Just two years ago, the ACC looked like perhaps the most underrated conference in college football. Clemson was coming off of a national title and reached the College Football Playoff again, and the league had a bevy of solid teams in Miami, NC State, Virginia Tech, and Louisville, which had superstar and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Even some of the worst teams in the league looked pretty competitive many weeks.
The league took a big step backwards overall last season. Clemson recaptured a national title, and some teams showed major improvement, like Syracuse and Virginia, but Florida State bottomed out under Willie Taggart, Miami fell way back to the pack, and Virginia Tech started taking on water.
Those three programs, perhaps even more than Clemson, were the ones that were expected to carry the league after conference realignment. FSU was already a national power, and the ACC poached the Big East for Miami and VT, who were both expected to be regular national championship contenders. The Hokies have had moments, but overall it hasn’t really worked out that way, outside of Jimbo Fisher’s run at FSU.
This year, things are looking even more harrowing for the sub-Clemson ACC. The Tigers may very well roll to another national championship, but 2-through-14, the league has major issues.
Week 3 has revealed them in a big way. So far:
- Pitt blew a major upset chance against Penn State, electing to kick from the edge of the goal line down 17-10 instead of going for the game-tying touchdown with under five minutes left. It missed the field goal, couldn’t convert a late Hail Mary, and dropped the game.
- Georgia Tech fell to FCS team The Citadel, 27-24.
- NC State was blown out by a West Virginia team that most expect to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 in a rebuild year, 44-27.
- Virginia Tech squeaked by FCS Furman, 24-17.
- Last night, the usually solid-if-unremarkable Boston College had maybe the most inexplicable loss, falling to Kansas at home, 48-24. It was Kansas’ first Power Five road win since 2008, when Mark Mangino was still head coach. The Jayhawks are on their fourth full-time head coach since.
Even results outside of the league look bad for the ACC. Last week, Big Ten (and former ACC) club Maryland blasted Syracuse, a 10-3 team a year ago that was expected by many to be Clemson’s main challenge in the Atlantic Division this season (the Tigers travel to Syracuse today), 63-20. Maryland took Syracuse’s spot at No. 21 in the Associate Press Top 25, and then summarily lost to Temple today, 20-17.
Clemson winning another national title would cure most ills, but that possibility doesn’t mean the rest of the league hasn’t been majorly disappointing, and the college football community has taken notice.
ACC Football in a nutshell this weekend
– Pitt attempts a FG from the 1 yard line down 7 in the 4th
– BC loses outright at home to KU as 20 pt chalk
– GT loses outright at home to Citadel as 27 pt chalk
– VT slips by Furman 24-17 as 21 pt chalk
— Todd Fuhrman (@ToddFuhrman) September 14, 2019
The ACC is the least competitive league in college football
— Cameron Magruder (@ScooterMagruder) September 14, 2019
The Citadel 27.
Georgia Tech 24.
The ACC's last ~18 hours have really sucked.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) September 14, 2019
That’s a pretty ugly start for the ACC. Uggg. pic.twitter.com/8KISXZXQ9X
— David Pollack (@davidpollack47) September 14, 2019
Awful day for the ACC, with VT and GT losing to FCS teams and the ACC's second best team, Maryland, failing miserably at Temple
— Banner Society (@BannerSociety) September 14, 2019
The most ACC result left might be Syracuse pulling a second miraculous win over Clemson at the Carrier Dome in three years. Orange fans in Central New York might support that, but you have to imagine that the conference brass down in North Carolina tremble at the thought, given what else has already gone down in the league.