Even though there were some scenarios that may have prevented the matchup in Saturday’s ACC Championship game, there seemed to be an inevitable march for Clemson and Virginia Tech. The two teams have proven themselves to be the best in the conference; although since their earlier meeting, they appear to be heading in different directions. Clemson ran out to an 8-0 record, which included a victory over the Hokies, but has lost three of its last four. Virginia Tech has rolled along, having won seven straight since the loss to the Tigers.
If you use the last game as a barometer, the momentum going in favors Virginia Tech, based on its 7-game win streak, but also the last game, a 38-0 shutout of Virginia. Clemson’s last memory is a 34-13 loss to rival South Carolina. The Tigers will have to find what they had going early in the season in order to beat a Virginia Tech team that looks like many other Hokie teams of the past; seeing Virginia Tech in the championship game is nothing new. The Hokies have been the dominant team in the conference over the last few years, and while they are currently ranked #5 in the BCS standings, they have almost no shot at the BCS Championship game. The rant about how college football crowns its champion (and which renders just about all of this weekend’s games meaningless) will have to wait for another post, or someone else to take up. If you ask me to pick, I’ll go with the hot team, as the Hokies will avenge their only loss of the season and will wait to see who they will play in a BCS bowl game (again).
Looking back at the final week of the regular season, one thing that jumps out is that once again, the SEC is better than the ACC. By a 3-1 margin, the SEC-ACC rivalry games went in favor of the nation’s top conference. In addition to Clemson’s loss, Vanderbilt played like a team that needed to win to reach a bowl game, as they routed Wake Forest 41-7. Georgia Tech must suffer as “little brother” one more year, as Georgia controlled the game from the outset, winning 31-17. Florida State prevented the ACC from getting a bagel in the rivalry games, by beating Florida 21-7, in a game where the offenses struggled mightily to do much of anything.
There were also some final conference games being played besides Virginia Tech-Virginia. Maryland suffered it’s seventh straight loss in a come from ahead 56-41 loss to North Carolina State. For the Wolfpack, the comeback was the biggest in school history and got them bowl eligible. North Carolina defeated Duke 37-21, and Boston College finished on a winning note by defeating Miami 24-17. At season’s end, the ACC had nine bowl eligible teams; however only eight can participate in bowl games as Miami self-imposed a bowl ban for this season due to the Nevin Shapiro allegations.
For those teams not in the championship game, there are questions heading into postseason/offseason: Will Luke Kuechly return to Boston College? Who will coach at North Carolina? Can Duke ever take the next step up? Can Randy Edsall turn things around at Maryland? Was Florida State overrated this season, and is next sesaon when it returns among the national elite? What penalties await Miami, and can Al Golden weather them with the new contract extension? Will Tom O’Brien return to Raleigh? Will Georgia Tech ever get over the hump? Will Wake Forest keep climbing next season? Finally, now that Virginia was so close to winning a division title, can they claim the Coastal next season, or take a step back? Those questions (and plenty others) will have to wait until next season. This season has only one ACC game left.