At first, it looked encouraging for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Clemson and Florida State both were in the Top 10 in pre-season rankings. Some pundits even had the pair as Top 5 contenders.
Then it changed. Florida State stumbled out of the box. It was nearly beat by Ole Miss in its opener Two weeks later, the Seminoles came to town and were embarrassed at Louisville.63-20.
O.K. No problem. Clemson and Louisville emerged as leaders of the pack.
But there were signs that not everything was working the way it should. Clemson looked sluggish. The Tigers, who had blitzed their way to the national championship game against Alabama a year ago, looked...beatable. And Clemson QB DeShaun Watson, a pre-season favorite to win the Heisman (he was third last season). was not the dominant force of a year ago. Watson wasn't even the best QB in his own division, being overshadowed by Louisville QB Lamar Jackson.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
When Clemson won a classic shootout game against Louisville, two weeks ago, the Cardinals dropped back a notch.
Suddenly, there was only the Tigers. But then last week, Clemson fumbled and stumbled and practically handed the game to North Carolina State, which also fumbled and stumbled, missing a virtual chip shot field goal in the final seconds of regulation. Clemson survived with an overtime win.
The last regular season test for the Tigers will come next week when they travel to Florida State, which is suddenly showing life, coming off back to back wins against Miami and Wake Forest. The Seminoles didn't play like champions in either game, but they are making improvements.
Which begs another question. What happens if FSU beats Clemson?.
And then there were none? No unbeatens and maybe not even a team worthy of Final Four consideration?
The good news for the ACC is that it looks like there is more parity in the league than there has been in years.Bottom feeders such as Syracuse and Wake Forest have some bite. Wake Forest is 5-2, Syracuse is coming off a 31-20 upset of Virginia Tech which wasn't a fluke.
In the ACC Coastal division, Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Miami all could make serious runs at a division title.The Atlantic Division is top loaded with FSU, Clemson and Louisville, but Syracuse and Wake have already proven they can be prickly and North Carolina State is coming off a win against Notre Dame, and a near win at Clemson. The Wolfpack has another challenge this week when it travels to Louisville.
With ND out of the equation, the Big 12 not looking like it will have a serious contender, the SEC having only one serious contender, the Pac-12 also down to one, the ACC and the Big Ten looked like the only Power 5 conference leagues with legitimate chances to place TWO teams in the Final Four.
Now that proposition looks like a long shot. For that to happen, Clemson needs to win out and finish with a 13-0 record. Louisville also needs to win out and finish at 12-1.
Then the ACC needs Washington to lose in the Pac-12 and have the winner of the regular season game between Ohio State and Michigan lose in the Big 10 championship game.
If those scenarios happen, the Final Four would probably be: Alabama, Clemson, Louisville and Washington if it wins the Pac-12 or Michigan or Ohio State, if it wins the Big 10 championship.
But if history of the BCS and the playoffs have told us anything in the past several seasons, it is foolish to make ANY predictions. And it would be just as easy to project an FSU win over Clemson and a Louisville loss to Houston, which would mean NO ACC teams will be in the Final four.
Far be it for us to question the boys from Vegas. But how does this make sense? Boston College, which was beaten 49-0 by Virginia Tech is a 5 point favorite over a Syracuse team that is coming off a 31-20 upset of Virginia Tech. Yes, the game is at Boston College, but half the time that is not even a home field advantage for the Eagles. And BC is coming off a bye week, following a 56-10 LOSS to Clemson. At worst, it looks like a pick em (even) game.
SEC showdown game this week is unbeaten Texas A&M at unbeaten Alabama. Alabama is 23-6 vs. Top 10 teams since the start of the 2010 season. Which might explain why Alabama is 16.5 point favorite over the Aggies, which is a lot of points against the No. 6 team in the country But then again Alabama is coming off a 49-10 win over previously unbeaten No. 9 Tennessee in Knoxville. ..LSU could receive a boost this week against Ole Miss if running back Leonard Fournette plays. Fournette has missed the last two games because of an ankle injury, but says he is ready to return.[/membership]