It was a little less than a year ago that I spent an evening in a series of bars on a Saturday evening watching the ACC entirely melt down, losing three nonconference games and having UNC, and Miami both drop their conference openers to lower-ranked opponents. I didn't expect to see anything like it for sometime; the conference was stronger this season, and about to let college football know it. Which is how I found myself out again last night, in the same series of bars watching the ACC fail even worse.
Let's try to fully convey how bad this was. The entire ACC Coastal Division lost, save Carolina who happily had the week off. Those losses ranged from the respectable to the disaster; Virginia falls into the former camp by just barely losing 17-14 to a better Southern Cal team in L.A.. The expectations for the Cavs were so low, will ignore the fact that the penalty yardage the Trojans cost themselves (140 yds) was almost equal to UVa's rushing totals (150 yds). Duke fell to Wake Forest in a entirely defense-free game that is now the second highest scoring game in ACC history. The teams combined for seven touchdowns in the second quarter alone.
Those losses were expected, if not quite in that manner. Miami losing to Ohio State was also not a surprise, except to the Hurricanes, but the way they did so was a spectacular failure. Jacory Harris had four interceptions, and the Hurricanes' only touchdowns until a meaningless fourth quarter score came on kick and punt returns. Georgia Tech took their number 15 ranking into Lawrence to play a Kansas team that previously lost to North Dakota State, and promptly fell flat. Tech doesn't appear to have anyone who can catch Josh Nesbitt's passes – he's now completed six in two games – and the special team was such a disaster they at one point recorded a thirteen-yard punt.
But that doesn't even come close to being the most embarrassing game of the Coastal Division. No, that falls to 13th-ranked Virginia Tech, a week removed from playing Boise State close, who played FCS patsy James Madison at home and lost. Tech's offensive line is abysmal, and their defense has forgotten how to tackle. They've also forgotten the rules, racking up two fifteen-yard penalties for tackling out of bounds that led to JMU scores. They now hold the distinction of being only the second ranked team to lose to an FCS school, and I've yet to see from the coaches' postgame comments any indication they know how to fix the problems. This could be the football equivalent of last year's UNC basketball team.
And finally, there's Florida State, who returned to defensive form as Bob Stoops owned his brother Mark, now running the defense for the Seminoles. Oklahoma lit up FSU for 394 yards through the air on their way to a 47-17 victory, the Noles worst loss since the 2001 Carolina game. And it was only that close because FSU had a meaningless 47-yard touchdown as time expired. Ponder saw his Heisman campaign evaporate in a two-interception, 113-yard performance. On the biggest stage of the year for the two ACC teams from Florida, both fell flat. Every ranked conference team lost. The bright sides of the day were narrow victories by BC and State against lesser opponents. The conference once again finds itself in disarray in September, with the distinct possibility of putting no team in the polls next week.
Welcome back, ACC football.