The aftermath of Disaster Saturday for the ACC


We at Boston College are survivors – survivors of one of the worst weekends for our conference that I can remember. On this disastrous Saturday for the Atlantic Coast Conference, this collection of teams lost five of the nine non-conference games that were played.

The horrors began in Lawrence, Kansas, where #15 Georgia Tech, the defending ACC champions, fell to a rebuilding Kansas team (who, the previous weekend, had been disgraced at home by North Dakota State). Though it was only a three-point loss for the Yellow Jackets, the stat line was particularly ugly for one Joshua Nesbitt. He went 5-15 for 116 yards and a touchdown. Running the ball went no better: in 15 carries (the most of anyone on the team), he netted only 33 yards. The rest of the team ended up rushing for 258 combined, for what it’s worth. Despite outgaining the Jayhawks by a decent amount and controlling time of possession, in the second half, 6 of their 7 drives ended without points, and that will do you in against a bunch of teams. It was a shocking loss, but not nearly as shocking as the one that came next.

We move down to Blacksburg, Virginia, where the Hokies of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University were still stinging from their narrow loss to highly-ranked Boise State. In this game, they would face a far more manageable opponent in James Madison University, or so we believed. In what would be a sign of coming danger, the Hokies – largely expected to romp over the Dukes – led by only six at halftime. From then on, Virginia Tech would be held to only three points while Drew Dudzik would run it in twice for JMU, resulting in a 21-16 defeat for the Hokies. So, how do you lose a game to an FCS team when you hold them to 235 yards of offense and they draw 75 penalty yards? Simple: VT committed three turnovers, two of which were later on in the game, while JMU committed none. The result was a stunning loss that will probably be the Appalachian State vs. Michigan-type game for this season, and will quite possibly be seen as the worst loss of Frank Beamer’s career at Virginia Tech so far. That’s two; three disasters to go.

Let’s take Miami and Florida State together. After all, they’re rivals, they’re from the same state, they were both playing prominent top-ten teams, and much was expected from them this year. What we got instead were two grand flops. First, Miami: in the second quarter, the Hurricanes led 10-3. Ohio State outscored them 33-14 the rest of the way, handing them a 12-point loss (which, in the scheme of things, was actually kind of respectable). What was not respectable, however, was how Jacory Harris played: he ended up throwing four picks, which just happened to be all the turnovers in the game. Much has been made of this young man and his talent, but he clearly got knocked down a peg at the ‘Shoe by the Buckeyes. Next, Florida State: this team, now coached by someone born after the Permian-Triassic extinction event, was riding very high after getting a national preseason ranking, having a Heisman contender come into his own, and rolling over Samford last weekend. Oklahoma, after all, was looking just as potentially overrated, so I expected a good game. Wrong! The Seminoles got destroyed by the score of 47-17. Christian Ponder (and Josh Nesbitt for that matter) may have seen his dreams of a Heisman disappear as he did not have a good game against the formidable Sooners. In fact, his backup seemed to have a better stat line than he did (although in garbage time and limited play). Sure, FSU shut down the OU running game, but couldn’t stop the passing game at all.

The final ACC loss of the day came in Los Angeles, where the Virginia Cavaliers expectedly fell to the USC Trojans by a score of 17-14. Though this was a loss, this may have been the ACC’s best non-conference loss of the day. After all, USC is ranked, Virginia isn’t very good, and this game was at the LA Coliseum. All this game really did was expose some more of USC’s issues which were raised against Hawaii, but that’s a discussion for another blogger to have. It was, however, a loss when the ACC desperately needed a quality win to salvage a shred of dignity.

All winning on Saturday were your Boston College Eagles, Clemson Tigers, Maryland Terrapins, and North Carolina State Wolfpack. The BC game was not without its troubles, but the Eagles were in no serious danger of losing. NC State was, towards the end, in serious danger of losing, but UCF’s potential tying drive ended deep in NC State territory. Clemson and Maryland both rolled to wins over weaker opponents. Duke and Wake Forest also met in a conference game, which has no real meaning for the purposes of this article.

So, what’s the current situation in the ACC after this wretched showing on Saturday?

1.) The ACC has been largely booted from the rankings. Virginia Tech, gone. Georgia Tech, see ya. Florida State, we hardly knew ye. The only team left is Miami, who fell to 17th in the AP (and if they hadn’t been playing the #2 team in the nation on the road, it could have been far worse had they still lost).

2.) The ACC won’t be taken seriously for the rest of the season. This mid-September Saturday has sealed the conference’s fate for the 2010 college football season. Our quote-unquote premier teams like VT, FSU, Miami, and GT all got their asses handed to them – some by good teams, some by not so good. So what’s left? Maryland, one of the conference’s worst teams last year, suddenly is playing like one of the best so far. That should tell you what kind of situation we’re in.  The ACC is in BigEastville.

3.) The Coastal Division is in shambles. VT, GT, and Miami were the three top dogs in that division, and all lost on Saturday. The most surprising part is Virginia Tech sitting at 0-2 while the other two are at 1-1 and licking their wounds. We’re through only two weeks of the season, and every team in that division has a defeat, combining for a record of 4-7 (.364).

4.) Conversely, the Atlantic doesn’t look half bad (relatively speaking) anymore. The only defeat amongst the six teams was FSU’s gag job in Oklahoma. This division’s best win was, surprisingly, Maryland’s victory over Navy.  Of course, head-to-head, the Atlantic is a barely noteworthy 1-0, with Wake beating Duke in a defense-optional game.

5.) This weakened conference is wide open. It’s crystal clear now that there isn’t one team in the whole damn conference that’s unbeatable.  Furthermore, there are no longer any clear frontrunners.  It’s going to be one of those years where anyone can beat anyone on any given day, so if nothing else, conference play should be interesting. From a Boston College standpoint, an easy schedule looks like it could be easier if they catch teams at the right time.

Next weekend, we get to sit back and watch the carnage if there is more to be had. Checking out the schedule and all of the ranked opponents, there just might be.