Wednesday, September 3, 2008

About Armageddon Saturday...

Just about every aspect of the ACC's 2008 demise this past Saturday has already been touched upon around the blogosphere and in media circles. That it took just three sorry performances for such a collapse to occur (NC State's loss to South Carolina on Thursday was not helpful to perception but was not all that unexpected) speaks volumes as to the fragile foundation on which ACC football lies. A few thoughts about that:

In the four highly visible non-conference defeats, the ACC's offensive production was pathetic...

--NC State (138 total yards, 4 turnovers, 0 points)
--Virginia (187 total yards, 4 turnovers, 7 points)
--Clemson (188 total yards, 2 turnovers, 3 points*)
--Virginia Tech (243 total yards, 2 turnovers, 13 points**)
*Clemson's lone TD was a kickoff return
**Nine of the Hokies' points were scored by defense or special teams

In the four biggest games of the weekend, offense was a no-show. It's bad enough to lose those four, but it's worse when each team ranged from criminally bad (the Wolfpack) to merely inept (the Hokies) when attacking the opposing defense. And it's not like these four teams hadn't had issues before. Clemson's underachieved with all that talent for years, NC State hasn't had a pulse on offense since Phillip Rivers left 5 years ago and Virginia Tech amazingly keeps putting Sean Glennon on the field. At least Virginia can say their QB and OL are young and inexperienced. Still, these are old and known problems that should have been fixed by now.

Miami and Georgia Tech dropped the hammer on their lower division foes Thursday night. Maryland and North Carolina had fourth quarter dogfights with FCS opposition that further deepened the atomic crater of last Saturday....

-Maryland 14, Delaware 7
-North Carolina 35, McNeese State 27

As predicted by anybody with two eyes and the experience of watching Maryland football a handful of times the last few years, Jordan Steffy was once again ineffective at QB and was replaced by both Chris Turner and Josh Portis. The fact that the Terps O-line and RB Da'Rel Scott looked fantastic is totally obscured by that final score. When a league is perceived as bad, 14-7 escapes over 1-AA foes only solidify that perception.

North Carolina did not help matters at all by trailing McNeese in the third quarter, and by giving up nearly 400 yards and 27 points to the Cowboys they did little to dispel the bumfuzzlement of the hiring of Everett Withers as their new defensive coordinator. For those unaware, Mr. Withers was Minnesota's DC last year. Minnesota finished 119th - dead last - in total defense last year. So of course he gets hired at an ACC program.

Since ACC title favorite Clemson was so thoroughly violated by the collectively regarded 4th or 5th best SEC squad, any achievement that could be regarded as repairing the league's image as the season plays out will be tempered by that loathsome factoid. That Coastal Division favorite Virginia Tech was beaten straight up - and at their own game - by the 2nd or 3rd best Conference USA team will further squash any potential improvement in perception for awhile as well. On opening weekend, the two division favorites were beaten on neutral fields by unranked non-conference opponents. That is P.R. death.


Miami, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Boston College and Duke all posted nice wins on Thursday and Saturday. Unfortunately, those games were watched by a total of about 82 people nationwide. Thankfully, the Maryland and UNC struggles were limited to about the same viewing audience. The big problem is that the four big losses were all nationally televised. NC State-South Carolina was ESPN's Thursday night kickoff game. Virginia Tech-ECU was ESPN's kickoff game at noon on Saturday. Clemson-Bama was the much publicized night game on ABC. USC-Virginia was the 3:30pm ABC game that covered 80% of the country. The ACC got pounded on the field and in a lot of living rooms and sports bars this weekend. The perception game is already lost. First impressions are hard to overcome and the ACC left an impression of enormous suckitude for millions.

So the ACC has been pummeled in early season action once again. We're used to this position. It's frustrating, it's maddening and it's getting all the more sickening each year when you consider how much money has been invested at improving the product. And the yapping each year about how the league is finally turning a corner....just stop it already. That goes for me, the media and especially for the overpaid coaches and underperforming players.

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