ACC and Big 12 need to step up the pace

Maybe it is a sign of the times--and of their shaky status in the Power 5 conference elite derby--that what were once two of the biggest rivalry games in college football are barely mentioned out of their own area codes this week.


Fans of college football lamented the lack of a true marquee game this weekend. Oh, there was Florida and LSU in the SEC and there was Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, but neither has even a "Game of the Year'' buzz to it.

What is even more startling is that neither the Texas-Oklahoma game in Dallas or the annual in-state battle between Florida State and Miami has any sizzle.

What makes it even worse for the two conferences involved in those games--the ACC and the Big 12--is that unless there is a second half surge, one or both of those conferences could be shut out of the College Football Playoff Final Four.

Here's why.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

The Southeastern Conference is again top heavy with playoff quality teams. Alabama and Georgia are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Associated Press poll this week, LSU is No. 5, Auburn is No. 8 and surprising Kentucky is No. 13 and climbing.

The Big Ten is also flexing its muscles with Ohio State and Penn State major players again.

And now there is Notre Dame, ranked at No. 6 and climbing, one win (against Virginia Tech on Saturday night) away from being a Category 4 factor in the CFP playoffs.

A year ago, the SEC had two teams in the national championship game. While the odds are against that this season, having two SEC teams taking two of the four semifinal slots seems very possible. If you throw ND and the Big Ten champion into the pot, the ACC and Big 12 as well as the always lightly-regarded Pac-12 could be shut out.

Normally, Clemson has been immune to its own conference's shortcomings. This year is different. FSU and Miami stumbled coming out of the gate, and while Miami has regained its traction, FSU looks like a middle of the road ACC team. How else to explain the Seminoles being a 17.5 point underdog to the Canes? And Virginia Tech lost most of its equity when it lost to Old Dominion last month.

Clemson has not overwhelmed anyone this season, nearly losing to Syracuse (at home) last week for the second consecutive year. That's only part of the problem. There is no one remaining on Clemson's schedule that can give them an extra boost. Virginia Tech's loss to ODU and Miami, which was embarrassed in its opener against LSU, are both out of serious national ranking chatter.

Even a 13-0 Clemson would be hard pressed to edge an unbeaten Notre Dame or an unbeaten Ohio State or even a once-beaten Georgia or Alabama.

In the Big 12, Oklahoma looks solid enough on offense, but its defensive skills (along with the rest of the Big 12) are suspect. But that's not the Big 12's major problem. OU must get past Texas on Saturday, which doesn't look as easy as it did a few weeks ago and then run past Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.

West Virginia looks like the toughest hurdle in that group, but....

The Big 12 has only one division, plays a round robin 9-game league schedule. It has a championship game between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams. OU finishes its season at West Virginia, which appears to be the most likely No. 2 team at this point.

Let's say the Sooners win in Morgantown. They will then have to do it all over again a week later in the Big 12 title game in Arlington, Texas. Good luck to either OU coach Lincoln Riley or WVA coach Dana Holgorsen inspiring his team to go out and ""do it again'' after they have just clinched the regular season title.

And again, in a face off against teams from the SEC, Big Ten or ND, the Big 12 is likely to get edged out.

Which brings us back to Saturday's games. I've been to several Red River Rivalry games between Texas and OU in Dallas and match ups between FSU and Miami on both campuses. It was the best college football had to offer, played out on a national stage.

Neither game this season will affect the top of the national rankings very much, although an OU loss would damage the Big 12.

For the Big 12 and ACC, it's almost essential that OU and Miami win and win big. Anything less than that will drop both conferences further back on the depth chart of Power 5 conference rankings.

The Heights (An outsider's view of what's happening at Boston College, aka The Heights)

So here we are again folks. Another Boston College game, another crossroad for the Eagles in which direction their season will move.

BC bounced back from an embarrassing loss to Purdue to what can be called a gritty win against Temple, which put them at 4-1. But the Eagles showed defensive lapses, which could be fatal this week at North Carolina State against a quarterback with the skill set of State's Ryan Finley, who is arguably the best QB in the ACC.

They also enter the game with a question mark about the status of their best player, running back AJ Dillon, who was knocked out of the Temple game in the second half with a sprained left ankle.

BC coach Steve Addazio has said that Dillon, who did not, practice this week, is improving. It will be a game-time decision--count on Dillon to play, but how effective he will be or how long he will be able to play remains in doubt).

The goal BC and Addazzio set for themselves this season is a breakthrough (for Addazio) 8-win season.

The Eagles are done with their non-conference schedule. After NC State, the Eagles host Louisville at home and then the road gets very steep. Miami, Virginia Tech, Clemson, FSU and Syracuse. Even if BC wins the next two games and becomes bowl eligible with six victories, getting the seventh win--much less the eighth--will be a challenge.

A loss on Saturday and BC could be in serious trouble.[/membership]

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