Take 2: ACC's nonconference schedule
August, 13, 2012
The ACC is getting bigger and badder, and so is the blog coverage (ahem, that wasn't a joke). Andrea Adelson will be contributing to the blog on a more regular basis this season, so we decided an official introduction was in order this morning with this Take 2.
Up for debate: Will the ACC finally win some of its big nonconference games, or will it be business as usual? Depends, of course, on who you ask ...
The ACC can break your heart.
From watching Wake Forest come undone in the fourth quarter against Syracuse last year, to not being able to watch anymore of Clemson get run over by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, there are varying degrees of pain ACC fans suffer through every year.
This is the season for healing.
No, really, hear me out …
There are plenty of nonconference games to be won, and enough marquee opportunities to make a statement against the SEC. And there are six more reasons for optimism this year – Logan Thomas, Bryn Renner, EJ Manuel, Mike Glennon, Sean Renfree and Tajh Boyd – all quarterbacks who have thrown for 3,000 yards in a season.
NC State turned a corner under coach Tom O’Brien last year and is ready to continue that momentum in the season opener against Tennessee. No Sammy Watkins for Clemson against Auburn? No problem. There’s plenty of other talent on that roster. And Florida State-Florida? Jimbo Fisher has regained control of the state championship.
Where the ACC will struggle most in the nonconference schedule this year is against Georgia and South Carolina. The SEC, at least on paper, has the two better teams right now. This league is good enough, though, that it should not have to worry about any Big East teams. It should not get trounced by, say, Cincinnati, or lose to Temple. And it should not -- I repeat NOT -- lose to any FCS teams.
It should beat Tennessee. It should beat Auburn. And it should have a winning bowl record.
Let the healing process begin.
So let me see here. I am supposed to believe the ACC will win a big game this year after watching that meltdown in Miami?
I kid because I love.
This is a new season! So new reason for hope! Optimism! Big wins!
A quick gander at the schedule and it appears ... Oh. Wait. The biggest game on the entire ACC schedule was canceled. Thanks, West Virginia. Talk about a marquee national matchup that would have put all eyes squarely on the ACC.
Imagine all the hype that would have surrounded the meeting between Florida State and West Virginia in Week 2. The Mountaineers are not Big East reps anymore, the way they were when they trounced Clemson.
They are in the Big 12, and that automatically shoots up prestige points and spots in the rankings (Sorry Big East, the slap in the face continues). Plus, they come into the season hovering near the Top 10, while Florida State is in the Top 10.
But West Virginia was forced to cancel because of its move up in the world. That leaves what, exactly, as the marquee nonconference game of the year? NC State vs. Tennessee, a team that went 5-7 last year?
Three games against irrelevant Notre Dame? Virginia vs. watered down Penn State? Virginia Tech against Pitt and Cincinnati? Duke-Stanford?
Clemson-Auburn has potential, but the Tigers were picked to finish fourth in their division.
There is one ACC team that does get to play West Virginia -- Maryland.
Anybody out there think that is going to turn out well for the Terps?
Wait! What about the biggest nonconference games of all, the all-important in-state rivalries, featuring opponents from the SEC!
Florida State-Florida, Clemson-South Carolina and Georgia Tech-Georgia are all huge games to be sure. But a few wins here and there the last few years, and well, that hasn’t done anything to change the image.
You know what would be a good start? For the ACC to have a clean sweep of those rivalry games this year. The last time that happened? 2000.
That also happens to be the last time the ACC had a representative in the national championship game. That would be Florida State, the team that many have pinned their hopes on to get the ACC back into the national spotlight again. (Florida looks like easy pickins’ again, by the way).
So that is the first part. The second, of course, is to actually win its BCS game. From my seat, it is too early to sit here and say absolutely! The ACC will vanquish its BCS opponent. First of all, we have no idea who said opponent is going to be. Second of all, I do not think there is a hands-down dominant team in this league right now.
Not even Florida State. What if EJ Manuel gets hurt again? How big is the loss of Greg Reid? There are about five teams with a good shot at winning the ACC title -- Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and NC State.
What will really start to change the perception of the ACC is for one of its teams to run the table and get into the national conversation beyond October. I could point to 2000 again, but you get the picture.
Clemson started last year, but wilted. If Florida State makes a serious push, the image changes overnight.
Is this the year that happens? My gut says no. But to borrow an old cliché -- that is why they play the games.