In Which I Argue With Myself Over the State of the ACC

I spent my weekend haunted by incompetent offenses. UNC's, of course, was the most worrisome, with its three scoreless quarters against an average Big East team. But there was also Wake Forest's abysmal first half against Stanford, Florida State's incompetence against Jacksonville State, and Virginia's continuing slide towards Al Groh's dismissal. Throw in Maryland needing an extra period to beat James Madison, which was more of a defensive lapse, and the long, dark non-conference slate of the ACC's soul has continued for a second week.

The good news is, most of those on-the-field flops still ended in wins.  Only Virginia actually dropped their game, and they were written off after last week's embarrassment anyway. FSU, Wake, and UNC all took control in their respective fourth quarters, which was especially heartening for Tar Heel fans, burned by last second losses after collapsed drives against Maryland and Virginia last season. And the ACC is still impressing someone, as four teams made the Top 25. But here are the questions I keep asking myself:

How worried should I be about twelve points? Even with a full cadre of receivers, UNC would have games when the offense sputtered. It's just last season, those games were losses – the Heels couldn't win without putting together at least four touchdowns. And Virginia and Maryland last season were probably equivalent to this year's UConn. But the offensive line never looked as bad as they did this Saturday, and the passes didn't bounce off hands quite as often. At least to my imperfect memory of last season. And with an opponent almost definitely more fired up for next week's game than UNC in East Carolina, there can't be two straight weeks of lackluster performances. Although the Carolina defense should definitely handle ECU at least as well as WVU managed this week.

Which offense is the real N.C. State offense? The futile one that met South Carolina or the one that stole Murray State's lunch money? I'd like to believe that it's the former, and that anyone can run up the score on a D1-AA team, but Florida State kindly reminded us that was not the case this week. State bounced back from their poor opener in a way that fellow Atlantic team Maryland did not.

Whose wins the Atlantic division? All four of those ACC schools in the Top 25 come out of the Coastal Division, where every team that isn't Virginia or Duke can aspire to a Top 10 finish at this point. What about the other side of the arbitrarily decided line? I'm not at all convinced that FSU's poor performance was only a lapse in effort. One or two quarters of that should be enough for you to wake up and shake off Jacksonville State. Trailing all but the last 35 seconds of the second half is incompetence, no matter how you looked against Miami. Maryland can still a game not unlike they did following last year's slow start, but contend? Not likely. I'm leaning towards Clemson and the only other team to beat their lesser opponents with the margins they should – Boston College. Next week begins a rough stretch for them, but if they start building momentum, they may start getting votes in polls, especially if Wake and FSU continue to sputter.

What do coaches see in UNC that AP voter don't? Seriously, there's a five position swing between the two polls, 19th in one and 24th in the other. The only other team like this is Cincinnati, 17th and 21st in the opposite polls from the Heels. Coaches are more impressed by other coaches than large victories over small teams, I guess.

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