It's beginning to look more like summer is about to hit. The long cool, wet spring is slowly giving way to warmer, if not dryer weather conditions. That makes people think of things to do with program specific sports writing, and passing the doldrums of all college sports tends to grab the attention of virtually no one.
We can understand their frustration; but think of it, a football season that is a wide open competition for the ACC Coastal Divisional Championship. Alright, think about it again. This is a rare opportunity in big time college sports that the conventional wisdom is not likely to work. A dear friend, upon hearing that Virginia Tech was going to move from the Big East to the ACC, labeled it an odd move because the ACC was the "Parity and Awe" conference. The premise was that the teams weren't routinely the elite high flying voter favorite teams like Texas (at the time), Alabama, LSU, Oregon, etc. The point was that the ACC had some excellent performers mixed with at par programs, and a smattering of perpetual strugglers. This meant that the conference didn't have a reliably predetermined winner. There is the caveat in there that it's pretty obvious that in the first years of the ACC expansion the powers that be were convinced of a Miami-FSU perpetual dance at the top. That image ‘fooped' the year the Hokies walked off with their First ACC Championship, and then Miami's program slowly suffocated.
Of course the last five years have sent gears grinding and clutches burning because the greatest plans have all been pushed aside and surprises have erupted like fireworks on a Thursday Night Lane Stadium Game Day entrance. North Carolina seems to have recovered from its trip up, and fired up a struggling program to new heights. Duke has reworked everything, and is now a serious challenger every season. We've seen Boston College go from Atlantic challenger to struggling incompleteness. New addition Pittsburgh has immediately made an impact to the point where they are always dangerous and seem to have the Hokies' number. Dabo Sweeny has taken Clemson out of the middle of the Atlantic pack to push to the heights once dreamed of by Beamer and Weaver.
There just remain a few teams languishing in the bottom reaches of their divisions, Wake Forest and North Carolina State have both struggled to find a winning identity. The Wolf Pack knows from the past, what it's like to be a winning program and is working to re-establish that form, but Wake is still struggling to get beyond .500. As lucrative and important as the revenue flows are for the schools and the other athletic programs in the Conference, there will be more life in both of those programs it's a must for them. Virginia's hiring of Bronco Mendenhall is a sign that the Wahoos aren't happy with basement dwelling in the ACC Coastal, either.
The ACC added some serious firepower with the addition of Louisville last season (replacing Maryland), and Syracuse when Pitt was brought in. Syracuse is on the Hokie Football schedule for this season. The game is in the Carrier Dome, and the ghosts of Donovan McNabb, and the Big East slug fests of old are going to return. Let us hope that we fare better than our renewed rivalry with Pitt. ‘Cuse was always a tough opponent, but we just have difficulties dealing with the Panthers in the "Big Ketchup" as much as we did in Three Rivers.
So, the ACC is the epitome of a conference labelled with the term "Parity and Awe". There are very few teams that aren't going to be competitive this season. There are a dwindling number of ACC "cupcakes". The teams on the schedule that, ten years in the past, you could point to and say "Got That One" are pretty much over. The ACC isn't the B1G or the SEC. It's not the BIG12 or PAC12. It is a conference of near peers where the teams are quickly becoming a full slate of quality football programs. Gone are the days of the perpetual Hurricanes vs Seminole ACC Championship. With all of the new teams north of the Mason Dixon having been added, it might even be a legitimate question as to why the Championship Game is located in Charlotte, as opposed a rotating venue of professional stadium settings in any number of cities in the territory. FedEx, M&T Bank, Heinz, Foxborough, Paul Brown, and Richie... all should be in play to host ACC Championships.
The ACC has graduated from a secondary league of middle of the pack quality programs. Automatic predictions of guaranteed W's and L's are going to be impossible for a long time to come. Bring it on! It's time for a different conference to show up and make a nationwide impact. If Virginia Tech is going to stay put for the foreseeable future, then let it be in a conference that is going to make a difference.
As I said before I am not making predictions, though the next article will be a Gobbler Country Early WAG at the season's results. The countdown continues....