Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Weekly ACC Roundup, Week 2

Before we get to anything else, let me say this:

845 freaking yards of total offense. EIGHT HUNDRED AND FORTY FIVE. That's what Louisville ran up against Syracuse. That is roughly half a mile. That's obscene. That's...wow, UNC's run defense is thanking God tonight they don't have to face that this season. 

Right. That being said, Week 2 was once again full of unpleasant surprises. There were the expected stomping of FCS and lower-tier FBS teams (FSU over the half of the Charleston Southern roster that was allowed to travel, BC finally beating somebody, Georgia Tech beating Mercer, who probably would have had better luck against Duke, and so on.) 

But the real takeaway was twofold. One, upper-middle ACC teams are a little better than lower-middle Big 10 teams, especially lower-middle Big 10 teams who for whatever reason forget to punish UNC's run defense. Pitt squeaked out a win over Penn State, while UNC finally put away Illinois after a protracted struggle. Once again UNC's offense looked fabulous; once again their defense looked like it couldn't stop a determined morris dancing troupe.

The flip side of that is that ACC teams tend not to do so well when against Power 5 teams that aren't on a severe downward trajectory. Oregon hammered Virginia and Tennessee clobbered Virginia Tech by largely identical scores, and while the VT game will be a historical footnote because it was the largest audience ever for a college football game, getting decisively stomped by a team that needed insane luck to escape Appalachian State the previous week ain't a good look for anybody.

Speaking of which, Clemson nearly Clemsoned away their game against Troy, but with maybe a little help from the refs escaped. Ideally for the conference, the Tigers will learn from their close call, regroup and refocus, and rampage through the rest of the schedule. Alternately, the rest of the conference is going to be studying that game film very closely.

Which leaves us with the two games matching schools inside North Carolina, both of which went largely pear-shaped. NC State's loss to East Carolina is probably the beginning of the end for coach Dave Doreen, who's four years in and has a schedule with five ranked teams ahead of him. If State doesn't pull off at least one upset, they'll need to run the table on the unranked teams to scrape their way to bowl eligibility, and at this point the smart money's not sure they're going to be able to do that.

Then there's Duke, which lost to Wake Forest. Coming into the season, Duke was pretty much at the top of the second tier of ACC teams, coming off a bowl victory and building big-time. Dynamic offense, good enough defense, a refurbished Wallace Wade Stadium - what wasn't to love? I'm not sure, but getting punched in the mouth by a Wake Forest team - and yes, 37 yards rushing counts as punched in the mouth - that barely squeaked past Tulane - is about as unlovable as it gets.

And next week, God help Pittsburgh. 

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