How the ACC Can Put Week 2 in the Rearview and Redeem Themselves
Ugly. Embarrassing. Pathetic. Pick any number of words to describe the nearly laughable performance from ACC teams in Week 2, and you'd be right on target.
The Seminoles got hammered by Oklahoma, Miami got blasted by Ohio State, and Georgia Tech got knocked off by Kansas. And those were the tolerable losses when compared to Virginia Tech losing to supposed in-state cupcake James Madison.
Every year ACC fans hold their breath, hoping the inevitable won't happen, that perhaps the super conference created to compete with the SEC will survive each weekend without its upper echelon teams all falling to out of conference defeat.
Well, go ahead and exhale ACC fans. That time has come and gone. And we're still in September.
But there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. This weekend has provided an immediate chance for the conference to get off the mat and prove that it belongs in the national picture. Heck, if nothing else, that it belongs in the FBS.
Here's the major OOC matchups for the ACC this week, and what needs to happen to keep a shred of dignity for the league.
BYU at Florida State
It was about this time last year that an overrated BYU team hosted a Seminole team that had just come off an ugly performance against FCS Jacksonville State. Florida State stunned everyone by crushing BYU by 26 points.
This year, BYU isn't nearly the offensive juggernaut they were last season. Ranked 105th nationally in points per game, you'd think the Noles will have a hay day against the Cougars. That's what has to happen for FSU to regain some sense of hope after getting drubbed by Oklahoma last week.
Jimbo needs a confidence boost before starting ACC play next week. Look for FSU to put up 40-plus at home on Saturday. If BYU is within single-digits, the FSU defense is at fault. If BYU wins, firejimbo.com will be up and running.
Clemson at No. 16 Auburn
The premier ESPN Gameday game of the week is found in Auburn where Clemson finally takes the training wheels off after two creamy cupcakes in a row. It's certainly the first true test for a Clemson team that has no more C.J. Spiller or Jacoby Ford. How will they handle a hostile environment on the road?
They key will be the new start duo of backs in Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper. If the running game gets going, and the highly touted defense contains Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, Clemson will find themselves on the right side of an upset. Anything short of that will ultimately be meaningless for a program as proud as Clemson.
Maryland at No. 21 West Virginia
The "Save Friedgen's Job" tour makes a stop in Mountaineer country Saturday to take on a West Virginia team that looked unimpressive in a comeback win over in state rival Marshall last Friday.
Meanwhile, Maryland has already equaled their win total from last year, knocking off Navy and FCS Morgan State. In those two games, the Terps have given up 8.5 points on average. Impressive for a team that gave up over 31 PPG last season. West Virginia is favored by 10, which sounds about right.
But Maryland is looking like a team this year that can actually keep these kinds of games close. If the Terps finish within a touchdown of WVU, then I'd consider it a small moral victory. C'mon, the Terps actually BEAT James Madison last year.
No. 1 Alabama at Duke
This game would likely hold more interest if it were the men's basketball teams facing off in Cameron Indoor. As it is, Duke will get the unfortunate opportunity to attempt to stop an Alabama team that is light years beyond Duke in terms of talent.
For the season, Alabama is averaging 36 points per game. Duke is averaging 44.5. Alabama is allowing 3 points per game, Duke is allowing 40. Surprisingly enough, both teams rank in the top-25 nationally in both total yards and passing yards.
Of course, Duke hasn't seen a defense like this in a long time. The Tide is a 24-point favorite, so anything short of that would be a small win for the Blue Devils. This game will only garner attention because of Alabama, but if Duke is actually within 10 points going into the fourth quarter, eyebrows may raise.
If Duke wins, it will be the biggest upset in NCAA history, more so than Appalachian State. And I bet Steve Spurrier will take the credit for building the Duke program up back in the late '80s.
Wake Forest at No. 19 Stanford
Stanford rocked UCLA last week in a win impressive enough that pollsters put them at No. 19. Wake has a lot of questions, none answered by beating Presbyterian College in a blowout and winning a shootout last week against Duke. The Demon Deacs actually beat Stanford last year, but that was at home with an experienced quarterback.
This weekend, they travel to Stanford and will start freshman Tanner Price at QB against the Cardinal's Heisman darkhorse quarterback Andrew Luck. The line is set at 18 for Stanford, but Wake is one of those teams that can be sneaky. This game isn't a must-win for the ACC, but it would be a huge lift for sure.
East Carolina at Virginia Tech
Nobody, not even I, could've pictured what went down last Saturday between the Hokies and James Madison. Call it playing on short rest or not being "up for the game," but losing that game is embarrassing to say the least.
With that said, Virginia Tech has absolutely no choice but to win against East Carolina Saturday. A loss will create a hot seat for Frank Beamer that he hasn't felt since he arrived in Blacksburg. Containing the Pirates aerial assault will be a challenge, and the Hokies don't have recent history of success against ECU.
In 2008, the Pirates stunned VT 27-22. At the time, Virginia Tech was No. 17 in the nation. Now the Hokies are just trying to find a win, and anything short of that could spell disaster. Frank Beamer may never have faced a bigger "must win" game than this one.
Winning three of these six games for the ACC would be huge. It would mean a top-25 team got knocked off by an ACC team. It would potentially make up for a complete conference-wide face plant from last week. It would show that this conference is capable of being good. Right now, that's what the league needs. A big win. It doesn't' even matter what team provides it.
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