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The First Quarter

The calendar has moved past the middle of September. The football season has moved past the third week. For most ACC teams, a quarter of the season, or something close to it, has been played. All in all, it is not a bad time to take a look at them and see what can be gleaned so far.

In the Coastal Division and the rest of the conference, Virginia Tech is setting the early standard. While Ohio was expertly coached and prepared, Tech simply had too much for the Bobcats and overpowered them. Tech is getting the hang of this 45-0 thing.

The Hokies found a way to win a difficult road opener then thoroughly manhandled two lesser opponents. This is what very good teams are supposed to do. Tech now moves on to the next phase of their schedule and for a couple of weeks will tangle with teams with a bit more on the ball than Duke and Ohio. That final trip to the land of moonshine and sisterly love now looms a little tougher.

Georgia Tech will bring a pretty good team to Lane this weekend. As of this writing, the status of Reggie Ball is unknown; it is hard to imagine the Yellow Jackets winning without him. Still, GT Defensive Coordinator John Tenuta is a very good one and will have something for Marcus Vick.

Miami stared straight into the abyss late Saturday afternoon and survived. Their season was on the line at Clemson. The Canes simply could not have dropped to 0-2, a full two league games behind Tech. You could have used a fork to test Sebastian for doneness and perhaps Larry Coker as well. Instead, Coker can now tell his guys that if they win out, they are ACC champions. That would cut little ice with large elements of what passes for Miami’s fan base, a crowd of loons who could care less about mere conference championships or even what conference houses Miami at the moments. It would still be a pretty big deal and provide an excellent springboard for what figures to be a very good Miami team in 06, a time when Frank Beamer will be reloading a bunch of positions. Mark the Clemson win down as a landmark one for Miami; perhaps it was a very big season and program-defining one, indeed.

The Hoos are 2-0 following their close win at Syracuse. Judging by what looked to be a rather placid Dome crowd, one gets the feeling that the Orangepersons did not regard the Jeffersons as quite as big a rival as they once did that other team from Virginia, the state. Ah, what might have been.

As to that Hoo-Cuse game: exactly what sort of idiot goes for a Fourth Down from the other guy’s ten late in the game when he only needs a field goal to win? The sort of idiot recently given a huge raise by Craig ‘I Almost Had Tubby’ Littlepage, that’s hoo.

The Hoos are winning ugly over suspect opposition, but they are still winning. So far, they are managing to overcome algroh’s bungling and are still undefeated. The road problems the Hoos have experienced under algroh have been well documented, but it seemed even the Great NFL Chessmaster could not piss this one away. That bodes well for the Hoos. They now get a breather at home against Duke before heading to College Park and Boston to give algroh another couple of shots at blowing winnable road games.

Georgia Tech is the other Coastal Division team lurking around with a 3-0 record, punctuated by the win at Auburn. The Jackets also showed some mettle in knocking off UConn by two touchdowns without Reggie Ball. They are pretty good. To accomplish much of anything this year GT is going to have to have a healthy Ball running the show, but if they do very good things can happen.

North Carolina is 0-2, basically what everybody expected. The Heels have given a pretty good account of themselves in the losses. However, a huge red flag has been sent up in Pittsburgh, of all places, where Willie Parker has indicated that perhaps there was a running game in Blue Heaven after all, or at least running talent. ‘Big’ John Bunting is a likable guy who inherited a very tough situation, but what Parker is doing in the NFL combined with the dearth of a running game at Carolina perhaps means it is time to ask some serious questions. It still says here that Carolina beats Utah and wins one other ACC game other than woeful Duke, but…

Duke stinks. There is nothing really new or surprising there, despite summer assurances to the contrary. Supposedly there are some pretty good recruits around, at least one not on basketball scholarship. So far, however, Ted Roof has shown nothing to indicate the presence of any decent talent. The Devils did manage to knock off VMI. This was canny scheduling by Duke AD ‘Lackey’ Joe Alleva.

There are two I-AA programs in Virginia in residence at JMU and William and Mary that are better than Duke. VMI is maybe the worst team in Division I-AA; the Keydets have never recovered from having their recruiting decimated by the Viet Nam War. While Lackey Joe no doubt is angling for a long-term scheduling deal, beating VMI is not exactly evidence that anything is changing at the ACC’s worst football outpost.

That Duke lost to lousy ECU says more about Duke than it does about any football resurrection Down East. The failure to offer even token resistance to conference mate Virginia Tech says more than beating what it essentially a D-III team in VMI. What it says is the Duke program is regressing under Ted Roof.

Over in the Atlantic Division, don’t look now but Florida State is 3-0. The Seminoles are beating some pretty good teams while simultaneously gaining valuable experience for their young quarterbacks. The ACC’s old new order is reasserting itself. Watch out.

Clemson, this page’s pick to finish second in this division, has been playing like it. The Tigers are 2-1 against a pretty tough schedule. They also came tantalizingly close to being the surprise of college football. Yes, experienced senior quarterbacks do mean that much. If Clem can bounce back from the tough loss to Miami, they can still cause trouble in the league.

Boston College opened with a couple of OOC wins, one of a fairly high profile, then promptly lost its opening conference game, a big one at home to FSU. Welcome to the ACC, Fredo. This has been the way of Tom O’Brien’s world; he went a combined 1-13 against Tech and Miami in the old BE. Not much seems to have changed in that regard. What has changed is the remainder of BC’s schedule is littered with some tougher games than the Eagles saw last year in the Li’l E. Lose at Clemson Saturday and Fredo’s handful of fans can start making Boise travel plans. Win at Clemson Saturday and Fredo’s handful of fans can start making Boise travel plans, anyway.

NC State is 1-1. Discounting the Pack’s controlled scrimmage against some I-AA dog last Saturday, they are 0-1 in games that matter. For all of the “could have won” “should have won” huffing and puffing done by the Wolves, they did not beat Tech. Chuck Amato still hasn’t won the signature victory over a highly-ranked opponent that will get his program over the hump. Until he does, he has not.

State has opportunities ahead of them. This can still be a very good team that can accomplish a lot, or it can continue to be one that loses the tough games. For all of the money poured into State football by its fans, Chuckie sports an overall losing record in the ACC. It would seem that sooner or later that has to change and probably sooner.

Maryland is in trouble. They are 1-2 and lost two very winnable games at home, one a crucial conference game, the other to a left-behind from the Li’l E. Not too good, Fridge. There might be a little more to this head-coaching thing than winning with the former guy’s players and making commercials. So much for ‘Protect this house.’ For a guy who made his coaching bones as a big-time OC, Friedgen sure has botched the QB position at Maryland. The Terps have a very important game this weekend at Wake Forest, just maybe the most important one in Ralph’s career as the head guy.

As for Wake, they are 1-2. Some, such as me, had speculated they might be 3-0. Oops! The sort of up-and-coming programs the Deacs claim to be would. A relatively easy win over lowly East Carolina doesn’t show much other than how really bad is Duke. Jim Grobe needs to win a couple of games he shouldn’t to hold onto that ‘genius at a place he can’t win’ label. He will have a number of opportunities in the coming weeks.

That was the First Quarter of the season that was. The early pecking order has been established and it looks a lot like the predicted pecking order. Things will change over the next quarter as the games continue to play out. There have already been some big games in this new ACC and some more are on the way. Later this week I will point out which teams seem to be playing in all of them. It might provide a clue as to why expansion was necessary.

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