College Football Week 3 saw Clemson win, again. The Tigers continued the defence of their National Championship with an easy win over Syracuse. The 41-6 victory fuelled a debate that started Saturday afternoon and raged in to the evening. Are Clemson so good, simply because the ACC is so bad?
In reality, the debate is long standing. It was ignited under the Friday night lights of Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Boston College, of the ACC, went in to their clash with Kansas as overwhelming favourites. The Jayhawks hadn’t beat a Power 5 school on the road in 48 games, or 11 years if you prefer. They’d struggled to beat Indiana State of the FCS, and had been humiliated at the hands of Coastal Carolina in Week 2. The BC Eagles were 2-0, with an ACC scalp already in their pocket from Week 1.
However, it was the BIG 12 team that came out with the shock win. They dominated on the ground, with Pooka Williams and Khalil Herbert both getting over 100 yards and a touchdown. Senior QB, Carter Stanley, put up 3 touchdowns through the air as the Jayhawks won 48-24.
It was a result that set the wheels in motion for a terrible week for the ACC.
A tale of two Techs
After Boston College’s defeat on Friday night, the scrutiny and humiliation of the ACC continued in to Saturday afternoon. It centred around the two Tech’s in the conference, Virginia and Georgia.
At one point it looked like both could fall to shock defeats. Fortunately for Virginia Tech, they managed to find a way past the Furman Paladines of the FCS Southern Conference. It’s been 20 years since the Paladines beat a Power 5 team, but they were 14-3 up at the half and had the Hokies reeling. However, three second half rushing touchdowns, two from Tre Turner, gave the ACC team a 24-17 win. The laboured manner of victory over an FCS foe led to mutterings about the state of the conference.
If there were mutterings over Virginia Tech, they were amplified in to full blown shouts by Georgia Tech’s performance. The Yellow Jackets had kept Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence largely under wraps in Week 1, but were trampled by the Citadel in the biggest shock of a young season. It was their first loss to an FCS team in over 25 years. For the Citadel, it was only their second FBS scalp since 1992.
It took an overtime field goal by Jacob Godek to give the service academy the win, but the game was truly won on the ground. Georgia Tech gave up 320 rushing yards, allowing the Citadel’s triple option offense an astonishing 41:50 with the ball.
It was a result that reverberated around College Football. Interestingly enough, the last time the Citadel beat an FBS school it was against South Carolina, of the SEC. That’s right, the “best conference”.
ACC beaten by the BIG 12, BIG 10, and itself
Boston College weren’t the only team to be defeated by BIG 12 opposition this weekend. North Carolina State travelled to West Virginia on Saturday. The Mountaineers had a rocky start to the season, narrowly defeating James Madison of the FCS before getting heavily defeated in Missouri. They proved too strong for the Wolfpack, with junior QB Austin Kendall throwing 3 touchdowns in a 44-27 win.
In a weather delayed game, Pitt lost 17-10 to Penn State of the BIG 10 in the 100th edition of the rivalry. Despite Kenny Pickett throwing for 372 yards, the Panthers struggled to put points on the board. Even with 1st and goal at the Penn 1, with less than 4 minutes on the clock, they couldn’t find a way to get back in to the game.
Although not a conference game, Jamie Newman led Wake Forest to a win over fellow ACC rivals UNC on the opening clash of the weekend.
Virginia had to come from behind to defeat the widely derided FSU in the final game for the ACC. Two late Wayne Taulapapa rushing touchdowns gave them a 31-24 win. The Cavaliers are now regarded as the second best team in the ACC, and their inability to easily beat a team that have been poor so far gives critics of the ACC some fairly solid ammunition to question the standard of the conference.
The latest release of the AP Poll has just two ACC teams in the Top 25. Clemson lead the way, with Virginia now ranked 21.
Is the PAC-12 better than the ACC?
One of the main bones of contention in the ACC debate is whether a 12-0 Clemson team, that steam rolls through a weak conference, is better than an 11-1 Big 12, or a 10-2 team from the SEC. Is about time we consider another conference in the debate?
The PAC-12 currently houses 6 of the Top 25 teams in the AP Poll. That ties the SEC, you know, the “best conference” for teams in the Top 25.
Four of those teams are undefeated after Week 3.
Cal (23) tamed a wild North Texas offense on their way to a 23-17 win. Utah, who are the highest ranked PAC-12 team (10), shutout Idaho State for a 31-0 win. Washington State (19) were unsurprisingly electric on offense as they negotiated a tricky matchup in Houston. Anthony Gordon has picked up where Gardner Minshew left off in Mike Leach’s offense. The senior QB threw for 440 yards and 3 TDs in a 31-24 win. He already has well over 1000 yards through just 3 games.
Despite the narrow scoreline, the most impressive result for the PAC 12 was Arizona State’s win over Michigan State. The Spartans have one of the fiercest defences in College Football and had restricted ASU for most of the game. However, Eno Benjamin can’t be denied and his reaching touchdown with 0:50 on the clock gave the Sun Devils a late lead. To add late drama, Michigan State tied up the game with a field goal from 42 yards. However, they had 12 men on the field and the resulting penalty forced the retake back. Matt Coghlin’s second attempt missed, and the ASU win forced the Spartans out of the Top 25.
The PAC-12 also plays host to potentially the best QB in the 2020 NFL Draft.
It might have been against Montana, but Justin Herbert added another 5 touchdowns to his resume as Oregon won 35-3. The Ducks narrow defeat to Auburn in Week 1 still remains the best evidence that the PAC-12 can mix it with the SEC, and therefore the ACC.
It may be early in the season, but it’s worth considering that the ACC currently has the worst record of all the Power 5 conferences at 0.619. If you take out Clemson, Virginia, and Wake Forest, who are all 3-0, it would make for even worse reading.
The debate rages on in Week 4 when most conferences start their in-conference schedules. Clemson play host to Charlotte.
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