The ACC needs Virginia Tech to matter in football. At 8-5 and 7-6 the past two seasons, the Hokies have not.
Virginia Tech’s 35-21 upset at Ohio State on Saturday night puts the Hokies back in the national conversation after the downturn of the previous two seasons and so many stumbles in bowl games (pick a BCS bowl, any BCS bowl) and national spotlight games (Louisiana State, Boise State, Alabama) going back to 2000.
The Hokies’ win also seems to help the ACC’s Hertz problem (“There’s Florida State and not exactly.”) But sometimes when you beat a “name” school early in the season, all that school has by the end of the season is its name.
Just last September, Miami knocked off a ranked Florida team. Minutes after the game, “The U” was officially back. By December, Miami was out of the Top 25 and looking up at Duke in the Coastal Division. Florida turned in a 4-8 stinkaroo of a season, and no one remembered what happened in September.
I didn’t think Ohio State would turn into this year’s Florida when quarterback Braxton Miller went down with a shoulder injury before the season opener. That was before I realized the Buckeyes have three wet paper towels and two throw blankets for an offensive line.
The Buckeyes still might be able to navigate the Big Ten and win 10 games, but it will take all of Urban Meyer’s coaching ability. The solace for Meyer is that the rest of the Big Ten is as bad in football as they are in math (Seven plus seven equals 10?)
Michigan State blew a halftime lead and got pasted by Oregon, 46-27. Michigan got skunked by Notre Dame, 31-0. Northwestern (Northern Illinois) and Purdue (Central Michigan) both lost to Mid-American Conference teams.
But, hey, at least Maryland and Rutgers won.
Here's a weekly review of who’s trending up or down across college football:
The Triangle: For the first time since 1994, N.C. State, Duke and North Carolina have each started 2-0. Since the ACC formed in 1953, the Triangle trio has never started 3-0 together. You have to go back to 1935 for the last time that happened.
Wake Forest: A segment of the Wake Forest fan base would interpret the long weather delay as a divine response to the school’s decision to sell alcohol during games. Nevertheless, the Deacons prevailed over Gardner-Webb for rookie coach Dave Clawson’s first win.
USC: The Trojans knocked out Stanford, a great sign that athletics director Pat Haden made a smart hire in Steve Sarkisian. But what was up with Haden, a member of the College Football Playoff’s selection committee, losing his mind with the game officials on the sidelines?
Every college football’s fan worst fear is that the committee will be blinded by their allegiances and won’t be able to make rational decisions. Haden probably should find a seat in the press box.
UCLA: I hear ya, Bill Parcells, you are what your record says you are -- and UCLA is 2-0, but the Bruins have struggled with Virginia and Memphis in consecutive weeks. Unless Ralph Sampson and Keith Lee walked through that door, UCLA’s the most overrated team in the country.
Instead of a weekly AP top 25 vote this season, I’m going to project the four teams in the College Football Playoff and the four other New Year’s bowls.
The top four teams, as ranked by the 13-person selection committee, will be placed in the Rose and Sugar Bowls and meet on Jan. 1. The winners will meet on Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas for the national title.
College Football Playoff
Rose: No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Oregon
Sugar: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Georgia
No changes among the top 3. Again, with a committee, there’s going to be a human element. Look at Oklahoma’s first two wins: 48-16 (Louisiana Tech) and 52-7 (Tulsa).
The Sooners are both very good and very smart. Bob Stoops knows how this particular game is played. Tennessee will be a bigger challenge this week, but don’t expect Stoops to show any mercy at any point this season because Oklahoma’s strength of schedule could end up being a problem.
Oregon, after its 46-27 win against Michigan State, slides into the fourth and final spot – for now. Great win for the Ducks, especially after falling behind at the half, but they need to prove they can make it through the regular season without a hiccup.
The Big Ten’s out, and sorry, they’re not coming back without a football miracle. Michigan State’s loss opened the door for the Pac-12 first, but the SEC, with its second contender (Alabama? Auburn? Texas A&M? LSU?), is eagerly waiting in the wings.
New Year’s bowls
Fiesta: Michigan State vs. USC
Cotton: Texas A&M vs. Notre Dame
Peach: ECU vs. Auburn
Orange: Louisville vs. Alabama
With the Rose Bowl hosting a semifinal, the Fiesta Bowl becomes the de facto Rose Bowl with the traditional Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup.
Notre Dame conned the ACC into housing their non-revenue teams, without marrying their football team. The CFP is equally complicit by giving the Irish access without making them join a conference. Even at 10-2, you’ll see the Irish on New Year’s Day.
The Orange Bowl is contractually obligated to take an ACC team (that’s Louisville, since Florida State is in the playoff) and the highest-rated team from the SEC, Big Ten – that’s not the conference champion – or Notre Dame.
The Pirates lost at South Carolina but still look like the best team from the “Group of 5” and, as such, would get a spot in one of the New Year’s bowls.
RANKING THE ACC
1. Florida State (2-0): Thirty-seven points? Last year’s Noles would have hung a hundred on The Citadel.
2. Louisville (2-0): Bobby Petrino should send Charlie Strong a thank-you note.
3. Clemson (1-1): The Tigers have petitioned the ACC to bring some of their 73 points against S.C. State with them to FSU.
4. Virginia Tech (2-0): Party like it’s 1999.
5. Miami (1-1): The Hurricanes will be better than they were in the opener.
6. Pittsburgh (2-0): Sophomore James Conner is the best running back in the league.
7. Duke (2-0): Another road win in the books for the Blue Devils.
8. North Carolina (2-0): Big plays are the Tar Heels’ best friend.
9. Georgia Tech (2-0): Won’t be a shortage of rushing yards this week against Georgia Southern.
10. Virginia (1-1): Surprise! The Cavaliers’ defense has been opportunistic under Jon Tenuta.
11. N.C. State (2-0): The Wolfpack needs to start faster at South Florida this week.
12. Boston College (1-1): Lost by 10 at home to Pitt and the game was not that close.
13. Syracuse (1-0): Central Michigan, beat Purdue this week, capable of beating the Orange next week.
14. Wake Forest (1-1): Another tough, random (Utah State) road trip awaits.