Where it concerns the national picture, the title says it all when it comes to ACC football. Seven games over the past weekend featured ACC teams against out of conference foes (four of those opponents were ranked) and the ACC went 3-4. The four losses were all against the ranked teams. More about those games later. If you want some positive vibes about ACC football, give a big round of applause for North Carolina State (beating an somewhat underachieving Cincinnati team), Georgia Tech (bouncing back from the loss to Kansas to win a conference game against short-handed North Carolina), Florida State (handing BYU its second straight defeat) and Virginia Tech, which finally got in the win column against East Carolina. It’s really hard to get too excited about the Hokies’ win: they were one half of football away from being 0-3-before the Boise Stage game they were ranked in the top 10. Just proves that preseason rankings are useless-yet if they win out, they may still prove to be so-that’s how unpredictable the conference race usually is.
Back to the four games previously mentioned: only a cock-eyed optimist could have picked top-ranked Alabama to fall to the Duke Blue Devils, no matter that the game was in Durham. That rout by the Crimson Tide was expected. Maryland has had trouble against West Virginia recently; their first meeting in three years only proved that the Terps still can’t handle the speed of the Mountaineers. The Terps were shocked and awed early, fought back but couldn’t get over the hump. Wake Forest left its game in North Carolina, as Jim Harbaugh’s crew stomped the Demon Deacons by 44 points. Stanford may be top twenty good, but to beat Wake by that much just means the defense is full of holes. That won’t bode well in conference play. The fourth game was an instant classic; if not in results for the ACC-at least in entertainment. The battle of the Tigers down in Auburn was a hard-hitting, hard fought contest. Clemson dominated the first half, Auburn the third quarter to get back in the game and take the lead; Clemson getting a tying score in the fourth; and both teams dishing out and taking a great amount of punishment throughout. Even as Clemson gained respect for how hard the team played, it still goes in the books as a loss.
The schedule offers five more non-conference games this upcoming weekend, the biggest featuring Miami’s Hurricanes traveling to face the Pittsburgh Panthers on Thursday night. The best thing that can come out of that game (as well as the Tar Heels taking on Rutgers) will be that the ACC will be a bit better than the Big East, which hasn’t done very much either nationally. Perhaps the ACC can give its fans a great conference season with another year of unpredictability in the conference race. Then, if its best team wins the conference championship game it will have a great chance to get some national respect by beating a ranked team in a BCS bowl game (or perhaps a highly ranked non-automatic qualifier such as Boise State or TCU). That prospect seems a long way off at this point.