I-AA team with some talent will best a weak-to-mediocre I-A team with surprising frequency. I like the Duke football coach David Cutcliffe. In time he will build a program that wins more games that it looses; however to look past an opponent because they are in the Championship series when they are ranked above you is a grievous mistake.

The Virginia whoopin’ and Miami beating Fla. State are the two real black marks on the weekend. Everything else happened as it should. The one game the ACC should want back is the Wake Forest / Baylor game. Wake Forest was ranked significantly higher (30th vs. 82nd) than Baylor and lost to a surprisingly good Baylor team. Amazingly Baylor jumped to 27th in this weeks ratings and Wake Forest improved as well, rising to 21st in the Sagrigan rankings.

Gold went on to say that the Miami-FSU game saved the weekend for the ACC. I don’t think so. There is no doubt that it was a fantastic game; an instant classic. But the ranked FSU team lost to an un-ranked team at home. How can this be anything other than an embarrassment in Tallahassee and at the ACC offices over in Greensboro? Great game or not a conference striving to be seen as a strong conference can’t have their stars loosing.

Why is the ACC a great basketball conference? Because Duke and UNC kick everyone elses behinds and those two stars get to shine. The SEC is strong because Florida, Alabama and LSU dominate the rest of the conference. Sure Georgia and Ole Miss throw in the “tough games” to help out in schedule strength. But at the end of the day, the Kentucky’s and South Carolina’s are there to be win’s in the other team’s record books. BTW: Kentucky (47th) killed their opening day opponent, the other Miami(OH)(126th) 42-0 I’m just sayin’.

My advice to those pimpin’ the ACC as a whole: Stop. Spend time trying to make your school better and let the conference take care of itself. Once the teams do their job the rest will fall in line.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Leave a comment below!

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