Last weekend was a great one for college football, particularly if you like upsets of top ranked teams. Oklahoma State got the party started by losing in double overtime to Iowa State on Friday night; then on Saturday, Oregon and Oklahoma both went down within minutes of each other. Sadly, this phenomenon touched the ACC as well as Clemson-at that point the highest ranked conference team in the BCS-forgot to show up and was drilled by the Wolfpack of N.C. State in a game that may not have been as close as the 37-13 final score. While it’s true that Clemson had nothing to gain conference-wise by winning, the team could have avoided what has become the seemingly annual Clemson moment-where the Tigers lose a game that they shouldn’t. What makes this loss more painful for Clemson is that three teams above it in the BCS standings (the aforementioned Oklahoma State, Oregon and Oklahoma) all lost. Clemson could’ve been in the top 5 of the BCS, on the doorstep of possibly playing for a national championship. Granted, that was probably a long shot, but you have to be in position to even get a look. If Clemson had won out, and that assumes a victory over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game, and another team or two took on a loss, the Tigers would’ve had more to play for than a trip to a BCS bowl game. But it wasn’t to be, and once again, the ACC is on the outside looking in.
The one ACC team that did benefit from all the upsets at the top of the BCS standings was Virginia Tech, which moved up to number 5 in the standings. However, because this was the one year where the Hokies eased up the non-conference schedule, their chances of playing in the championship game may be even smaller than what Clemson’s would have been had they not lost. However, the Hokies have other things to worry about. Saturday is now the biggest game of the season for them and it’s for more than bragging rights for the Virginia ACC schools. The Commonwealth Cup, the Coastal Division title and a spot in the ACC Championship game awaits the winner of the Virginia Tech-Virginia matchup, thanks to both teams getting victories over North Carolina and Florida State, respectively. It’s safe to say this game has more meaning this year than it has in a long time, and the Cavaliers have been on the wrong side of recent history in the matchup, having lost eleven out of the last twelve. If there ever was a chance for them to win it, and claim their first division championship, it would be on Saturday. The game will be at Scott Stadium, and they come in having won four in a row.
N.C. State’s big win over Clemson puts them one more win closer to bowl eligibility, and now only need to defeat cellar-dweller Maryland to earn the opportunity to play some postseason football. The Terps have lost seven straight, and while they have proven to be a thorn in the side of the Wolfpack in the past, there’s no guarantee that this Saturday will be one of those times. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some grumbling at College Park about this season’s results. Coach of the Year is forced out after going 9-4 including winning a bowl game, replaced by a guy who is paid a $2 million salary to win 2 games with roughly the same players that were on last year’s team-all while the athletic department is in such dire financial straits that eight non-revenue sports are scheduled to be eliminated. It hasn’t been pretty to see the Terps fall so hard, so fast. Perhaps Randy Edsall can begin to get things turned around next season.
As for the Miami Hurricanes, I can’t imagine how it would feel to have earned bowl eligibility, only to find out 24 hours later that you won’t be going to a bowl game. That was the decision made by the school’s administration in an attempt to show some contrition for the Shapiro scandal that all but torpedoed the season. It will be interesting to see how much effort the team expends Friday afternoon, when the Hurricanes host Boston College in the season finale. It hasn’t quite been the season the Eagles were hoping for, but going out with a win will give the squad a good feeling heading into the offseason.
Last but not least, the final week of the season means rivalry week. In addition to Virginia Tech-Virginia, the schedule offers Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia Tech-Georgia, Florida State-Florida and Duke-North Carolina (yeah, the last one seems to be more heated on the basketball court). In addition, Wake Forest hosts Vanderbilt, with the Commodores needing a win to become bowl eligible.