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Picking the ACC: It All Goes Off the Rails

I did some postgraduate work at that school.

Statement of Unintelligence
The First Half of September
The Rest of September
Four Lonesome Nights in October

I present to you the rest of the season:

November 4th

Self-evident: Georgia Tech at N.C. State, Maryland at Clemson, and Virginia at Florida State.

Boston College at Wake Forest: The back half of the Wake Forest schedule is really a bear, isn't it? Even if you assume another catastrophic performance from the rest of the state of North Carolina, giving the Demon Deacons an easy end of October, the following month is just brutal. BC is the easiest team Wake will face in the next three weeks, and the Eagles will have no problems at all in Winston-Salem. And it only gets worse from here.

North Carolina at Notre Dame: Ah, yes. The point where my credibility and claim to serious football prognostication goes completely out the window. Bunting's engineered a couple of shocking wins against superior opponents in his stretch at UNC - Florida State in 2001, Miami in 2004, and arguably Boston College last year - so it's not outside of the realm of possibility. But why Notre Dame this year?

First of all, I don't think the Fighting Irish will be the Top 10 team people are billing it as. It may be my own historical biases, having seen my postgraduate football seasons filled with mediocre Notre Dame teams. (I have a similarly low opinion of Penn State) I do keep flashing back to the last group from South Bend to go 9-3 - Ty Willingham's first group.

But the real sticking point is the defense. The offensive power you can read about anywhere, but this is still a team that gave up 20+ points in all but two games last year, and 30+ to such feared opponents as Michigan State and Stanford. This season doesn't look to be any better there, and I think more teams can take advantage of that than a lot of people are thinking. The bottom line is I'm more opimistic about UNC's defensive improvement than I am Notre Dame's, and with that edge I think UNC's offense can sneak up on an overconfident squad prone to overlooking them.

Besides, what's a UNC preseason without at least one riduculously high expectation?

Virginia Tech at Miami: The Hokies' two game losing streak against the state of Florida must really rankle, especially as a win in either game would have meant a BCS bowl last year. That streak's not going to end this year, though the Seminole-free schedule will make that blow a little easier to take.

The general consensus seems to be that Virginia Tech, with its many questions, will fall slightly short of an equally questionable Hurricane team. Now obviously I'm more bearish on the Hokies than most, so I'm throwing this game to the Hurricanes either way, but the closer we get to kicking off the season, the less I hear about Tech. They're still being slotted second in the division by most people, but they seem to be put there more out of respect to Beamer than much talk about their play. It'll be interesting to see how this unfolds.

November 11th

Self-evident: Duke at Boston College, N.C. State at Clemson, Miami at Maryland, and Kent State at Virginia Tech.

Wake Forest at Florida State: I may have actually written more about Wake Forest of the course of this season preview than I have about the Tar Heels. At least I know something about UNC - there isn't enough of a media spotlight on Wake for me to really get a solid idea of what this team can do. But I can make the bold prediction that they won't leave Tallahassee with a win, so I can at least be confident I have two brain cells left to rub together.

Georgia Tech at North Carolina: Maryland 33, UNC 30. Virginia Tech 27, UNC 24. Utah 46, UNC 16. Lousville 34, UNC 0 and Louisville 69, UNC 14. Every time the last two years North Carolina's gotten a needed, momentum changing win, they've followed it up with a loss. And you can extend that streak back another two years if you lower the definition of "momentum changing win" to East Carolina and Wake Forest.

But even if the Heels lose to Notre Dame the first week of November - I know that's hard concept to grasp, but just go with me for a moment - I don't think this team can beat a Georgia Tech firing on all cylinders. And Tech should be at that stage by this point in the season. This is the swansong season for a lot of solid offensive players, and I can't see them stumbling late in the weeks leading up to Georgia.

November 18th

Self-evident: Maryland at Boston College, Duke at Georgia Tech, Western Michigan at Florida State, and Miami at Virginia.

N.C. State at North Carolina: It bodes well, that this game was slotted into probably the most boring week of conference play this year. Look at the list of games above. Unless Maryland catches on fire - and they won't - there isn't any game of interest during what should be one of the most exciting times of the season. As long as one of these two North Carolina schools can put together an adequate team, this game should make broadcast.

As for whether the game itself will be worth the airtime, that depends a lot on the Wolfpack team that shows up. Despite my gleeful piling on of embarassing losses in this week of predictions, N.C. State actually looks to have a favorable schedule. The tough games come in two waves - Boston College on 9/23 and Florida State on 10/5 (with a bye week in between) and back-to-back matchups with Georgia Tech and Clemson the first two weeks of November. A good Amato squad should at worst win one of those four and sweep the rest of this schedule to roll into this game at 7-3 fighting for second place in their division, their normally implacable fans content and most likely insufferable.

Now of course, I don't think it's going to play out that way, which will make for better blog reading for all involved. But even the better Amato teams (see Rivers, Phillip) only managed a couple of definite wins against UNC in 200 and 2003. In their last win, 2003, they still managed to give up 34 points to a team that put up the worst record since Mack Brown's learning curve.

This year's Heels may also score 34, but it won't be in a loss. State fans will be free again to debate whether a season can be successful without a win over the boys in light blue.

Virginia Tech at Wake Forest: That's it. I can't write any more about Wake Forest. I'm about as exhausted as... Wake Forest will be after this three game stretch. Except I'm pretty sure they'll be able to come up with segues less lame than that one. You know, for all the blog posts they probably write in their free time. I bet half of myspace is Wake Forest football players reviewing bands they've seen that week. Hopefully this loss to Virginia Tech will be an early game, so they can still make it out to Ziggy's that night.

November 25th

There's nothing self-evident about rivalry week. Tensions are high. Honored tchotchkes are battled over between schools. ESPN hype hits levels not to be seen outside of Bowl Week. (Or basketball season. Or anything else they get it into their hearts to overhype.) It's truly a week where any team can beat any other.

Duke at North Carolina: None of that applies to Duke of course. They're still going to lose.

Boston College at Miami: The first fallout of Rivalry Week in a conference without many intraconference football rivalries. It was a brilliant scheduling move to bump this to Thursday, as it's the most important ACC game of the week, but has all the history of a strip mall chain restaurant. This way, the game is cleared off the decks before the weekend grudge matches with the three SEC state rivalries.

Right up to typing this, I was thinking Miami would be the winner here, but I'm going to make a last second switch to Boston College. I just think they're more of a known quantity, with a steady hand at quaterback, facing a team, that although surely settled at this point in the season, is too hard too judge in August.

East Carolina at N.C. State: Remember when playing East Carolina was a little risky, because they'd be incredibly amped coming in, and there would be absolutely no upside to beating them? And legislatures were stepping in and forcing East Carolina on to schedules, since the state government really had nothing better to do than this? Good times.  I miss the Steve Logan era, even if Miami and North Carolina State fans most certainly don't.

But Logan's now coaching Jacques Lewis as the offensive coordinator for the Rhein Fire, and we're in the Skip Holtz era. I don't know how he'll work out - although I'm sure South Carolina fans are thrilled he's north of South of the Border - but they won't be giant killers this year. Or even Wolfpack killers. It's odd that N.C. State's probably happy to see the Pirates on their schedule now, isn't it?

Virginia at Virginia Tech: According to Wikipedia, Virginia Tech's primary rival use to be VMI, until the latter went Division I-AA, and the Hokies shifted their attention to the folks in Charlottesville. I mention this as a possible way for the Hoos to get out of this game, because they're sure not going to win. It's the ten year anniversary of the Commonwealth Cup, the trinket these two teams are playing for, and Virginia Tech will get to keep it once again.

Clemson at South Carolina, Florida at Florida State, and Georgia Tech at Georgia: What, you want an SEC preview, too?

Wake Forest at Maryland: Of course, I end the season with the hottest rivalry of them all - Wake Forest versus My Lousy Writing. In fact, I'm giving this game to Maryland simply because I've grown to hate Wake over the past week I've been working this. And because teams that have been beaten down like Wake will have been through the month of November often can't get back up, especially after early success. Give the Terps their Senior Day victory, and give me a day off from football.

So my final standings look like this:

Team Confer Overall
Clemson 6-2 10-2
Florida State 6-2 9-3
Boston College 6-2 10-2
Wake Forest 2-6 6-6
N.C. State 2-6 4-8
Maryland 1-7 4-8

Team Confer Overall
Georgia Tech 8-0 11-1
Miami 6-2 9-3
North Carolina 5-3 9-3
Virginia Tech 4-4 8-4
Virginia 2-6 5-7
Duke 0-8 1-11

Bowl predictions perhaps later, but it's unimportant - actually football games start tonight.