ACC FOOTBALL
The Pros and Pitfalls of Parity

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by Todd Helmick

November 9, 2005

This season has flown by as college football maneuvers into its final days of regulation play. Teams now begin jockeying for (that overused passage) “bowl eligibility”. In short, “bowl eligibility” means six victories. For example, the Maryland Terrapins have four victories. They need to win two of their last three (at North Carolina, Boston College, and at N.C. State) to even garner bowl consideration, or the same result of a season ago could be their fate - falling one win short and sitting home for the holidays.

This is the first year for the conference’s new 12-team alignment, with Boston College entering the league to complete the dozen. Two divisions – Atlantic and Coastal – have six teams each, and the new look has been as intriguing as it has been competitive. One aspect is certain: the Coastal Division, with Miami and Virginia Tech, has proven to be better, so far going 18-16 in league play compared to the Atlantic’s 18-20 aggregate tally. (Overall, the Atlantic teams are 30-23 while the Coastal total is 31-20.) In the Atlantic division, only FSU has a winning ACC mark (at 5-2), while four of the six Coastal division squads are over .500 in-conference. And just imagine if last place teams N.C. State (4-4, 2-4) and Duke (1-9, 0-7) swapped divisions. Though the participants of two divisions play each other, the question begs - is the Atlantic Division (with Maryland and FSU) that bad, or is it so competitive that those teams are just beating up on one another with no team clearly superior?

Case in point: Florida State is already the Atlantic division champ with two (conference) losses. The Seminoles backed into the title by default as Boston College lost this past weekend. The first-place FSU also just proved their worth (or lack of) by getting beat at home on Senior Day to struggling and last-place N.C. State. This fulfills the consensus from August, when many guessed that the Atlantic division winner would wind up with two or three conference losses, precisely what’s now happening. This scenario offers teams like Maryland a great chance to remain in the competition. In hindsight, a handful of plays (or referee judgments) turned in Maryland’s favor (versus either Clemson or Florida State) would have the Terps in a prime position to win their division. In this case, parity may not be such a bad thing.

Speaking of N.C. State…the heat is on head coach Chuck Amato as he struggles to appease the Raleigh faithful. The Wolf Pack has been to four bowls in his five seasons, meaning his own self-created expectations have now exceeded any reality. Still, the last time State won an ACC title was 1979. In fact, Duke is the only team from the entire state of North Carolina to have won an ACC football title in the last quarter century (in 1989 under Steve Spurrier). When it finally comes time for Bobby Bowden to step down, Chuck Amato is on the front of any replacement list, something that suits half of the Tallahassee alumni just fine. Given the right circumstances, Amato and State could win more than just an ACC title. In Raleigh, the Tangerine Bowl is generally the top of the proverbial ladder. Such is the life of football on Tobacco Road.

On a side note for the “hoops only” Blue Devil bandwagon: Who is the current QB for Duke? Not sure? Apparently winning over rides loyalty.

Coastal Division: Miami vs. Virginia Tech
The Hokies were in a prime position last week to start their dynasty run under coach Frank Beamer and lay claim to their second ACC title in as many seasons since joining the league. On the biggest home (and national TV) stage of the program’s history, Virginia Tech performed in the slow Lane (locational pun intended). Miami stole the thunder and quelled the crowd noise, reaffirming their right as the top dog once again. Now, can the Canes win out to secure such status?

The Hurricanes are only a botched snap (on a FG attempt in the opener against Florida State) from being right in the middle of the national championship argument. Maybe the good ole days are returning, when the winner of the Miami-FSU game annually went on to the national championship. Oh, the irony in this Sunshine State rivalry…when will one of these schools kick a dad-gum FG through the uprights when it matters?

Good for Maryland - the Canes will visit Byrd Stadium next year, as will the Seminoles, while the Terrapins will not play Virginia Tech. For most teams across the land, given the parity of the Atlantic Division, a schedule such as this would still be challenging enough. So what have coach Friedgen and the College Park powers that be gone out and done? To no one’s surprise, they have made next season’s non-conference schedule one of the worst/weakest in Maryland’s history. At home they will face Middle Tennessee, Florida International and I-AA William & Mary. Actually, parity is not always a good thing, or is it?


NationalChamps.net POST-SEASON ACC AWARDS (through October)
Offensive Player of The Year: Calvin Johnson – Georgia Tech
Defensive Player of The Year: D’Qwell Jackson – Maryland
Newcomer of The Year: Greg Carr – Florida State
Coach of The Year: Larry Coker – Miami