ACC Football Chat: Coach Speak, “Respect,” and Increased Cooperation Between ACC & Its Members

Last Week, Jimbo Fisher Tried to Dispel the Myth of ACC Inferiority -- But Was it All Coach Speak?

Last Week, Jimbo Fisher Tried to Dispel the Myth of ACC Inferiority — But Was it All Coach Speak?

Last week around the ACC, the buzz was all about respect and a new sense of cooperation between the league and its members (specifically the football schools). Jumping off from these ideas, Hokie Mark and I chatted about what it all means, and what these ideas may develop into over the coming years. Check out the conversation below:

Mark: Earlier this off-season, Bob Stoops of Oklahoma made sports news with his statement to the effect that SEC football superiority is largely “propaganda.” Now Florida State‘s Jimbo Fisher has come out and said that the ACC is not far behind the SEC and that “perception is a huge part of it.” Is this just coach speak, or are OU, FSU and others in the ACC really close enough to dethrone the SEC?

John: College football coaches are, to a point, politicians, in that they’ll say whatever needs to be said to stay in the good graces of their fans/constituents. Stoops also said in the last month that the BCS was terrible after what happened to his team last year — ignoring all the times his team benefited from that same flawed system. Point is, he’ll say whatever’s necessary to make it appear like it’s not his fault that his team has fallen short of expectations. Fisher is in a similar boat, but has also just come off a season in which the ‘Noles largely met preseason expectations (ACC title, Orange Bowl). Both do have a point, however.

The college football season is largely shaped by the preseason polls, and whether or not a team appears in them regularly determines whether they’re in the title conversation at the end of it. So the bias toward the SEC has actually created a situation where the league gets off to a running start against the competition. That’s not to say the top teams in the SEC aren’t better than the top teams in other conferences (they are, for the most part), but they do get a slight leg-up on the perception front, which is half the battle in college football.

What about you, though? Obviously your team’s been in the national title conversation more often than mine has over the past decade, so how does it feel being discounted when you’re near the top of the polls?

Mark: Not at all, John. I’m one of those guys who thrives on not getting respect — it makes me want to prove it. And I think for the most part the Virginia Tech football team is the same; when they are disrespected, that’s when they are most dangerous. I know the Key Play has “Beat Bama” t-Shirts for sale, and Hokies everywhere seem to be running with the #BeatBama hash tag. So even though we are prohibitive underdogs, I’m quietly optimistic that Beamer & Co. will have “a little something” for Alabama.

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ACC Football Chat: Discussing Non-Conference Rivals and the Evolving Recruiting Landscape

Florida and Miami Have No Intentions on Renewing Their Rivalry Past 2013

Florida and Miami Have No Intentions on Renewing Their Gridiron Rivalry Past 2013

Earlier in the week, our own Hokie Mark started up a conversation surrounding three- and four-way rivalries over on SB Nation’s Every Day Should Be Saturday. The basics: there are several three-way rivalries being played out this season, and some of them are going away for a long time after that. Some due to disinterest, others due to scheduling. But what Mark was getting at was the unique setup for three- and four-way rivalries, and which are some of the most- and least-heralded in the country.

Of course, this turned into a jumping-off point for an email conversation between he and I, which I’ve compiled below for everyone. While the main topic focused on non-conference rivals, we also branched out into what’s become an increasingly year-round discussion for everyone: recruiting. Check it out:

Mark: Hello again, John! Only 100 days until the football season begins — a very special one for Syracuse and Pittsburgh, to be sure. For the Orange, the season essentially begins and ends with old rivals: Penn State and Boston College. How do you feel about renewing those rivalries, and are there other rivalries for ‘Cuse that you’d like to see reawakened?

John: I’m about as excited as you can get, considering we’re still about 100 days out. Rekindling the rivalry with Boston College has been one of my favorite aspects of the ACC move, since it easily addresses our crisis of football identity (though much of the media doesn’t think so). Penn State, while arguably our oldest and most storied rival, hasn’t filled that role in over 20 years. It’s nice to play them when we can, but I think most fans have kind of moved on from the Nittany Lions — especially those of us who aren’t old enough to remember when SU and PSU were rivals to begin with.

As far as other rivalries worth rekindling, only two come to mind, and one’s not necessarily a “rivalry” at all. West Virginia‘s always been among our most-hated opponents, and with Syracuse beating the Mountaineers the last three times out (including last December’s Pinstripe Bowl), it’s only created a more hostile tension between the two fan bases. I was at the game in December, and ‘Neers fans were not what you would call “friendly” toward the Orange contingent, by any means. The other aforementioned opponent was Virginia Tech. While never traditionally considered one of Syracuse’s rivals, the Hokies and SU played plenty of heated games toward the latter years of the original Big East football conference that are worth rehashing. Of course, the ACC’s divisional setup won’t do much to help us play Tech more often, so that one’s also kind of off the table.

What about you, from a VaTech perspective? Any rivalries you’d like to start back up — feasible or not? Have any ill will left toward Syracuse from the Big East days?

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Could a Scheduling Alliance Between the ACC, Big 12 and Notre Dame Truly Work?

Under Further Discussion: Is an Alliance Between Notre Dame, the ACC and Big 12 Viable?

Under Further Discussion: Is an Alliance Between Notre Dame, the ACC and Big 12 Viable?

Last week, our own Hokie Mark put together an article on his site, ACCFootballRx, taking a look at how a scheduling agreement between the ACC, Big 12 and Notre Dame could conceivably work out. While he does a great job of laying out the specifics, he and I also carried the conversation over to email afterward, to discuss the issue a bit more. In particular, we dove into Notre Dame’s willingness to participate, notes on television deals and West Virginia‘s desires in this proposed situation.

John: First and foremost, would Notre Dame want to partner with the Big 12 as a whole? I get the feeling they’d prefer to keep their primary opponents, five ACC teams and then have the flexibility to schedule the Big 12’s elite teams like Texas and Oklahoma.

Mark: I agree.  That’s why I said I think this would have to fall somewhere between “rotating through all of the teams” and “just play the made-for-TV matchups.” I could see Notre Dame giving the Big 12 a list of teams they’d agree to play, which might look like this: Texas, Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State. (They’d leave out Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and West Virginia, in my opinion).

That may not go over so well with the four left out, but consider this: (1) WVU is more interested in the ACC scheduling part anyway, so skipping Notre Dame is probably fine with them; (2) Kansas, K-State and Iowa State are just happy to be in a BCS/power conference; (3) at any rate, that creates a 6-4 vote in favor of the deal.

John: Doesn’t the Big 12 need a two-thirds majority for critical decisions? (I thought that was the case, anyway) I mostly agree with your assessments of teams, though I’m not sure Baylor gets lumped in with the other five. Also agree that KU, KSU and ISU are all off the table; plus there’s no way Notre Dame’s scheduling (former head coach) Charlie Weis any time soon.

What kind of impact could we potentially see in terms of television contracts? How much would Notre Dame’s go up by? And each conference’s deals? Would this also put FOX into the bidding (along with ESPN and NBC) for Notre Dame’s contract that expires after 2014?

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Can the Wake Forest Football Program Remain Competitive?

Is the College Football Landscape Making it Impossible for Schools Like Wake to Compete?

Is the College Football Landscape Making it Impossible for Schools Like Wake to Compete?

While assembling the daily links for Wednesday, I happened upon an interesting story from Rant Sports, “Can the Wake Forest Demon Deacons Stay Competitive in ACC Football?” On a top-level, author M. Shannon Smallwood, takes a quick look at how Wake Forest and head coach Jim Grobe have continued to compete despite lesser resources and prestige than many of their counterparts, both locally and nationally. But I wanted to dig a bit deeper into that discussion, and really talk about the factors the school’s up against in the evolving college football environment. So rather than just chat about it by myself, I decided to bring in the author himself. What follows is our email conversation from yesterday:

John Cassillo: Can Wake Forest hope to compete in football in the future? With the conference’s smallest athletic budget and an influx of “richer” teams (Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and “sort of” Notre Dame) coming in the ACC door, how are they going to play catch-up? Or better question: Can they play catch-up with the conference’s 14 other schools?

M. Shannon Smallwood: I am the eternal optimist so I have to believe the leadership in the Athletic Department and the President of the University are capable and smart enough to realize what decisions need to be made in order to keep the school afloat. But the reality is the landscape just got a lot more challenging for Wake Forest on every level.

I am working on my first ACC Football Power Rankings for Rant Sports (posting on Saturday) and I have Wake in the bottom three in the new-look ACC. I just don’t think the Demon Deacons will be able to put the depth of talent on the field to compete for four quarters in every game. I do think they can recruit and put 25 or so top level athletes on offense and defense, but its the athletes from 26 to 85, I am worried about.

I will say this is not a game of “catch up”. I think if you are a school looking at the landscape and, as an AD or President, you say “we need to catch up with the other members of the ACC,” you are setting yourself and your school up for disaster. Case-in-point: Maryland. The Terps made some terrible decisions and were/are bankrupt until the Big 10 bailed them out. Could Wake, Boston College or Duke ever be in a situation like Maryland? I don’t think so. I think there are some deep pockets and smarter folks at these three schools. But to be successful, you have to win. You have to create a buzz around campus, the town and the nation.

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Should the Miami Hurricanes Self-Impose Another Postseason Ban?

If Miami Wins the Coastal Division, Should They Pass Up Their Chance at an ACC Title? We Discuss…

The Miami Hurricanes are well-situated atop the ACC‘s Coastal division standings with just two league contests remaining. Win both, and they’re playing for the ACC Championship in Charlotte. Or at least they should be, unless they decide to self-impose yet another postseason ban. As has been well-documented everywhere, the program’s under NCAA investigation for a whole host of violations, but have yet to rule. Miami already chose to keep last year’s 6-6 team home to hopefully gain some leniency. But this year, there’s so much more at stake. What’s the right decision for the program?

While we only know as much as your average blogger, the staff of Atlantic Coast Convos decided to take a stab at the question — objectively, of course. You can check out all of our answers below:

Glynn McGehee (Georgia Tech): The Miami Athletic Department has likely had internal discussions, and possibly discussions with the NCAA. The decision on whether or not to self impose a ban comes down to how severe and likely Miami believes an NCAA punishment would be. If Miami thinks that more Shapiro allegations or some other scandal is likely to surface soon, and that a self-imposed ban may lighten NCAA punishment, then go ahead and impose a ban. If Miami isn’t so sure that the allegations will be confirmed, or that a self-imposed ban will deter harsh NCAA punishments, then don’t bother with it. From an ACC perspective though, it would be best for Miami to play in the conference championship game. This has been a rough year for the conference, with a few of the consistently good programs struggling this year. As much as I personally would like to see Georgia Tech play in the conference championship game, it would be better to have Miami play the winner of the Atlantic Division.

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Can the Miami Hurricanes Win the ACC Coastal Division?

With their hot start in the ACC, the Miami Hurricanes find themselves at 3-1 overall, and 2-0 in-conference. While league both wins have come by single-digit margins, the team has also found itself a game-breaking player in running back Duke Johnson. Johnson, who is just a freshman, has already put up six scores for the ‘Canes, while also amassing the most all-purpose yards in the country. Teamed up with veteran back Mike James, Miami finds itself stacked with the type of 1-2 punch that wins a lot of games.

But can the Hurricanes with the ACC Coastal division for the first time since the ACC went to a two-division format in 2005? We polled members of the Atlantic Coast Convos staff to get a sense of what they thought…

Joel Penning (Clemson): Miami’s start has been a pleasant surprise, and the schedule sets up nicely. At this point, conventional wisdom would count Florida State as a certain loss, even though the game is in South Florida. But the ‘Canes get Virginia Tech at home on a Thursday, and the rest of their games look very winnable. Narrow wins over Boston College and Georgia Tech aren’t enough to anoint Miami the Coastal frontrunner just yet, though. This team still has major issues on defense, and its offense was stopped cold by the only quality D it faced. Duke Johnson leading Miami to its first division title — in a year when the NCAA’s hammer is looming over the program — would be a great story, but I still think Virginia Tech will take home the Coastal.

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Assessing Clemson: What Can We Take From the Tigers’ First Two Games?

Clemson Has Looked Good Through Two Games This Season, But Are Looks Deceiving? We Discuss.

The Clemson Tigers have looked pretty impressive through two games, but of course, we know there are concerns, too — some of which may not fully come to light until their big matchup with Florida State on September 22. Recognizing this, resident Clemson fan Joel Penning and I had a quick chat about some of the pressing issues thus far, addressing offensive tempo, Sammy Watkins‘s return, the run game and more. Check it out below, and enjoy the game this afternoon!

Clemson OC Chad Morris has promised to push the tempo even more. Is it possible?

Joel: When he arrived at Clemson, Chad Morris said he’d like to run 75-80 plays per game. The Tigers met that mark last year at 75.4. Morris’ offenses weren’t much quicker at Tulsa, where the Golden Hurricane ran 77.4 plays per game in 2010.  But the more plays you run, the more chances you have to score. Clemson is on track to match last year’s results, but the length of the game and the persistence of a defense that has trouble getting off the field will limit the offense’s effectiveness. The most effective hurry-up offenses are paired with competent defenses; otherwise, every quick score can easily be matched by a slower, more plodding score that eats up the clock. It’s just a question of game management. So ultimately, I have a hard time seeing Clemson top 80 plays per game.

John: I’d agree with that. Competing directly with amazing defenses like Florida State and Virginia Tech, I find it hard to believe that shootouts are the way to go. Against a shoddy defense? Sure, bombs away, and dare them to score on you. But against teams like that, you’re giving them opportunities to create turnovers, and letting you beat yourself at your own game. Running 75 plays per game has worked pretty well to this point, and I think it’ll yield better results as the defense improves.

The run defense is a travesty. Will it end up being the team’s undoing once ACC play begins?

JP: Brent Venables was hired to shore up a shaky defense, but two games into 2012, the Tigers are giving up more yards per play than last year. Kevin Steele largely failed during his three years to check option-based offenses, whether the triple-option of Georgia Tech or the zone-read of Cam Newton-led Auburn or the new Steve Spurrier attack. This year in Atlanta, Clemson did pretty well against that type of play, although maybe the departure of Gus Malzahn has accelerated Auburn’s return to a more traditional pro-style. Two games into the season, it’s hard to make a definitive judgment, but my general impression is that defenders are more willing to give up short runs in order to avoid being gassed by option plays. Georgia Tech on October 6 will determine Venables’ success in the minds of a lot of Clemson fans. But to answer the question more directly, Clemson had its most successful season in 20 years despite an awful defense. The Orange Bowl sticks in everyone’s mind, but it was offensive ineptitude that lost games to NC State, GT, and South Carolina.  With the inauspicious start for the Wolfpack, I’m still confident slotting Clemson second in the Atlantic, despite its weakness against the run.

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