ACC: Big East
Does it seem like ... wait, there goes De'Anthony Thomas. Don't think he'll get caught from behind.
Does it seem like ... wait, would somebody please tackle Justin Blackmon?
Does it seem like there have been a lot of points this bowl season?
It's not just you. There have been a lot of points. More points than ever before. And by huge quantities.
So far, BCS bowl teams have averaged a total of 77 points in the Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls. That, folks, is nearly 26 points more than last year (51.6). And it's nearly 11 points better than the previous high of 66.3 from 2001-02.
Perhaps pairing two SEC teams in the title game has created a black hole sucking all defensive stinginess into the LSU-Alabama rematch, which you might recall went 9-6 with no touchdowns in their first meeting. West Virginia scored 10 touchdowns -- 10! -- against Clemson. Alabama gave up 12 TDs all season.
Speaking of Clemson: ACC. Well, well, well.
After the Tigers ingloriously fell 70-33 to the Mountaineers, we got our second story from the BCS bowl season: The ACC's insistence on throwing up on itself in BCS bowl games.
The conference that was once expected to challenge the SEC is now 2-13 in BCS bowl games. That's hard to do. You'd think in 15 BCS bowls the conference could get lucky at least five or six times. But no, it insists on making ACC blogger Heather Dinich, a genuinely nice person, into some sort of Grim Reaper every bowl season.
Heck, the Big East has won seven BCS bowls -- second fewest among AQ conferences -- but it's 7-7.
Of course, this all ties together, and we're here to bring out a bow, but first a warning: If you don't want to read about how good the SEC is for the 56,314th time this year, then stop reading. I'd recommend an episode of "South Park" or perhaps a John le Carré thriller as an alternative for passing the time.
We can all agree the SEC plays great defense right? Alabama and LSU will play for the title Monday with the nation's top-two defenses. Do you think perhaps that it's not a coincidence that the conference that is 16-7 in BCS bowl games plays great defense?
The only other AQ conference with a winning record in BCS bowl games is the Pac-12, which is 11-7. The Pac-12 isn't known for defense, either, but USC was when it won the conference's last national title in 2004.
The only team to win a BCS national title without an elite defense was Auburn in 2010, but the Tigers' defense seemed to find itself late in the season. Since 1999, eight national champions had a top-10 defense. Other than Auburn, the lowest-rated defense to win a BCS national title was Ohio State in 2002. It ranked 23rd in the nation in total defense.
Three of the four BCS bowl games have been thrillers. Two went to overtime. We've seen big plays all over the field in the passing game and running game. Yet, if things go according to script in the title game, we'll see none of that. We might not see more than a couple of plays that go for more than 20 yards. We might not see any.
Some might call that boring. It might seem that both offenses are so paranoid of making a mistake that they are stuck in mud, both in game plan and execution.
But, snoozefest or not, when the clock strikes zero a team from the SEC will hoist the crystal football for a sixth consecutive time.
That might say something about playing better defense.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Maryland reinforced what we already knew, Virginia had the week off and Duke beat up on NC Central like it was expected to. Florida State? Well, even the Noles can’t figure out who they are yet. The other games, though, were a little more revealing, and some teams learned lessons the hard way:
1. Virginia Tech is still King of the Coastal. Miami had a chance to unseat the defending conference champs and couldn’t do it. The Hokies were the ones who played like a top 10 team, not Miami. Now the Canes, Georgia Tech and North Carolina all have a division loss. The Hokies still have to play Georgia Tech and North Carolina, so that can change the hierarchy in that division, but Virginia Tech will hold the tiebreaker over Miami if it’s necessary in November. The Hokies have won three out of the past five ACC titles and can win another if they continue to play complete games like they did on Saturday against Miami.
2. The Big East was better than the ACC, if only for a day. At some point the Big East deserves credit, and there’s no better time than now. South Florida played with a purpose -- not to mention its backup quarterback -- and handed Florida State a humbling loss. Rutgers took advantage of Maryland’s mistakes in Byrd Stadium, giving the Big East a 2-1 record over the ACC this weekend. It was almost 3-0, but NC State put it together in the second half for a comeback win over Pitt.
3. Don’t quit on Boston College. Because the Eagles certainly won’t quit. You’d think we would have learned that by now. Who expected BC to rack up 398 yards after moving the ball for just 54 against Clemson? This is what BC does, though -- it plays smart, tough, blue-collar football for four quarters, and by beating Wake Forest it’s in the mix in the Atlantic Division. Dave Shinskie gave them the answer they had been looking for at quarterback, and as long he continues to progress each week, BC will be in every game.
4. NC State’s offense does work against BCS opponents. The three points scored against South Carolina and quiet performance from Russell Wilson in the season opener had many outside the program wondering if the Pack had regressed since the Papajohns.com bowl; if Wilson had gotten a step slower. They proved otherwise against a Pitt defense that was supposed to be the Panthers’ strength and one of the main reasons Pitt was considered a top team in the Big East.
5. North Carolina and Clemson need more than their defenses. And in UNC’s case, the defense could’ve used some help, too. Clemson’s offense again stalled in the red zone, and North Carolina’s offense looked more like it did at Connecticut. TCU’s defense stole the show in a 14-10 win over Clemson, but quarterback Kyle Parker came up short on two fourth-down attempts, and it wasn’t like the Tigers didn’t have second-half chances. In Atlanta, UNC’s defense was on the field for 42 minutes. Two thoughts: 1. Make a stop. 2. Sustain a drive. UNC had just 17 rushing yards. Both teams entered Saturday with defensive reputations, but it didn’t win them the game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Pitt is beating NC State 24-17 in the third quarter, FSU already lost to South Florida, and Maryland trails Rutgers 17-13. Big East fans are always yapping about respect, or lack thereof, and the ACC is proving why the Big East deserves some. You can't argue which is the better conference on a day when the ACC loses three games to three Big East opponents. If the ACC keeps this up, the Big East will have overtaken the ACC in the conference rankings, even if it's for a fleeting moment. But with North Carolina and Florida State losing -- and Cincinnati and Pitt looking better each week, we could see a change in the balance of power coming up in the Top 25.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
There are no other BCS conferences still as wide open as the ACC. Heck, the SEC already has things all wrapped up with a pretty little bow in Alabama and Florida. Is there anyone else in the Pac-10 besides USC and Oregon State? Same can be said for the Big Ten, which this season has been the Big 1 -- Penn State. The Big East isn't convoluted, it's just not very good. You can argue the Big 12 South is just as messy, but at least in that conference it's pretty clear who the top teams are. In the ACC, that depends on what week it is. This week's round of games will either clear things up a bit or make it even muddier.
If you take a closer look, though, there is one thing we know for sure:
Three teams -- Virginia Tech, Maryland and Boston College -- control their own destiny. All three can win their respective divisions if they win all of their remaining games.
That's an interesting scenario because you can argue (and I will) that Florida State and North Carolina are the best teams in the ACC this year. Virginia Tech just found its offense last week. Boston College is still winning with its defense. And Maryland? It doesn't have the defense or the playmakers on offense to match the talent on Virginia Tech's roster, let alone Florida State's. UNC separated itself with its win over Georgia Tech and beat Miami on the road with its backup quarterback. The Tar Heels have an opportunistic defense that the offense finally seems to have caught up to.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Fellow blogger Brian Bennett (Big East) and I have been hearing it all week from our colleagues, and fans of both conferences have been pointing fingers at each other, so we decided to argue amongst ourselves over which conference has taken the bigger hit so far this season:
Brian Bennett: OK, Heather. The ACC was the laughingstock of the first weekend, and now the Big East has become the butt of all jokes. But it's showdown time: Rutgers vs. North Carolina on Thursday night and Virginia at UConn on Saturday. I'm dubbing them the "Bottom of the BCS Bowls." So whose conference is the worst after this week?
Heather Dinich: Depends ... are you going to start bragging about that UConn win over Temple? My guys went 1-3 over FBS opponents in Week 2, and that's not including Georgia Tech's win over BC -- An ACC team had to win that one. That makes the ACC 3-7 against legit opponents this season. Beat that.
Brian Bennett: I can't beat it, but I can tie it. The Big East is 3-7 against FBS schools (and that includes a 2-2 mark against the mighty MAC). It's 0-3 against BCS opponents with an average margin of defeat of 23 points. But, hey, you can't win 'em all. As for UConn, didn't you write in August about how much better Temple would be? And that game was played in a near-monsoon, so throw out the stats (please).
Here's a stat for you: The Big East has won its last three BCS bowl games. When was the last ACC bowl victory of note? I think Bobby Bowden was still in short pants at the time.
Heather Dinich: Hahaha ... yeah, well, in case you missed it, Bowden's quarterback scored more points in one quarter on Saturday than Pat White did all game! You speak the truth, though, the last notable ACC bowl win was Florida State in 1999. But mark my words, the Noles will represent against UT-Chattanooga this week and the league's shiny 10-0 record against FCS teams will only get brighter.
Here's the question, though, who will come out on top this weekend? I say the conferences split, with UNC beating Rutgers and UVA losing to UConn. You?
Brian Bennett: Ah, yes. Bragging on Florida State's performance against Western Carolina. Or maybe you meant the other Bowden's impressive win over The Citadel. You're truly grasping for straws now, Heather. Maybe we should avoid all talk of East Carolina, though. The Pirates might be better than anyone in either of our leagues.
I tend to agree with both your predictions, though North Carolina sure didn't impress me against, ahem, McNeese State.
We both know these aren't either conference's marquee teams, though. So here's another question: How would West Virginia and South Florida fare in the ACC, and vice versa for the ACC's best (is that an oxymoron?) in the Big East?
Heather Dinich: Well, considering the ACC stole three of those teams, and Virginia Tech won the Big East in 1995, 1996 and 1999, and Miami had six Big East titles, you'd think they'd be OK, but that was then and this is now. The Hokies don't look like the ACC (or Big East) champs, and Miami is in its rebuilding phase. ACC commish John Swofford would probably benefit from trading those two for WVU and South Florida in the Coastal Division this year, but Wake Forest could handle 'em. Next year? I'll stick with the Hokies and the Canes.
Brian Bennett: I suspect South Florida might end up being the best team in either league, but the Bulls have got to prove it. I think Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese would tell the ACC to keep Miami, unless Swofford wanted to trade the 'Canes for Syracuse straight up. Wouldn't it be appropriate if the Big East and ACC champs met in a BCS game? (I'm sure some bright-hued, blazer-wearing bowl execs are quivering at that thought right now).
But let's look at the bright side. No pesky national-championship debates for us to blog endlessly about this year. And, of course, none of the other leagues can touch our guys in basketball.
12:00 PM ET 16 Georgia Tech 9 Georgia 12:00 PM ET Kentucky 22 Louisville 12:00 PM ET South Carolina 21 Clemson 12:30 PM ET Syracuse Boston College 12:30 PM ET North Carolina State North Carolina 3:30 PM ET Florida 3 Florida State 7:00 PM ET Wake Forest Duke 7:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Miami (FL)