ACC Roundtable: 2011 Preseason Edition
The wait is almost over. College football is almost here, beginning another season of major college athletics.
With that in mind, it's about time to start some of the regular features that appear during the course of the year, one of which is the ACC Roundtable. It's comprised of a collection of bloggers and columnists that cover teams within the ACC, or the ACC itself, that answer a series of questions each week.
Most ACC programs are hitting the snooze button for the first two weeks of the season before hosting four preseason top 25 programs in week 3 — #1 Oklahoma, #18 Ohio State, #23 Auburn and #24 West Virginia. How will week 3 in the ACC go down? Can the conference win a majority of those four high-profile games on Sept. 17?
I feel like a broken record answering a variation of this question every year, but until the ACC starts winning some of these high profile non-conference games, color me skeptical. As good as Florida State can be, I don't see them knocking off the team everyone's touting as the top team in the country. Miami over Ohio State? I don't see it…Ohio State's had more time to acclimate themselves to their NCAA woes than has Miami. I think Clemson has a shot against Auburn given they host them and took them to the wire last year on the road, but I still think Auburn wins that game.
The team I think might have the best shot at an upset is Maryland over West Virginia. It'll depend on how good Danny O'Brien can be in week three and how much of a positive impact Randy Edsell can have on turning around the Terps, but banking on that as a reason to outright predict the Terrapins will win is a bit much.
So I see the ACC going anywhere from 2-2 to 0-4 in these games during week three, and if it's the latter, it'll be yet another black eye on the ACC's football reputation that–at this point–is justified.
What's the one game on the schedule that your respective fan bases have circled?
The easy answer is our annual battle against the Tar Heels. This year's game has two interesting twists–Russell "Tar Heel Poison" Wilson is no longer our QB and Butch Davis's sudden ouster at UNC means they're under new management.
But I think the game that should be circled on every State fan's calendar is the return trip to Tallahassee as the Noles will attempt to enact revenge for State's upset win last year. As weak as our schedule is up front, State should probably be 7-0 going into that game. A win by State for the second year in a row might have huge implications on the Atlantic race, especially if FSU isn't quite the world beater everyone thought they'd be.
Name one ACC program that's not Florida State or Virginia Tech that has a legitimate shot at winning this year's ACC football title. Your ACC's football champion dark horse is:
Is there one? The Coastal division is a pure-T mess, what with three of the six programs either under NCAA investigation or playing their first football since their school's investigation concluded. Miami, UNC and GT were probably the only three teams capable of challenging the Hokies for the Coastal crown, yet all three have been hit by varying degrees of scandal. I don't think Virginia's ready to make a major leap forward just yet and as they say, Duke is Duke.
On the Atlantic side, there's just too much of a gap between the talent and coaching at FSU right now for me to believe anyone other than the Noles will appear in Charlotte. The more interesting debate is who finishes second–you could make a case both for or against any one of the bunch not named Wake Forest winding up in that runner-up slot.
It's been an offseason to forget with major NCAA infractions/investigations into the North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Miami programs. Can the conference as a whole move forward from this whole mess? How do you expect this all to shake out?
The scandals have been embarrassing, for sure, but I'm far more concerned with the potential threat to the existence of the ACC if the SEC swells from 12 teams to 14 or even 16. If Texas A&M has, in fact, made the decision to the leave the Big 12 and the SEC agrees to extend them an invite, the resulting shakeup among the two eastern seaboard conferences could be huge, especially if the SEC starts raiding the ACC for some of its properties.
Conference realignment, aka Conference Armageddon–if it ever goes down–will make these NCAA investigation stories look like below-the-fold news by comparison. Which leads us to…
You can also add conference realignment rumors to the 2011 offseason to forget. With A&M set to divorce the Big 12 and move to the SEC, rumors swirl about a 14th program coming from the ACC. Now's the time to pledge your allegiance to John Swofford and the ACC. Or don't. Either way, tell us what you think the endgame is for the next round of conference musical chairs.
First and foremost, I have no love for John Swofford. At all. In fact if I had the means, I would enter in a Vote of No Confidence into the court of public opinion. While I think expansion to get an ACC title game was ultimately the correct move, it was–and has since been–poorly handled. Virginia Tech feels like the only natural fit out of the group of three teams added (no offense, Brian), and his expectation that adding BC and Miami would gain us access to huge TV markets backfired as he wasn't able to accurately judge how much these local metro areas embrace college athletics. Boston and Miami are both pro-first markets, yet Swofford ignored that fact and seemed hell bent on adding two teams based on sheer potential TV households.
To BC's credit, they've made the most of the opportunity and have won the Atlantic division twice since joining the party, but Miami has been in a death spiral ever since inclusion, adding only more questions as to the wisdom of their inclusion.
So with the ACC facing potential extinction if the SEC starts growing, do I feel good about having John Swofford steering this ship? Hell no. Not at all. I can envision a scenario where the SEC, BIG 10 and perhaps even the Big East start picking the bones of the ACC clean of all its viable programs, leaving the ACC on the outside of the eventual 64-team BCS superstructure, scrambling to add non-BCS schools just to get back to 12 teams.
As a State fan, knowing how our former basketball coach essentially gave birth to the ACC, I have to acknowledge the fact that the ACC as it once was is no more. It died with the round robin format for basketball when expansion–however necessary at the time–did it in. The simple fact is a basketball conference can't exist in a football world.
As such, the only way I can see the ACC surviving is once again going on the offensive, poaching some combination of four Big East teams in order to arrive at 16 before the Big East, SEC or BIG 10 try to do the same to us. Give me Syracuse, Louisville, West Virginia and Pitt, then build a wall around the current 12, and hang on for dear life. To take a reactive position instead of a proactive one is to doom the ACC to slip into the mid-major conference realm.
Selfishly, I'd like to see State bolt for more stable and lucrative waters, but there would be tremendous hurdles to overcome before State's leadership could even be in a position to consider an invite.
I fully expect Swofford to allow the death of the ACC, at least with respect to BCS football, to happen. But hey, at least there'll always be Duke Vs. Carolina in basketball twice a year!
Last one, and recycled from last year. a) What do you expect out of your team, b) What kind of season would keep you content and happy, c) What kind of season would be a disappointment?
A) I expect this team to surprise some people. I think a lot of folks have written this team off for dead now that Russell Wilson's gone to Wisconsin, but there's still a lot to be excited about this team. B) Anything 8-4 or above in the regular season would be alright by me. I'm putting all my eggs into the 2012 basket already, so this season will be a prelude to it (hopefully). C) A 6-6 or 7-5 effort, given the weakness of the schedule, would be disappointing. There's no reason for this team to lose more than one game before it faces Florida State in week nine, and a loss to the Tar Heels this year–given all their distractions and woes–would be especially painful.