ACC: A Good Read

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ACC: A Good Read

Postby 1981Eagle on Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:18 pm

By B.J. Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com Senior Editor


SouthernPigskin.com Senior Editor B.J. Bennett takes a deeper look at the ACC's national perception. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin.


With Virginia Tech's 28-23 loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday, many flipped on the ACC like a dalmatian on the postman. The theme of the sudden turn; with the Hokies' loss, the league no longer has an identifiable leader, a national championship contender. On the surface, such a generalization may have some merit. Upon further review? Spotty at best.

Seven weeks into the 2009 season, let's review the ACC's performance. There is no question the league is as unpredictable as a wounded dog. Some games, teams like Maryland and Virginia lay down and wimper. Other games, backed into a corner, they snap and bite. The Cavaliers, who went 1-3 out of conference, currently lead the ACC's Coastal Division (which features Georgia Tech, Miami and Virginia Tech). Florida State has the league's worst record. The league's hottest team just won a game where they completed one pass. NC State, who allowed 14 points combined in their first two games, has allowed 101 in their last two. Against Duke, the Wolfpack allowed 459 yards passing to Thad Lewis; against Boston College, NCSU gave up 264 yards rushing to Montel Harris. Virginia lost to William & Mary but beat nationally-ranked North Carolina. Maryland lost to Middle Tennessee but beat Clemson. Florida State is 0-3 in the league but crushed 7th ranked BYU. Welcome to the ACC.

With all that said, an analytical look at the ACC's lack of a national championship contender is, at least in some ways, quite telling.

The ACC does have the lowest highest-ranked team of any BCS conference. Miami is 8th in the AP poll, one spot behind the Big Ten's Iowa and three spot's behind the Big East's Cincinnati. That said, the league has the second-highest ranked top trio after the SEC. With three teams, Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech all in the national top 15, only college football's king (Alabama, Florida, LSU) has a more impressive top three. For point of reference, here is a clear layout of the top three from each BCS conference.

SEC -- Alabama (1), Florida (2), LSU (9)
ACC -- Miami (8), Georgia Tech (11), Virginia Tech (14)
Big Ten -- Iowa (7), Penn State (13), Ohio State (18)
Big XII -- Texas (3), Oklahoma State (14), Texas Tech (21)
Big East -- Cincinnati (5), Pittsburgh (20), West Virginia (22)
Pac Ten -- Southern Cal (4), Oregon (12)

Considering the teeth of ACC critics the last couple of years being the lack of definable top tier, the league can't seem to win for...winning.

Because teams from the same conference play each other, one has to keep in mind that leagues featuring multiple highly-ranked teams are bound to beat themselves. This is a problem the SEC faces every season. Throughout the course of an entire season, this plays itself out in each league. Here is why stating the ACC has no national title contender at week seven is a bit premature. Or at the very least, why the ACC having the lowest-ranked top-ranked team is quite justifiable. In the SEC, there has only been one meeting (UF at LSU) between the top three teams. In the Big Ten, there has only been one meeting (Iowa at PSU). In the Big XII, there has only been one meeting (TTU at UT). In the Big East, none of the top three teams have faced each other. In the Pac Ten, the two and only ranked teams have not yet played.

This is important to keep in mind when viewing how conferences stand in the national rankings as the placement of key intra-conference games on the schedule helps determine how leagues position themselves in the polls. Of Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, the three teams have all played themselves just midway through the season. Hence the distribution of losses. If some of these games were, perhaps, placed at the end of the year like the other conferences, the sentiment that the ACC does not have a national player might not exist. Should league teams be punished for the layout of their schedule? Should an entire conference be chastised for, at least partially, that same reason?

As the season progresses, this issue will correct itself. This is why labeling the ACC as unsuccessful nationally is speaking too soon. If one-loss Miami or Georgia Tech wins out, with the teams in front of them playing each other, the league will have teams directly in the BCS National Championship race.

That aside, teams non-conference schedules should be considered as well. Virginia Tech, the pre-season favorite in the ACC, played Alabama in their season opener. The Crimson Tide are now the top-ranked team in college football. For a parallel, Florida opened with Charleston Southern. Texas opened with Louisiana-Monroe. Southern Cal opened with San Jose State.

Considered how highly ranked you are hinges, in large part, on who you play, let's look at the out of conference schedules of the teams ranked ahead of Miami. That part the teams can control.

Alabama - Virginia Tech, FIU, North Texas
Florida - Charleston Southern, Troy
Texas - Louisiana-Monroe, at Wyoming, UTEP
USC - San Jose State, at Ohio State, at Notre Dame
CincinnatI - SEMO ST, at Oregon State, Fresno State, at Miami (OH)
Boise State - Oregon, Miami (OH), at Bowling Green, UC Davis
Iowa - Northern Iowa, Arizona, Arkansas State

Now compared to the ACC teams in the top 15.

Virginia Tech - Alabama, Marshall, Nebraska
Miami - Oklahoma, FAMU, at UCF
Georgia Tech - Jacksonville State, at Mississippi State

Nose wet, yet?

Needless to say, some teams have fought their way to their lofty rankings and others have cruised. At least in terms of their non-conference schedules. As mentioned above, the overall schedules must be considered as well. Miami, for example, has already played four nationally-ranked teams. Iowa has played one. Cincinnati has played one. These numbers can't be decided factors when trying to figure out the mess that is the college football ranking system, but they shouldn't be ignored either.

The bottom line is that who you play and when you play them helps dictate your national ranking almost as much as how good you are. This constantly-overlooked fact has been the secret driving catalyst of college football polling for years. It's worth mentioning, and referencing, in terms of defending the ACC's case on this one occasion.

The ACC is nowhere near the best conference in college football. It's baffling, inconsistent, at times impressive and at times awful. The league is 25-13 in out of conference games and 7-7 against BCS conference foes. The be quite honest, after the SEC, the leagues might be a whole lot more similar than fans would like to believe.

With Virginia Tech losing to Georgia Tech over the weekend, the ACC might not produce a November national championship contender this year. But Miami and Georgia Tech shouldn't be forgotten about with so much of the season left to play. And the early season schedules that top ranked teams play should be examined as well.

Without taking such dynamics into consideration, we'll be missing part of the reason the season is unfolding as it is.

It's an old saying that one reason a dog can be such a comfort when you're feeling blue is that he doesn't try to find out why.

It might be easier just to look at the polls and nod, but we owe college football, and in this case the ACC, more sniffing around.
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