We are about halfway through the season with the heart of the ACC football schedule upon us. Let's take a temperature check. Who ya got in the ACC Championship game? Has this changed at all from the teams you penciled in at the beginning of the season as part of your preseason predictions?
We have the winner of the Boston College vs. Wake Forest game representing the Atlantic division in Tampa (yes, we know we're homers). In the Coastal, we have penciled in Virginia Tech to represent the other half of the conference. If the Hokies slip up this year (see below), we could see the winner of the Georgia Tech vs. North Carolina game slipping into the title game.
How does this stack up to our preseason predictions? Well I had picked Wake Forest to win a tiebreaker and represent the Atlantic and had Virginia Tech in the Coastal. Jeff (and nearly everyone else) had Clemson representing the Atlantic and Virginia Tech in the Coastal. We were wrong about Clemson, who at 3-3 (1-2 ACC) pretty much seems left for dead. The only way we can see Clemson sneaking back into the race is if they run the table in the ACC to finish 6-2.
We were both dead wrong about the length of the turnarounds in Chapel Hill and Atlantic, as we had the Tar Heels finishing 3rd and 4th in the Coastal, and had Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets finishing 5th in the division.
We've only played a few ACC games yet we've already seen some upsets of possible Championship game participants - notably Maryland over Clemson, Georgia Tech over Boston College, and Virginia over Maryland. Looking at the remaining ACC schedule, pick one league game for each of your ACC Championship game participants where they could be upset.
The trap game for Wake Forest will be their October 18 road trip to College Park to face the Maryland Terrapins. No team has looked so inconsistent from week to week than Friedgen's bunch. If the Maryland that beat California and throttled Eastern Michigan shows up, Wake Forest could be in for a rough day. If the Maryland who dropped a game at Middle Tennessee State or got shutout by the Virginia Cavaliers shows up, Wake should roll. Maryland will have had two full weeks to prepare to host the Deacons. If they don't show up, they have no more excuses.
If Wake drops a game to Maryland, we see the winner of the November 22 game between Boston College @ Wake Forest punching their ticket to Tampa.
The following weekend is the trap game for the Virginia Tech Hokies as they travel to Tallahassee to face Florida State. The Seminoles haven't beat the Hokies since 2005 when they upset Virginia Tech 27-22 in the first ACC Championship Game. Of course, if Virginia Tech does drop this game, they are still in the driver's seat to win their second consecutive Coastal Division title. The other game the Hokies should be on the lookout for is their November 13 trip to Miami.
Last one, the first BCS standings come out on October 19. While it is unlikely that an ACC team will play its way back into the National Title game conversation and a second at-large berth seems equally unlikely, at least we have the Orange Bowl! Is this the year the league puts an end to their 1-9 BCS skid? Why or why not?
This is the year. This is the damn year the ACC sheds its place as the punchline of all BCS Bowl jokes. Fingers crossed. The ACC will end their 1-9 BCS skid this year in the Orange Bowl. It largely depends on who is representing the Conference, but if the matchup is against the Big East champion in the Orange Bowl, we give the ACC a good chance to pull out the victory. Potential Big East champions include Pittsburgh, West Virginia or Cincinnati(?).
If the ACC's Orange Bowl opponent ends up being a BCS buster like Boise State, Utah or BYU, or a second team from the Big XII or the SEC, all bets are off (see: Boise State Fiesta Bowl, 2006). Note: the Orange Bowl gets the ACC Champion and the last at-large pick of the BCS bowls this year.
Please please please let this be the year ...