Just five seasons ago, the old Big East Conference could make an arguable case that their league was more powerful than the Atlantic Coast Conference. No ACC Team made the final top 20 in the AP Poll that year. Conference champion Clemson fell to Big East Champion West Virginia 70-33 in the Orange Bowl.
There was talk among some that the Big East should be the fifth power conference, as the ACC had not enjoyed a powerful team that competed for a national champion for the past 11 seasons.
It started with Clemson and Florida State becoming strong once again, but it did not end there. North Carolina and Georgia Tech challenged for top 10 finishes. Louisville and Pittsburgh joined the league bringing quality football. Duke, long the doormat, enjoyed a resurgence not seen in Durham for more than 50 years.
Now, the ACC begins the season as the PiRate Ratings’ number two conference. The difference between number two and number five is small, but it is a first for this league. With quality teams from top to near bottom, this league should produce several quality bowl-eligible teams this year, and if the ball bounces right for one team, which could be any of four or five in this league, it would not be surprising to see another Playoff representative, making it three for three.
In the past three seasons, Florida State won the national title, then the Seminoles lost to Oregon in the semifinals of the NCAA Playoffs, and last year, Clemson handily defeated Oklahoma before falling in a great final to Alabama. Tallying 40 points and more than 500 yards against Alabama is a rarity about as frequently seen as Sir Edmund Halley’s Comet.
2016 looks to be another big season for this league. Three teams in the Atlantic Division have the talent to run the table and earn a playoff spot, but because there are three, more than likely, they will beat each other with Clemson playing at Florida State, Florida State playing at Louisville, and Louisville playing at Clemson.
Boston College and North Carolina State have better talent this season than last, but it will be hard for either team to steal a victory over the big three. The Eagles must play the Wolfpack in Raleigh on Homecoming, so NCSU has a leg up for the four-spot.
Syracuse begins anew with famed offensive wizard Dino Babers coming to the Carrier Dome from Bowling Green. He inherits a squad not ready to speed up the game and average more than 80 scrimmage plays per game. The Orangemen averaged 20 fewer plays per game than that last year, and the talent is not there for Syracuse to spread the field and run and throw like Baylor.
Wake Forest may be a touchdown better team this year than they were last year, and third-year head coach, and predeccesor to Babers at Bowling Green, Dave Clawson should see his Demon Deacons compete for bowl eligibility. We think the Deacs will come up a game or two short, but opponents will not consider playing WF as a breather game. Florida State and Louisville almost fell last year, and we believe some higher-rated team will go down in 2016. There are six or seven winnable games, so Clawson’s crew could get a 13th game in December.
The Coastal Division could be a four or five-team race this year. Pittsburgh begins the season as the highest ranked team in the division, but the Panthers’ schedule is unfavorable, and depth issues could become a concern quite early. Pitt hosts Penn State in week two and then plays at Oklahoma State and North Carolina on the road the following two weeks. Then, beggining October 27, the Panthers host Virginia Tech and play back-to-back road games against Miami and Clemson. We believe that the highest rated Coastal team could actually end up in fourth place in the standings.
The three teams that could finish ahead of Pitt are North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Miami. Of the trio, Miami has the most favorable schedule for tiebreaking purposes. We expect the Tar Heels, Hokies, and Hurricanes to possibly finish in a three-way tie for first, as none of the top four teams are solid enough to run the table.
Georgia Tech and Duke are headed in opposite directions this year from last year, but not by a lot. The Yellow Jackets are a dark horse team this year after finishing 3-9 last year while losing pretty. Close losses to Notre Dame, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Georgia made the Yellow Jackets a 9-3 team with just a tad more talent and fewer turnovers. With an experienced quarterback returning to run the spread option offense, and with power and speed in the skill positions, look for the Techsters to engineer a much better offense this season, adding 5-7 points per game to their average. A potentially porous defense may be the only thing keeping Coach Paul Johnson’s team from competing for the division flag, something Tech won just two seasons ago.
Coach David Cutcliffe deserves a lot of credit for guiding Duke to four consecutive bowl games and three consecutive winning seasons. The last time the Blue Devils finished with three consecutive winning seasons was 1961-62-63. This year, the Blue Devils have a lot of talent to replace on both sides of the ball, but there is still enough talent to contend for a fifth consecutive bowl eligible season. At this point, we think they will come up a bit short.
Virginia begins a new philosophy with first year head coach Bronco Mendenhall. The former BYU head coach brings a history of winning with whatever talent he has available. Mendenhall has won with a predominant passing game and with a three yards and cloud of dust running team. Mendenhall is a defensive coach by trade, so he brought along former East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeal to run the Cavaliers’ offense. Look for UVa to be more exciting this year, but the record may be about the same.
Here is how the ACC Media selected the order of finish for this season.
|#||Atlantic Division||1st Pl.||Total||Champ.|
|4||North Carolina St.||0||704|
|#||Coastal Division||1st Pl.||Total||Champ.|
Here are the initial PiRate Ratings for the ACC
|Atlantic Coast Conference|
|North Carolina St.||108.0||104.7||107.6||106.8|
The PiRate Ratings are meant to be used only to predict the outcomes of the next week of games, and are not best used to predict beyond that point. Because we use algorithms that include automatic adjustments by each team based on depth and experience, two different teams can win by the exact score we predict, and their new ratings might change differently.
Thus, using our ratings to predict won-loss records and bowl projections is a bit comical, but then we all need some laughs every now and then. So, laugh away at our projected standings and bowls.
|Atlantic Coast Conference Projected Standings|
|Florida St.||7-1||12-1 *||NY6–Orange|
|North Carolina St.||4-4||7-5||Military|
|Boston College||2-6||6-6||Quick Lane|
Coming Tomorrow–It has been said that there are three equally tough conferences in American Football–the AFC, the NFC, and the SEC. Once again, the Southeastern Conference begins the year as the clear-cut best league in college football, and three teams have legitimate National Championship aspirations.
Also Coming Tomorrow–Our updated ratings and selections for week one of the college football season–all one game. California and Hawaii kick off the college season Friday night in Australia (Saturday Australia Time). Then, one week from Thursday, the season begins in earnest.