Yesterday I read the news of Tommy Tuberville leaving Texas Tech. My immediate thoughts were 1) Why would he go to Cincinnati? and 2) why would Cincinnati hire him? Both good questions that I’m interested in hearing the answer to. It seems to me that both parties are taking steps toward irrelevance. Regardless of that, this morning it finally dawned on me what this could mean. Goodbye Chad Morris?
And that statement is, the ACC is worse than advertised. Four chances this weekend to make a positive statement, and in all cases the SEC delivered — and I hate to use this word, ever — smackdowns.
Georgia Tech and Wake Forest losses made sense. Both were sever underdogs. But for both Clemson and FSU to both be favored at home and to lose convincingly is really, really sad.
The only silver lining I can pull from this is that it makes Jimbo Fisher, who I don’t like, look even stupider than he did before when he bashed the BCS computers and said his team was #4, the best one-loss team in the country.
Anyway, this weekend highlighted quite nicely how bad the ACC is. Clemson’s 10-win season came on the back of facing some truly awful competition. The takeaway I find is that the ACC is about the quality of the Big East or Conference USA. Bleh.
Clemson got a wake up call against NC State and they answered it. The ACC could use a wake-up call this week as there are 4 ACC-SEC games, and the ACC really needs a strong showing. This weekend is a real opportunity to demonstrate some strength within the conference and to shake up the order near the top of the BCS.
Clemson (#11) plays South Carolina (#12), obviously, and is favored by 4 points. And let’s face it, if Clemson doesn’t win the rest of what I’m about to write will be completely meaningless.
Florida State (#10) plays Florida (#4). I would like to think that if Clemson and FSU win, that both would move past Florida in the BCS (given that Florida would have a worse record, would have lost a head-to-head with FSU, and that Clemson’s only loss would be to FSU).
Then there’s also GT playing at Georgia (#3). Tech hasn’t had much luck in this series lately. Perhaps their due. They’re definitely long-shots to win, but the upset definitely helps the ACC strength-of-schedule and gives FSU and Clemson another SEC team to possibly leapfrog in the BCS.
Lastly there’s Wake and Vandy. Vandy is 7-4 without any marquee wins. The outcome here really just affects the strength of schedule of the ACC. A Wake win helps; a Wake loss hurts.
In addition, I’m not assuming that Oregon will win this week. It is rivalry game week for Oregon, and their rival Oregon State isn’t a pushover. They only have 2 losses. They’ve put away a couple of top-20 teams. They only lost to Stanford by 4 in Palo Alto. They’re a solid football team. Then next week K State plays a highly ranked Texas team. Obviously Clemson needs to take care of its own business, but it can move up quite a bit with the right help from others.
Sometimes I swear the Jimbo Fisher is just a re-incarnation of Papa Bowden. Aside from a lack of spoken “dadgumits,” he seems to offer a similar megalomania shrouded in antiquated folksiness. So of course he hates BCS computers and can argue their low quality with this kind of low quality logic (emphasis mine):
Fisher thinks the coaches’ poll is the most accurate way to evaluate teams, suggesting his fellow coaches provide the most knowledge about how teams have actually performed and, he believes, would vote without bias.
“I don’t think writers could do it better than coaches could do because it’s what we do, and we understand the true guts of the business,” Fisher said. “(Coaches) understand the importance of winning. You understand how you win. Coaches understand the grind. Any win is hard.”
Fisher revealed that his own ballot in the coaches’ poll, which he said he spends about two hours per week completing, includes Florida State at No. 4 behind only undefeated Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame.
This has to be a joke, right? He simply couldn’t have actually claimed to be unbiased in his assessment that FSU is the best 1-loss team in the country, right?
At this point in the season, Clemson’s ascent, both nationally and within the conference, is largely in the hands of other teams. There is little other teams can do to help Clemson’s anemic strength of schedule. Mostly Clemson can just wait for other teams to lose. This week we saw Atlantic Division leading FSU overcome a scare from VT. And three teams ranked above Clemson, two of which were previously undefeated, lost on Saturday.
Let’s quickly review what Clemson’s past opposition has been up to.
- Auburn continued on as a joke of the SEc, losing 38-0 to UGA. The Auburn Tigers are now 2-8.
- Ball State beat #25 Toledo on Tuesday. At 7-3, Ball State remains one of the strongest teams that Clemson has beaten this year. Sagarin puts them at #3 on the list, behind GT and VT, but I think they could give either of those two teams a run for their money.
- Furman fell to 3-7 after a loss to App State.
- FSU, as mentioned, survived a scare from Virginia Tech. FSU certainly has talent, but their focus is sometimes lacking.
- BC lost, as expected to Notre Dame. To BC’s credit, they only lost by 15. BC is now 2-8.
- GT won a defenseless game against UNC. In the highest scoring game in ACC football history, Tech prevailed 68-50. Tech is now in play to win the Coastal with their 4-3 conference record
- Miami lost in the last seconds at Virginia. The Hoos are suddenly showing signs of life that I expected to emerge earlier in the season. The U took a 10 point lead with eleven minutes left in the 4th quarter. UVA looked lifeless, and the game seemed to be in hand. However UVA came back and Miami proved they aren’t ready to be taken seriously.
- VT, as mentioned, caved when it mattered against FSU. Tech is 4-6 and every time I hear an ESPN announcer talk about how good Logan Thomas is, about how he’s going to be playing on Sundays (in what country I wonder?), I want to shoot my TV.
- Wake Forest was beaten quite badly by NC State, the same NC State that was beaten quite badly the week before by UVA.
- Duke had the weekend off.
- Maryland, Clemson’s opponent of the week, did what was expected of them: lose badly. They forced three turnovers, which should be a point of concern for Clemson after similar problems against Duke. Otherwise they can help Clemson tremendously by executing a miracle and beating FSU next week
So there you have a bit of a summary of the sea of mediocrity that 10/12ths of the ACC.
For the remainder of the season, Clemson, for it’s part needs to play sharp, win, and win big if possible. One might forgive the Tigers for losing a bit of focus in the last several games where the outcomes have basically been decided by the end of the first quarter. Not to overlook NC State, but much of the success of this season hinges on the rivalry game with South Carolina.
One additional thought related to scheduling and the ACC: if the traditional ACC members continue to be so weak, it will behoove Clemson to use conference games as gimmes and schedule a slate of difficult out-of-conference games. I mean, have the last three games against Wake, Duke, and Maryland really been any different than the OOC games against Ball State and Furman?
I made a comment about Maryland’s loss to Boston College without actually reading anything except the score. I had assumed that their last quarterback survived the game. I was wrong. Turns out Caleb Rowe became the 3rd Maryland QB to tear an ACL this year, leaving the Terps without true quarterback. The Terps next turn to “Shawn Petty, a 240-pound linebacker who ran an option attack in high school.”
Clemson plays Maryland on Nov 10th.
As you probably heard by now, Clemson won handily on Thursday night in Wake Forest. It wasn’t much of a contest and not even that much fun to watch. The win, combined with some losses by some teams ahead of Clemson, might propel the team up some spots in the human polls. However it appears the strength of schedule took another hit. As much as Clemson would like to sit around and wish that the rest of the ACC would stop playing like chumps, all they can really focus on is continuing to take care of business on the field.
Let’s look at the opponents Clemson has already faced this season:
Auburn – Those Tigers lost by 42 to A&M and fell to 1-7. Seems like they’ve pretty much given up at this point. It is amazing that their record has gotten so bad after winning the national championship just a couple years ago, but it is just sad to see that they aren’t even competitive in most of these games.
Ball State – The Cardinals improved to 6-3 after beating Army. In all honesty, this MAC team is one of the best teams Clemson has beaten all season.
Furman – The Paladins improved to 3-6 after beating Elon.
FSU – The ‘Noles embarrassed Duke pretty thoroughly. They won 48-7 despite losing four turnovers. FSU — despite the turnovers — looked like the FSU that most people expected to see this season. It’s a shame that they didn’t bother to play that well against NC State.
Boston College – The Eagles won their second game of the season, this time over seemingly hapless Maryland. BC might have a shot against Wake Forest next week, but that might be the last bright spot for that time for the season. Fun stat: BC ranks 121st in rushing yards this season.
GT – The Yellow Jackets fell to 3-5 this week after being eviscerated by BYU. Tech managed just 157 yards of offense and they were 0-10 on 3rd down. A GT victory would have made the ACC look a little bit better in conference-to-conference comparisons. Instead they lost and reduced Clemson’s SOS.
VT – Had the week off.
Wake – They were Clemson’s victim this week. They’re now 4-4, although bowl eligibility isn’t completely out of the question. Fun stat: Wake ranks 112th nationally in rushing yards this season.
So that’s it for the teams Clemson has already played. What about the teams left on the schedule?
Duke – As mentioned they were battered by FSU this week. They’re bowl eligible at 6-3, but they’ve lost 2 of their last 3. With Clemson, GT, and Miami left on the schedule, one imagines that 7-5 is the best they will do, with 6-6 being a real possibility. Fun stat: duke ranks 100th in the nation in rushing yards this season.
Maryland – The Terps fell to 4-4 after the previously mentioned loss to Boston College. The Terps are a tough, but also fragile team. They’re down to their last quarterback, a true freshman. Fun stat: Maryland ranks 119th in rushing yards this season.
NC State – As you’ll recall, the Wolfpack had been living on the edge. They somehow managed to stay close to FSU and win the final seconds. Then, last week, they survived a late push by Maryland when the Maryland placekicker bounced on the wrong way off the upright. This week they were not so lucky. They were playing to take it into overtime. They punted and Giovani Bernard returned the kick for a most impressive and soul-crushing touchdown. Now at 5-3 (2-2), they are pretty much out of the division championship conversation. Fun stat: State ranks 102nd in rush yards this year. As an aside, is Sean Glennon actually that good, or is the rest of the team that bad. In the few times I’ve watched State play this year, they announcers have ceased to gush about the guy talking about how he’s going to be playing on Sundays. Do they mean in Canada or something? Because I just don’t see it. State has a good chance to finish strong. They have very winnable games remaining against Virginia, Wake, and BC. It’s hard to imagine they’ll find magic against Clemson, but it can’t be ruled out.
South Carolina – Carolina won the game but might be losing the war. They managed a 3-point win over Tennessee that was competitive to the end. Unfortunately they’re recent win against Florida was diminished a bit by Florida’s loss to Georgia. Much more unfortunately, Marcus Lattimore looks to have had one of this knees destroyed. I don’t wish that kind of injury on anyone.
Clemson should be expected to win the next three easily, and if they stay focused, that should happen. The USCe game is still a tossup, but at least it should be a competitive game.
Speaking of the Bowdens, I hadn’t realized that Terry had turned into a manatee.
I also hadn’t realized that he had left TUNA for lovely Akron. One wonders if he can maintain a steady flow of FSU
rejects non-qualifiers, and, if not, he can achieve any success at all (before he dies of a massive coronary).