Let’s be honest it hasn’t been the strongest start to the season for the ACC. The conference is just 3-10 against the rest of the Power 5 and Notre Dame. Louisville proved it wasn’t ready for prime time losing to Auburn, then stumbling against Houston. Virginia Tech looks no closer to returning to it’s glory days after losing to Ohio State, which was ok, but then suffered a ugly loss to East Carolina. Georgia Tech withered under the pressure of high expectations. The Jackets struggled at Notre Dame, and then fell apart at Duke. They are one of the conference’s most disappointing teams. Don’t even get me started on Virginia.
This week there is a chance for some redemption for the ACC. It’s the conference’s last chance to make national splash until the ACC/SEC rivalry week, at the end of the November. If the conference wants to remain relevant this season, this is it. Clemson, NC State, and Miami it is in your hands to make this happen.
Let’s start with NC State. After a soft opening slate the Wolfpack are 4-0. This team has a tremendous opportunity to start the year 6-1 or 7-0 before a date with Clemson. Louisville is the first real team the Wolfpack will play. With apologies to Louisville, the conference needs NC State to win Saturday. NC State is on the fringe of the top 25, and can set itself up for a fine season, but it starts Saturday.
Miami sits 3-0, with the ACC’s best OOC of the young season, a 3 point win over Nebraska. The ACC has been waiting and waiting for Miami to resemble in any way their glory days. When Miami started the 2013 season 7-0 we saw a glimpse of the excitement that can bring the conference. The Hurricanes were ranked in the top 10, and it was a primetime ESPN Gameday matchup with Florida State. The Hurricanes face the always dangerous Cincinnati Bearcats on Thursday night. If Miami can win that game they can get to 4-0 before facing Florida State in a game that could garner quite a bit of national attention.
Part of the national football perception of a conference is to have compelling conference games. Miami and NC State have their chance to give the ACC some depth in that department.
Now we have the main event – Clemson vs Notre Dame.
It doesn’t get much bigger than this for the ACC. A top 10 Notre Dame team heads to Death Valley. A win by Clemson gives the ACC legitimate national playoff candidate. An ACC team hasn’t beat a ranked team this year, this would be a huge lift the conference. It would setup matchups with Miami, NC State, and Florida State later in the year. Clemson has been running a strong 2nd to Florida State in the ACC’s recent power structure, and a win would signify they may be ready to challange the Seminoles. Gameday will be there, and it is kind of saying ok ACC this is your national shot.
You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned Florida State… the Noles will be there in the end. They are going to win 10+ games, and they are currently the standard in the ACC. They can do no more. It’s up to rest of the ACC to get to where FSU is at.
If all 3 lose this weekend, you can expect the ACC to turn to basketball awfully quick.