In last week’s edition of this article, I almost jokingly wrote (prior to the release of the playoff rankings) that we could see Penn State jump Clemson in the college football playoff rankings. It happened and frankly, I was somewhat happy to see it. I know some of you were bent out of shape over it, but the reality is it doesn’t matter, and seems to motivate the team. Penn State lost to Minnesota already (imagine thinking Penn State was better than Clemson and then seeing that. They must have been shocked!) and we should jump to #3.
The conversation about the ranking prompted some discussion about the ACC. We’ve always been forthright at STS so allow me to continue to do so with you...the ACC is truly atrocious. Clemson, Virginia, and Pittsburgh are ok. Virginia Tech is playing better now. Beyond them, would you pick any ACC team over… say App State (who beat UNC)? West Virginia (who beat NCSU)? Even Kansas (who beat BC)? Ok, maybe Kansas, but you see the point.
I recently made this argument to a Clemson fan and he seemed scandalized by it. He said an undefeated Clemson could get screwed out of the playoff and that the ACC is better than the Pac-12. I think that’s wholly wrong on both accounts and I want to hash it out with this audience, if for no other reason than to ensure bias hasn’t ensnared you into thinking Clemson is in some sort of unjust bind.
Here’s how the ACC stacks up against the Pac-12. (Note that I skipped the two middle teams in the ACC to make the matchups work since the ACC has two additional teams. They’re ordered broadly by conference standings with a few adjustments to make the most logical matchups. The F/+ rankings are only for reference and do not yet include last week’s games).
ACC vs. Pac-12
|ACC Team||F/+||Pac-12 Team||F/+||Advantage|
|ACC Team||F/+||Pac-12 Team||F/+||Advantage|
|North Carolina||44||Arizona State||47||Push|
|Georgia Tech||99||Washington State||23||Pac-12|
That’s six wins for the Pac-12 to only two for the ACC. (I’d lean Pac-12 in all the “push” matchups too, but didn’t want to seem hyperbolic. Unfortunately, the ACC’s struggles this season have put Clemson in a position to where they must be perfect to make the playoff. It’s annoying and frustrating, but let’s acknowledge it while also acknowledging that it isn’t Clemson’s fault and move on. In 2016 the ACC was the best conference. It’ll bounce back in time.
Now on to week 12’s matchups!
#5 Alabama (-21) at Mississippi State (12:00pm, ESPN)
The noon slate is barren. It’s not that I dislike Alabama, but I loathe the idea of a one-loss non-champ getting in over a 1-loss champ so hopefully Alabama doesn’t immediately resume blowing out mediocre teams and wooing the committee.
Wake Forest at #3 Clemson (-31) (3:30, ABC)
Before we jump into this matchup, let’s discuss the Tigers’ 8th consecutive Textile Bowl victory. This year’s Wolfpack team is bad and we knew it. They’ve haven’t won 8+ games in three straight seasons since Lou Holtz was their coach in the early 70s so a brutal collapse after back-to-back 9-win seasons was inevitable. STS writer, Tom Dianora, in the weekly Q&A writer predicted a 56-10 win (55-10 was final, so quite the good prediction). Since our theme here is wild outrageous bias, and making fun of NC State is what we do, I figured I’d wrap it together and highlight one Backing the Pack commenter who had this to say about Tom’s prediction:
Personally the Tigers are vulnerable, they play a bunch of freshman, and have limited experience on the road, especially in tough environments.
We play a ton of freshman when we’re up by 40+ in the second half, that is true.
Yes we are in a bad shape, and this game more likely will be a loss, but I wouldn’t be surprised if things fall into place and the Wolfpack can bring in some June magic.
What is June magic?
As shown against UNC, if you stop the run, their OL will struggle protecting the QB, leading to sacks or incompletes. State has shown strength in doing both, just unable to be consistent.
NC State is actually top 15 in team sacks, so this is reasonable. They only had 1 sack in the game and Lawrence carved them up for 3 passing TDs and a 94.1 QBR so it didn’t pan out this time though.
This game will be decided on how well the defense can play, and how loud the crowd can be. The offense has little chance of success, but if we can keep the tigers to below 20 pts, we can at least have hope.
Also has anyone notice the difference between road games and home games in young teams? State is undefeated at home, allowing less than 10pts per game. Yes those teams weren’t Clemson, but it shows how important home field advantage can be to a young team.
I’d like to think we’re a little better than ECU, Western Carolina, Ball State, and Syracuse, but hey, you are at home.
Be loud, and maybe you can scare this young Clemson team into making mistakes.
Clemson looked like a National Championship caliber team in the first half. Following Wake Forest’s loss in Blacksburg, VA, they Tigers had a chance to clinch with a win. As such, they headed into the locker room and donned the orange britches. In them, they were ruthlessly efficient. They shot out to a 35-0 lead, effectively ending the game, and then closed out the first half by zipping 70 yards down the field in under 3 minutes and finding pay dirt to push the lead to 42-0. That came despite a sack and a fumble on the drive. It was a thing of beauty. They were unstoppable.
The second half was ugly though. The Tigers only outscored the hapless Wolfpack 13-10 in the half. They committed countless penalties and generally looked disjointed throughout. Chase Brice played the majority of the half and finished just 5/9 with 27 yards. It’s very difficult to judge Brice because he plays with backups and is generally passing in third-and-long situations after the offense predictably runs conservative run plays on the first two downs. Regardless, it is a reminder that the inevitability of our playoff berth still depends somewhat on team health.
Next, the ACC Atlantic Champion Tigers host Wake Forest for senior day. The “actually not good, but we’re pretending they are good to make us all feel better” Demon Deacons are coming off a road loss at Virginia Tech. They are 7-2, but their two best wins are a six-point home win over UNC and a three-point road win vs. Boston College. They have a good QB though. I’ve been high on Jamie Newman for a while. Along with Kellen Mond, he may be one of the few good QBs Clemson plays in the regular season. He provides a big threat with his legs too. We’ll likely see a lot of the 3-3-5 defense as we try to stop their up-tempo attack. They’ll provide a much tougher test than NC State, who didn’t offer much more than an FCS opponent, but I expect Clemson to score on them at will. Hopefully the defense looks sharp against what is legitimately a solid offense and the team doesn’t take their foot off the pedal quite so much in the second half.
#4 Georgia (-4.5) at #12 Auburn (3:30pm, CBS)
The Bulldogs are squarely in the playoff hunt. They look like the best defensive team in the SEC and are now poised to play LSU for a playoff bid. LSU may be in either way, but the Bulldogs have four straight elimination games and it starts at Auburn.
#10 Oklahoma (-10) at #13 Baylor (7:30pm, ABC)
This is where record and eye-test conflict a bit. Oklahoma has a loss. Baylor is undefeated. Oklahoma might just go on the road and boat race them. Baylor is barely squeaking by against West Virginia and TCU. Oklahoma has destroyed most of their opponents until recently. Lately their defense has regressed and caused them to drop a game against K-State and nearly another against Iowa State. They seem to be a playoff afterthought, and may be left out at 12-1 in favor of a one-loss non-champion like Alabama or the Pac-12 champion. This would be a good time to make a big statement and blowout Baylor.