In his weekly article for ESPN Pat Forde was pretty down on the ACC, saying the conference has nothing to hang its hat on. Here is the excerpt:
"Nobody in this league is being pummeled on a weekly basis -- because there aren't enough good teams in this league to do the pummeling. The conference has no dog anywhere near the national title fight -- even the Big East and Mountain West have two teams apiece higher in the BCS standings than the ACC. Once again, when Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech don't play up to standards, the ACC has nothing to hang its hat on."
Really? Is the ACC that terrible? No, the conference isn't as top heavy as the Big 12, nor are they like the Big 10 and Big 12 with 1 or 2 high-profile teams. What the ACC is this year is a balanced conference with 3 1-loss teams ranked in the AP Poll (with 2 others receiving votes) and 2 teams ranked in the USA Today Poll (with 5 others receiving votes). The term used this year is balance. While the ACC may not have a juggernaut like Forde says, maybe the SEC and Big-12 are the only conferences that will produce as many bowl teams that the ACC will. Does that stand for anything?
When you look at the conference this season through the eyes of the media one reason they feel the conference is down is because of the poor season Clemson is having. Many outlets pegged the Tigers as the odds-on-favorite to run through the ACC, as well as possibly contending for the BCS Championship. What Clemson has turned out to be is a 3-4 team that just fired their long-time head coach in Tommy Bowden. Tie that with Miami in rebuilding mode, the conference's "star-power" is limited.
Florida State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College look to be the 4 headline teams at the half-way point of the season. FSU had the terrible loss to Wake, but they've played consistently better as the young team learns. Georgia Tech is riding a powerful rushing attack that has many people surprised this year. Wake and Boston College are battling FSU for the ACC Atlantic crown, and each have shown they are as dangerous a team one can find in the conference.
Offensively the conference doesn't have the team play it has on defense. Florida State is the only top 30 team when it comes to total offense as they are ranked 29th in the nation. Defensively, though, the conference has made its mark on nation.
Florida State, Boston College and Georgia Tech rank 3rd, 4th and 5th, respectively, in total defense. Miami and Wake Forest also sit in the top 30, with Virginia Tech and Clemson sitting just outside that. Defense wins championships, thus it's no coincidence that the 3 teams ranked in the to 10 defensively are also the top 3 teams in the ACC so far this year.
The ACC sits at 51-29 this year with a 31-9 record against non-conference competition. The ACC is undefeated against the conference that has been tabbed as the deepest and the best in the Big-12, and they have a combined 4-5 record against the Big East and SEC (they have an 9-8 record versus BCS conferences). Compare that to the other power conference, that's on par for the course:
Big 12: 6-6
Big 10: 3-6
PAC 10: 5-6
Big East: 6-5
What this boils down to is that the ACC doesn't have the "national power" this year. Take a look at the Big-10 who sits at 3-6 against other BCS conferences. The last two years we've sat and watched as Ohio State thoroughly dominated the conference, yet when they made the BCS championship game they were heavily out-matched. Having that one team doesn't signify a power conference. If Ohio State is the standard then it could also mean that that power team comes from a terrible conference. Wasn't that the same argument FSU had to go through during the dynasty run? At least the Noles were dominate against the SEC and were able to produce 2 national champions.
Let's not forget the individual talent playing on Saturday's. Last year the ACC had 34 players drafted, which tied both the SEC and PAC-10 for the most in the nation. 2009 looks just as stout as Eugene Monroe and Michael Johnson sit atop Mel Kiper's Big Board. Aaron Curry, Alphonso Smith, Myron Rolle, James Davis, C.J. Spiller, Everette Brown, Darius Heyward-Bay and B.J. Raji sit in many early lists as Round 1 players. FSU. Miami, Clemson and North Carolina are all young teams that are stocked with talent, so look for that trend to continue.
Realistically it is too early to determine the state of the ACC. As we've seen the past few seasons this is the time when the college football season gets crazy. FSU, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech all play each other, and there is a chance that FSU may play one of those teams twice if they win their division. One way or another, this conference is going to show the media that they are not the pushovers they're being made out to be. What we can say about them is that they're deeper than people think, and they're the most successful conference against other BCS conferences. To me that's the true sign that the ACC can hang with the best of them.