Six days. From Monday, September 6th to Saturday, September 11th, the ACC went from hopeful national contenders to irrelevant also-rans. With Virginia Tech’s last minute loss against Boise State on Labor Day, the conference looked to the following Saturday for its next opportunities to make a national impression. With Miami and Florida State taking on highly ranked foes (yet both on the road), hopes were high that wins by those two once formidable programs would help start an upward trajectory for the conference. Add in what seemed to be a sure victory for Georgia Tech over a Kansas squad that embarrassed itself the week before against noted power North Dakota, and a seemingly vulnerable USC playing against an improving Virginia squad, the opportunity was there for some national respect.
Then the games were played, and the ACC went 0-4.
Miami self-destructed against #2 Ohio State in Columbus, as Jacory Harris threw 4 interceptions. Even though the Buckeyes had some special-teams breakdowns, Ohio State did enough on offense and was good enough on defense to win comfortably. Florida State showed that their defense is still a work in progress, as Oklahoma stomped the Seminoles 47-17. Oklahoma may have looked shaky the week before against Utah State, but they looked like world beaters against Jimbo Fisher’s team. Kansas scored 3 points against North Dakota the previous week, but put up 28 against the 15th ranked Yellowjackets. Perhaps the best performance of the four was by Virginia, who went west to take on USC and hung tough in a three-point loss. Then again, USC may not be what it once was…or Virginia may be better than its recent past.
But the worst loss of the weekend went to Virginia Tech. Playing at home, needing a win to get the taste of the Boise State loss out of its mouth, the Hokies laid an egg against James Madison of the CAA. The Mighty CAA. James Madison may be good, or may be decent in FCS play, but they have no business beating the Hokies, especially in Lane Stadium. With the loss, the ACC’s highest-ranked preseason team is 0-2. The loss also puts a damper into Boise State’s national championship hopes, as the Hokies loss will certainly hurt Boise’s strength of schedule ranking.
The biggest winner of the week may have been North Carolina’s Tar Heels-at least on the football field. They had the week off. Unfortunately, their problems are much greater off the field, as a cheating scandal has already seen the resignation of one coach and several players suspended. As the investigation is still active, more sordid details may come out yet. The rest of the conference’s teams (at least those not named Wake Forest and Duke) won games they were expected to win, none of which moved the needle of national perception one inch. The first conference game of the season was won by Wake Forest, as the Demon Deacons outlasted Duke 54-48. Ho-hum.
The conference has a chance to salvage some of its pride in week 3. Wake Forest travels west to take on #19 Stanford, coming off a 35-0 pounding of UCLA. North Carolina State gets Cincinnati on Thursday night, but that game isn’t much of a needle mover with the Bearcats struggling. Maryland travels to Morgantown to take on #21 West Virginia, which somehow beat Marshall in a game the Thundering Herd had no business losing. A Terp victory would be a major surprise; the Mountaineers have had their number for years. Virginia Tech looks to right the ship against East Carolina, which comes into Lane Stadium at 2-0. Brigham Young, which looked great in week 1 beating Washington and not so great in week 2 losing to Air Force, takes on the newly humbled Seminoles in Tallahassee.
This couldn’t be what the conference thought it was getting when it added Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College to go with what seemingly was going to be an always-good Florida State. So far this year, the ACC is proving that it isn’t ready for prime time, or national significance.