Ten ACC teams have completed half of their schedule, with the conference’s best chance to contend for a BCS title taking a hit this past weekend and one traditional basketball power enjoying some rare success on the football field.
Here is a look at the ten ACC teams who are now eligible for mid-season evaluations.
Record: 5-1, 2-1 ACC
Clemson still appears to be a viable threat to come out of the ACC this season with a potent offense (11th in passing, 31st in rushing, 13th in scoring) able to overcome some potential shortcomings on defense (73rd in scoring). Already with Florida State behind them on the schedule, the Tigers look to be a favorite the rest of the way in ACC play, and a home finale against South Carolina could carry heavy BCS implications if things work out.
Clemson is a legitimate ACC power, but until they solve their defense they will still be an afterthought on the national scene. The Tigers have allowed 31 points or more in their past three games, all in conference play, and were able to get by in two of them with their offense.
Record: 5-1, 2-0 ACC
Don’t look now but Duke has won five games by double-digits this season and are sitting one win shy of bowl eligibility for the first time since 1994. The Blue Devils were given a dose of reality in an early-season trip to Stanford (Duke lost 50-13) but they have now won their first two ACC games and appear to be in a win-able Coastal Division. Duke has a tough second half of the season with road games at Virginia Tech (this weekend) and Florida State as well as home games against Clemson, North Carolina and Miami.
For now, I’m buying the idea Duke plays a postseason game, but the second half could be a really tough battle. Duke has not really beaten anybody, but five wins for this program is an achievement in itself. Had they played Stanford a little tougher the Blue Devils would have received slightly higher mark, but they receive a high grade based on expectations being far exceeded.
Record: 5-1, 2-1 ACC
Florida State remains the class of the ACC even after coming up small in the second half at North Carolina State in their last game. Despite the loss the Seminoles still rank highly in rushing offense (13th), scoring offense (7th) and scoring defense (7th), although those numbers are inflated with a pair of FCS opponents to start the season. When Florida State is on top of their game, nobody in the ACC will beat them. The problem is Florida State is prone to a game or two when they will be off their game, leaving themselves wide open for opponents to take advantage, A road game at Miami and Virginia Tech should be interesting, and a regular season finale against Florida now looks extra difficult as the Gators rise the polls in the SEC.
Had Florida State pulled out a win in Raleigh, they would have received one of the highest grades in these mid-term evaluations.
Record: 2-4, 1-3 ACC
The Yellow Jackets have already fired defensive coordinator Al Groh after giving up 42 points or more in their last three games. Since putting together a decent showing in week one against Virginia Tech, the lack of a pass attack (117th in the nation) has cost Paul Johnson’s program more than ever before it seems. Georgia Tech may be too dependent on the running game (3rd in nation) to compete in ACC play, supported by a current 1-3 record in ACC play.
There is time to turn things around, needing four wins in the second half to become bowl eligible. A second half schedule with games against Boston College, Maryland, North Carolina and Duke must go Georgia Tech’s way though because games against BYU and Georgia could be difficult in non-conference action.
Record: 4-2, 3-0 ACC
Few teams have been a sup and down as Miami in the ACC this season. Against quality opponents (Kansas State, Notre Dame) Miami has looked as though they do not belong on the same field, but in ACC play they have put together a decent 3-0 start. Miami can throw the football but they struggle to run. They can score points but they also give up a ton on the scoreboard. How the rest of this season plays out for Miami is really anyone’s guess at this point. Miami will likely struggle to come away with wins against Florida State and Virginia Tech, but if they can split those games they could have an excellent chance of playing in their first ACC Championship Game in program history.
Record: 4-2, 1-1 ACC
North Carolina has been showing some flair this season with an offense that is buying in to new head coach Larry Fedora’s up-tempo style. The Tar Heels planted 48 points on Virginia Tech a week after posting 66 against Idaho. They also showed an ability to sneak up on teams with a near comeback win at Louisville. North Carolina ranks 31st in passing, 32nd in rushing and 9th in scoring offense, proving they can play with a balanced offense. They also have held opponents to 17.8 points per game.
North Carolina is ineligible for postseason play but they will be a factor in the Coastal Division race. The Tar Heels visit Miami and Duke in the next two weekends as the Hurricanes and Blue Devils hope to hold off Virginia Tech.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Record: 4-2, 1-1 ACC
Much will be made of North Carolina State’s recent win against Florida State, but a loss to Miami currently keeps the Wolfpack trailing in the ACC Atlantic Division race with a November road trip to Clemson likely to determine the fate of the division race in some form. An average offense and a decent defense make NC State a threat with a manageable schedule ahead of them before visiting Clemson in mid-November.
North Carolina State has some holes though, as seen against Miami and Tennessee this season and quarterback Mike Glennon has to avoid mistakes in order to keep the Wolfpack in the running.
Record: 2-4, 0-2 ACC
Virginia is a Penn State special teams meltdown from a 1-5 record after losing four straight games. The Cavaliers have allowed 34 points per game this season and are just 92nd in scoring offense with 23.7 points scored per game. Virginia has given up 56 points to Georgia Tech and 42 points to Duke, as well as 44 to Louisiana Tech. Other than the 38 points scored against Louisiana Tech, the Cavaliers offense has scored more than 20 points just once this season, in week one against FCS Richmond.
After a successful season last year, Mike London’s squad will struggle to make it two postseason trips
Record: 3-3, 1-1 ACC
Virginia Tech has been exposed this season and does not possess the type of running game some might expect from the Hokies. Two of the three losses for the Hokies have come on the road against Big East opponents (Cincinnati game was played in Landover, Maryland). Virginia Tech has a three-game stretch with Clemson, Miami and Florida State still looming, but as bad as some of the 2012 season has gone so far, the Hokies could still manage to wiggle in to the ACC Championship Game if they can turn things around quickly. And that is just assuming Virginia Tech can hold off 5-1 Duke in Blacksburg this weekend.
Record: 3-3, 1-3 ACC
Wake Forest could manage to become bowl eligible but they are as fringe of a postseason team as any around the country. A narrow win against North Carolina and close wins over Army and Liberty put Wake Forest just three wins shy with games against Vanderbilt, Virginia and Boston College remaining along with contests against Notre Dame, Clemson and North Carolina State. With a poor offense and porous defense, getting to post-season play is possible, but not expected. The Demon Deacons rank 86th in passing, 101st in rushing and 96th in scoring offense and are 94th in scoring defense. To have three wins despite those numbers is a pretty solid accomplishment, but Wake Forest is certainly sliding by and the ice is about to crack.
Next week’s ACC mid-term evaluations will focus on Maryland and Boston College. Each will play their sixth game this weekend.
Kevin is a national college football writer for quadrust.com and the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Submit your mailbag questions via Tumblr. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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