Both the ACC and the Big East are off to rough starts in 2010. The ACC flopped on the big stage last weekend, while the Big East has yet to win any high-profile matchups. So which league is hurting more? ACC blogger Heather Dinich and Big East blogger Brian Bennett commiserate and communicate about their under-performing conferences.
Brian Bennett: Heather, we have to stop meeting like this. Seriously, it seems like every year we're both trying to defend the conferences we cover. The Big East is 0-6 against teams from the other five power leagues, the Mountain West and the WAC. But the ACC might be even more disappointing, because expectations were so high for so many teams from that league. Which conference do you think has had a worse start to 2010?
Heather Dinich: It's a toss-up, Bennett, it really is, but we've got a few games coming up that will help answer that, starting Thursday night with NC State-Cincy, and then Maryland at West Virginia on Saturday. The marquee matchup, though, will be Miami at Pittsburgh. Until then, though, I will argue that the Almost Competitive Conference beats the Big Least in the most disappointing start to the season. There's one loss that was the deciding factor -- Virginia Tech losing (AT HOME!!) to James Madison. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the Big East stooped even that low, despite a 1-4 start on Weak 1 and West Virginia's scare from Marshall in Weak 2.
BB: You're right that the Big East doesn't have any embarrassing losses. Its defeats have come against Florida, Michigan, Utah, Washington, Kentucky and Fresno State, and all but one of those came on the road. The league has beaten up on its lower-division competition.
What's troubling, though, is that no one from the Big East stepped up and grabbed a marquee win. Pitt was the preseason favorite and Top 15 club before it lost a sloppy overtime game to the Utes. UConn was a buzz team that got smacked around by Denard Robinson at the Big House. The two-time defending league champ, Cincinnati, was manhandled in Fresno. It looks like the Big East will once again be shut out of the national championship picture unless West Virginia can play much better than it did last Friday night.
But I guess I don't have to tell you about missing out on marquee wins. What has been the most disappointing thing in the ACC so far? And can we table all this "Florida State and Miami are back" talk for yet another year?
HD: Wait, did you just use national championship and West Virginia in the same sentence? Poor guy. Keep reaching, my friend, keep reaching. Maybe the Mountaineers will face Miami for it all. But don’t worry, you won’t hear anymore Miami-Florida State hype from this blogger until one of those programs does something to deserve it. I will say, though, that just because both of them faltered on the national stage doesn’t mean they’re out of the running for the ACC championship game. Then again, Duke and Maryland could wind up in Charlotte and it wouldn’t surprise me. Well, ok, maybe just a little …
As for the most disappointing thing in the ACC so far? I would say it was how these big games have been lost. For Florida State, it was convincingly. For Miami it was turnovers. Both of those programs looked to similar to their 2009 form. For Virginia Tech it was fundamental mistakes and turnovers. Virginia beat itself against USC. North Carolina had missed opportunities against LSU, and it was missing half its starting lineups. It’s impossible not to wonder what UNC would have been able to do this year if it had been full strength when everyone else appears to be down. Ah, the what-ifs of the ACC. So where does the Big East turn now? Can the conference redeem itself?
BB: Hey, West Virginia was almost there in 2007 and Cincinnati was maybe a second away last year, so it's possible. I don't remember the ACC even sniffing the BCS title game in recent years. Miami only did it when the Hurricanes were in the Big East; clearly, they need to come back. No hard feelings.
The good news for the Big East is it still has some spotlight games left. Next week alone, Cincinnati plays Oklahoma, West Virginia goes to LSU, Pittsburgh welcomes those 'Canes to Heinz Field and Rutgers takes on the tattered shreds of the North Carolina program. The bad news is, none of those teams has yet shown the ability to beat a high-caliber opponent, with the possible exception of Pitt (wait -- did I just use ACC teams and "high-caliber" in the same sentence?).
Heck, I'm not even sure Cincinnati can beat an NC State team that squeaked by Big East wannabe Central Florida last week. But at least one of our leagues will get some nonconference victories in the next couple of weeks, because they're playing each other. Can the ACC earn back any of its squandered respect?
HD: You don’t remember Virginia Tech ranked No. 3 in the BCS in 2007? You almost let that slip by like a Big East defense. But yes, there are still plenty of opportunities for redemption -- half the SEC is still on the schedule starting this week when Clemson travels to Auburn. There’s also the rivalry games against Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Those are the games the ACC still has to win, because you and I both know that beating Cincinnati and Rutgers won’t do much for the ACC’s reputation.