And, as a technical matter, Vanderbilt-Wake Forest.
I’m not exactly breaking any news when I tell you this, but the ACC is not having a very good year. In the abstract, it might seem like any other elite conference. It has two 10-1 teams and each team has at least four wins other than Boston College. The problem is that the ACC, like all conferences not named the SEC, is measured by how it does in non-conference play. And it has had a miserable year in that regard.
Each team in the conference plays four non-conference games; with four games remaining, that means 44 have been played, although 13 of those games — including three by the two powerhouses of the conference, Florida State and Clemson — were against FCS schools. How has the ACC fared in its first 31 games against other FBS foes? The table below lists each non-conference game, sorted first by quality of the ACC team (that’s the SRS grade on the left) and second by the SRS grade of the opponent:
|09-29-2012||55.3||Florida St||30||South Florida||17||Road||Win||13||16||BgE||34.6||50.6|
|09-22-2012||44.5||North Carolina||27||East Carolina||6||Home||Win||21||18||CUS||32.9||50.9|
|09-08-2012||42.6||Miami FL||13||Kansas St||52||Road||Loss||-39||-30||B12||59.9||29.9|
|10-06-2012||42.6||Miami FL||3||Notre Dame||41||Neut||Loss||-38||-31||IND||57.9||26.9|
|11-17-2012||42.6||Miami FL||40||South Florida||9||Home||Win||31||26||BgE||34.6||60.6|
|10-27-2012||42||Georgia Tech||17||Brigham Young||41||Home||Loss||-24||-25.5||IND||48.8||23.3|
|09-29-2012||42||Georgia Tech||28||Middle Tennessee St||49||Home||Loss||-21||-24||Sun||36.2||12.2|
|09-22-2012||39.3||Virginia Tech||37||Bowling Green||0||Home||Win||37||29||MAC||33.8||62.8|
|08-31-2012||38.9||North Carolina St||21||Tennessee||35||Neut||Loss||-14||-14||SEC||40.3||26.3|
|09-08-2012||38.9||North Carolina St||10||Connecticut||7||Road||Win||3||7||BgE||30.8||37.8|
|09-15-2012||38.9||North Carolina St||31||South Alabama||7||Home||Win||24||21||Sun||21.9||42.9|
|11-10-2012||31||Boston College||6||Notre Dame||21||Home||Loss||-15||-18||IND||57.9||39.9|
|11-17-2012||28.1||Wake Forest||0||Notre Dame||38||Road||Loss||-38||-29.5||IND||57.9||28.4|
Both FSU and Clemson at least gave it the old college try: the Seminoles scheduled West Virginia and one FCS opponent, but when the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 they backed out of the game, leaving FSU to place a second FCS school on its schedule. Clemson scheduled Auburn – two years removed from a national championship – in Atlanta on opening weekend. But at the end of the day, neither FSU nor Clemson played any team out of conference – or in conference, excluding each other – that remotely impressed anybody. Of course, these two teams face huge tests this weekend against their in-state, SEC rivals.
UNC scheduled Louisville, a terrible team just two years ago that now may win the Big East. But that game did not go according to ACC script.
Miami certainly couldn’t have expected that they’d face two teams who would be ranked 1st in the country at some point this year when they scheduled Kansas State and Notre Dame. The results were, in hindsight, predictably bloody, with Miami losing by the combined score of 93-16.
Georgia Tech saved its worst games of the year for nonconference play. While Georgia Tech embarrassed UNC (68 points scored), Virginia (36 point win) and Maryland (33-13 on the road), the Yellow Jackets’ worst two games of the season were inexplicable 21- and 24-point losses to BYU and Middle Tennessee State. BYU scored 6 points against Boise State, 6 points against Utah State, and 14 points against San Jose State, but exploded for 41 points in Atlanta. MTSU lost by 42 to Mississippi State and lost to McNeese State – an FCS school – but somehow won on the road against the Yellow Jackets 49-28. And Georgia Tech is going to be your Coastal Division champs.
The sixth and seventh best schools – Virginia Tech and NC State – didn’t fare any better. Virginia Tech shockingly lost to both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, while North Carolina State lost by 14 points to a Tennessee team that may set a school record for losses.
This is why Florida State gets no love from the BCS computers. Out of conference this season, the ACC has been a joke. Consider:
- Overall, the ACC is currently 14-17 in non-conference games against other FBS schools. This is the most impressive stat you will read about the ACC today.
- Against Conference USA, the MAC, the Sun Belt, and the WAC, the ACC is 7-2. Against miserable Army — the 114th team in the SRS — the conference is 1-1. That means against the other BCS schools (the SEC, B10, B12, P12, Big East, Notre Dame, and BYU), the conference went a pitiful 6-14.
- This is not a joke: Ball State is the second best team an ACC school has beaten this year. Virginia’s upset over Penn State — a one-point home win when the Nittany Lions missed an extra point and four field goals — is the conference’s best win of the year. After PSU and Ball State, at least according to the SRS, the best teams defeated by ACC schools were Auburn, South Florida (twice), Bowling Green, East Carolina, Temple, and Connecticut.
- To put a bow on it, the ACC lost to the best six teams it faced out of conference, and according to the SRS, to 13 of the 14 schools they faced that have SRS ratings over 40.
I don’t know if much is going to change tomorrow, but for a conference that has zero signature wins this year, tomorrow is the only chance the conference gets. Clemson is a 4-point home favorite to a Marcus Lattimore-less South Carolina team; the SRS would make Clemson 2.2-point favorites, so that line seems appropriate. Florida State is a 6-point home favorite against Florida, while the SRS would make UF just a one-point dog. Florida State has beaten up on creampuffs while Florida struggles with everyone (but still defeated Texas A&M, LSU, and South Carolina). Because Florida State’s offense is very good and Florida’s offense is offensive, most expect the Seminoles to win. I think the safe bet is to expect a very ugly game.
Georgia is 15 points better in the SRS than Georgia Tech, and with the game in Athens, should be 18-point favorites. In fact, the Bulldogs are favored by only 13 points, perhaps a sign that Vegas doesn’t want to penalize the Yellow Jackets as harshly as the SRS for losing to MTSU. Vanderbilt is an 11.5-point favorite on the road against an awful Wake Forest team; the SRS would project the line to be 14.6 points.
The ACC is not in a particularly enviable situation. No one expects Wake Forest or Georgia Tech to win, because odds are they will get creamed. And while the Clemson and Florida State games favor the ACC squad, both should be very close. That’s a lot of downside for a conference that with a few bad bounces, could go 0-4 on the day. That would be a fitting finish to a dreadful season. For the conference to save any face, it will need victories by both of its heavy hitters and a respectable performance by Georgia Tech.