If you watched Saturday’s ACC games you may not agree with the title of this post. The quality of the games ok honestly wasn’t that good today, but there’s a difference from years past. Instead of a slew of 3-4, 4-3 teams jockeying for position, there’s bonafide national interest to what is happening in the ACC entering November.
For the third time this year ESPN Gameday will head to ACC stadium. That’s leads all conferences. Next week Gameday will be Tallahassee, Florida for Florida State and Miami. Ever since John Swofford brought Miami into the ACC in 2004, he’s dreamed of Florida State and Miami playing November\December games with National Title Implications. It’s why Florida State and Miami are in split divisions, and it’s why the early ACC Title games were placed in Florida. It never worked out the way Swofford planned, until now.
With Florida State ranked #3 and Miami at #7, the ACC gets it’s second late fall top 10 game. Last week was #3 Clemson playing #5 Florida State. That game put the Seminoles into the thick of the national championship chase. If Clemson had won, they would have been in the thick of that chase. The ACC couldn’t lose no matter who won that game. The same goes for next week. Now if you’ve been watching the ACC this year, I don’t think anyone really gives Miami a real shot of winning at Florida State. Miami is improving, but they are not in the class of Florida State. That said they are winning, and they are undefeated. That’s what matters when you want these late fall games.
IN addition, the recent NCAA’s favorable ruling for MIami, sets up the Hurricanes for the future. Al Golden has done a remarkable job holding Miami together during the NCAA investigation and now he can recruit without fear. The Hurricanes are Florida State circa 2009. They are getting better, but they are probably a couple of recruiting cycles from being great. Make no mistake though, if the Canes hold on to Al Golden, they will be very good in the near future. Florida State is already there.
We’ve mentioned before on this blog, that you don’t need a conference full of great teams. You need 3-5 teams to separate themselves. Florida State is the class of the conference, but Miami is clearly improving. Clemson, despite last week’s thrashing at the hands of the FSU, had some credibility building wins over LSU and Georgia. They enter November very much alive for a BCS game if they win out. The ACC has 3 teams in the top 10 of the BCS, and before Virginia Tech lost to Duke would have had 4 in the top 15 Sunday.
Virginia Tech is flawed offensively for sure, but still stands 6-2. This speaks to some depth in the ACC. David Cutcliffe has rebuilt the Duke Blue Devils. For the 2nd straight year Duke will go to a bowl game after defeating the Hokies in Blacksburg. That’s flat out remarkable. Duke has made a commitment to improving their football program, and they’ve done that. The Blue Devils weren’t exactly sharp on offense Saturday either, but 10 out of 10 times they lose a game in Blacksburg like this a few years ago. It’s a great story in Durham.
Now when I say there are signs though, that’s what I mean. The ACC isn’t there yet. There is some awful football being played in the ACC. Virginia couldn’t beat Georgia Tech at home despite getting 5 turnovers and Mike London is very much on the hotseat. That said they did beat BYU earlier this year, which is still one of the conferences better OOC wins. UNC and NC State are terrible. Syracuse, Pittsburgh have a long way to go be consistently competitive. What David Cutcliffe has done at Duke, proves it’s possible to build even the most struggling of ACC programs. Jim Grobe did the same a few years previous at Wake Forest, and he’s competitive even now.
To be considered a good football conference, the ACC always needed Florida State or Miami to be great. Florida State is, and the signs are there for the same in Miami. Clemson’s recruiting will keep them solid, even if there is a slide next year with the loss Tajh Boyd and likely Sammy Watkins. Let not forget Louisville when they arrive, will be solid. Gameday, Games of national interest, and big non conference wins and even a program like Duke making great improvements.
This work for the ACC as football conference defiantly not done, but John Swofford has to be smiling at how this season has progressed so far