Friday, September 25, 2015

Your Weekly ACC Roundup: Third Time's Not Terribly Charming

It could have been a lot worse.

Mind you, it could have been a lot better. The ACC was favored in 9 of 10 games with non-conference opponents in week 3; they won 7, including 3 out of 5 from the soft white underbelly of the B1G.

Inside the conference, the teams that were supposed to win (FSU and Clemson) did, though by smaller margins than anticipated against game but outgunned opponents (Louisville and BC). Clemson, having thus far refused to Clemson, is lurking around the fringes of the top 10 and is the ACC's best shot at a playoff team, which is one of the reasons the ACC is not going to be making the playoff this year. Louisville, on the other hand, looks to be setting itself up nicely for a late-season run against the likes of Syracuse, UVa, Pitt and Kentucky to become bowl eligible and have a "late season momentum!" narrative for next year. Also, in week 4 they play Samford, which ought to get them off the schneid.

With the B1G, it was basically a case of everyone holding serve. Pitt dropped a winnable game that nobody expected them to win against Iowa, Miami tried but failed to hand a game they had neatly tucked away back to Nebraska, and as expected, UNC's offense did horrible things to Illinois' defense. As for VT and Purdue, that was the game everyone forgot was on until it scrolled by on the ticker, at which point everyone promptly forgot it was on again. At this point, Purdue isn't even good enough to be Rutgers, which is embarrassing, because they've got the real Rutgers right next to them in the conference.

As for Duke losing to Northwestern and GT dropping a close one to Notre Dame, neither of those was a terrible surprise. Both came in with a puncher's chance against superior opponents - yes, Northwestern was a superior opponent. They held a Cutcliffe offense to 10 points. That's pretty goddamn superior - and they took their best shots and missed. No shame, but two missed opportunities for profile-raising wins. Those are chances that have to be seized, if the ACC wants anyone outside the greater Raleigh area to give a damn about conference football, and there's only so long you can hang your hat on VT beating Ohio State last year.

The quiet alarm bells were in the games against lower-profile opponents. Yes, NCSU continued its early season diet of cupcakes by thumping Old Dominion, but UVa, Syracuse and Wake all won by less than a touchdown against teams they should have run out of the building. William and Mary, Central Michigan and Army isn't a trifecta that strikes fear into the heart of anyone this side of NJIT, but when they come /this/ close to jacking three games from teams that traditionally struggle to get bowl eligible, well, it's a sign that when the big boys come to town, better batten the hatches.

Week 4, apart from an interesting conference matchup between Duke and GT, is largely populated by more marshmallows than the top of your grandmother's sweet potato pudding. LSU is the main exception, taking on Syracuse in a battle of - seriously, I'm going to write this without laughing - unbeatens. One can safely assume the Orange will in fact be beaten, with the words "like a drum" leaping to mind. Beyond that, it's largely tune-up time.
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