ACC can cut its losses

Staff WriterSeptember 7, 2009 

It's time for the ACC to face facts and ban season-opening football games against nonconference opponents.

Don't laugh.

I'm as serious about this as a starving, understaffed, depth-challenged small-college defensive coordinator saddled with a penny-ante recruiting budget.

Given the rate at which ACC schools are getting embarrassed while spending a fortune in a futile effort to match pace with fellow BCS insiders, the smart step for the league would be to dictate the following first-week schedule for 2010 and beyond:

Duke vs. North Carolina.

N.C. State vs. Wake Forest.

Virginia vs. Virginia Tech.

Maryland vs. Boston College.

Clemson vs. Georgia Tech.

Florida State vs. Miami.

See the beauty in it?

The worst the league could go would be 6-6 -- the ACC went 4-6 this past week -- and any need for damage control not only would be minimal but completely insulated. An embarrassing loss would be offset by an invigorating victory.

Look at this way: You challenge your dog to a million-dollar, winner-take-all, loud-barking contest.

Since what happens in the kennel stays in the kennel, you don't really lose even if you lose.

Not only that, ACC schools wouldn't have to pretend that their fans are fired up about taking on William & Mary, The Citadel, Richmond, Somewhere-Tennessee, Jacksonville State and Northeastern to start a football season.

The long-ago established truth is that the ACC can't beat some of those teams and certainly can't take any of them for granted. Did anyone see those Duke rushing stats in a 24-16 loss against Richmond? Wow, 19 yards on 16 carries. The upside is that Duke coach David Cutcliffe said, "Don't put too much into this game."

It's pretty obvious Duke's players didn't.

But compared with Virginia in its 26-14 loss to William & Mary in Charlottesville, the Blue Devils were the ACC's answer to the '72 Dolphins.

The Cavaliers went to untold expense to stage a come-one, come-all quarterback camp in the middle of Scott Stadium only to get worked over by a W&M player who could have been recruited and signed for the price of a game ticket.

At the opposite extreme, Virginia Tech, N.C. State, Wake Forest and Maryland get credit for trying to beat someone their own size. All four lost, of course. But there's little doubt the Hokies and the Deacons played well enough to have defeated most other ACC teams. Maryland lost 52-13 at California but racked up more frequent-flyer miles than last season in a loss at Middle Tennessee.

Things should improve this weekend when UNC goes to Connecticut, Wake hosts Stanford and Marshall visits Virginia Tech.

If nothing else, the ACC should end the second week of the season in full-scale domination of Jacksonville State, which lost at Georgia Tech and now goes to Florida State.

But for season starters, the ACC should have enough sense to cut its losses and save the nonconference games for later in the season -- when fewer folks are paying attention.

caulton.tudor@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8946

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