Understandably the focus of this week in the ACC is a top 10 matchup between Florida State and Clemson. The game has been hyped across the country, Gameday will there. It’s great for those programs and great for the ACC to have such a high profile game. I’ve always thought the perception of a conference isn’t based at the middle or bottom, but which teams are at the top. In SEC LSU and Alabama are outstanding. Georgia and South Carolina are in the top 10, but we tend to forget Ole Miss and Kentucky are terrible.
Oregon, Stanford and USC are top 15 teams from the Pac 12, but the Colorado Buffaloes might be the single worst major conference team in the country. It appears FSU and Clemson are preparing to be the 2 of the best ACC programs for a while, but after that which team(s) are going to be your 3rd maybe 4th quality teams down the road.
Let’s look at each of the other 12 current and future ACC members and rate the probability they will be the ACC’s top 4 in the next 5 years .
Virginia Tech: 90%
Conventional thought says Virginia Tech will be one of those teams. The Hokies have been the ACC champion 4 out of the last 8 years, but cracks are starting to show. Virginia Tech looked like they didn’t belong on the same field with Clemson last year in 2 matchups.
Frank Beamer is 65 and you wonder how many years he has left. Will the Hokies be able to maintain their success? I have to believe they can remain in the top 4, even with a coaching change. The have a great fanbase and a football culture in Blacksburg. I just wonder if the Beamer years are the ceiling.
Now its get tough…
Georgia Tech: 60%
Georgia Tech will always be a bowl team under Paul Johnson. He’s a great coach, but if the Yellow Jackets want to consistently be one of the top 4 ACC sports the recruiting has got to pick up. The defense has shown some athleticism this year that hasn’t been seen in a while and that’s a good sign the Jackets are starting to get some athletes back to Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets need to figure out a way to beat Georgia from time to time. That certainly hurts the perception of Georgia Tech’s program.
How far has Miami sunk? The Miami area is still a recruiting hotbed, and the Hurricanes can still get some elite football players. The problem is you don’t know how damaging the upcoming NCAA rulings could be. The fans simply don’t support the program either. Miami should be a slam dunk to be one of the better ACC teams, but it hasn’t happened yet.
NC State: 40%
Had the Wolfpack beat or at least been competitive against Tennessee I’d probably have them at least 10 percentage points higher. That wasn’t a great Vol team that ran NC State out of Atlanta. It just proved how far the Wolfpack really have to go. The Wolfpack have a fanbase that gets behind the football team, but like Georgia Tech they don’t really recruit all that well.
There’s no question Virginia has improved under Mike London, but the Cavaliers are a work in progress. Here are 3 of Virginia’s last 5 games – Lost 38-0 to Virginia Tech, lost 43-24 to Auburn, lost 56-20 to Georgia Tech. London is probably at least 2 more recruiting classes from really start turning the corner. It’s a good thing that’s one of strengths.
Despite Pittsburgh’s recent past, I think there’s potential in the Panther program. As opposed to some schools on the list that I think will need several recruiting cycles to build their teams back up, I think the Panthers just need a couple. Take a look at the last few Pitt classes there have been some top-end players sprinkled in those classes. I believe should Panthers start winning there will be solid fan support. They also avoid being in the Clemson\FSU division.
North Carolina: 20%
The last few years the Heels were bringing in NFL talent to Chapel Hill. They still couldn’t break into the ACC’s elite. With the uncertain future regarding the NCAA, and the fact basketball dominates this school, it doesn’t look likely that the Heels can join the elite in the ACC.
Wake Forest: 15%
I love what Jim Grobe does, but the window of being one of the ACC’s top 3-4 programs has closed. They will continue to be a thorn in the side of ACC team teams though. You can count on that.
It wasn’t that long ago, that Syracuse was nearly as bad as Colorado. It’s a slow rebuilding process. Syracuse is no longer a doormat, but there’s so much work to be done to get the Orangemen to a level where they can even start thinking about being an 8 or 9 win type team.
The Terps look years away from being a quality program. Randy Edsall is basically overhauling the entire program, and it will take several recruiting cycles to build Maryland back. Playing in the same Division and Clemson and Florida State doesn’t help.
Boston College: 10%
See Maryland… and replace Randy Edsall with whoever is Boston College’s coach.
They haven’t been to a bowl game since the mid 90s. The Blue Devils can strive for a bowl game but I can’t see much more than that.