With a third of the 2012 football season already behind us, most of us have seen enough to give some level of assessment as to where our respective teams stand. Prior to the season, the ACC media in its great wisdom predicted that the end of the season would look something like this:
While some teams have not even started conference play, here's how the schools are looking after four weeks of college football:
|Florida St. Seminoles (4-0, 2-0)
|Miami Hurricanes (3-1, 2-0)
|Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-1, 1-1)
|Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1, 1-0)
|N.C. State Wolfpack (3-1, 0-0)
|Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-2, 1-2)
|Maryland Terrapins (2-2, 0-0)
|Duke Blue Devils (3-1, 0-0)
|Clemson Tigers (3-1, 0-1)
|Virginia Cavaliers (2-2, 0-1)
|Boston College Eagles (1-2, 0-1)
|North Carolina Tar Heels (2-2, 0-1)
We asked some of our SB Nation ACC brethren to perform a quick self-assessment as to whether their team is meeting, exceeding, or failing to meet preseason expectations. We even let Pitt chime in. Here's what they had to say:
Boston College has failed to meet expectations so far in 2012. The Eagles let two winnable games slip away in losses to Miami in the season opener and Northwestern in week 3. BC left points on the board against Miami and costly turnovers led to 17 points by the Hurricanes. In week 3, the Eagles defense couldn't get off the field if their lives depended on it, surrendering 560 total yards of offense on 100 -- 100! -- plays. This was an extremely winnable game (BC was down just 2 before letting Mike Trumphy walk into the end zone to get the ball back). When one team gives up 100 plays and 560 total yards of offense and loses by a score, there was an opportunity to win the game. Overall, the Eagles' offense has looked much better -- despite costly turnovers in the red zone -- and the D has looked much, much worse. This unit is a far cry from the one that led the nation in rushing defense only a few years ago.
Florida State so far has met expectations as to record, but the ridiculous way in which it has smashed its opponents has been something to see. Remove the games against Murray State and Savannah State, and the Seminoles still have the top offense in the country by yards/play. The 'Noles destroyed a bowl-bound Wake Forest team 52-0. Then, after an excellent Clemson offense ran out of trick plays, the Seminoles went on a 35-3 run spanning 16 minutes. When the run was over, they led 49-31 and left no doubt, even with Clemson tacking on a TD in garbage time. The biggest shock is that Florida State's offensive tackles, neither of which had ever played a game on offense (or even football) have been excellent.
A week ago, I would have told you that Georgia Tech was exceeding expectations. They nearly beat a Virginia Tech team in Blacksburg that most folks said they had no shot against. The defense was performing at a much higher level than in recent years, aided by the Front 7 being vastly improved (the linebackers in particular). The offense had put up 50 points twice in a row and was producing in a number of ways. I would have told you that, considering Virginia Tech has shown incredible vulnerability, this team was in line to at least tie for the Coastal Division title, if not win it.
Following our loss to Miami, in which we lost in the exact same fashion as we did against Virginia Tech, that VT loss looks a lot less like a near victory and a lot more like a piece of a pattern that is very disturbing to watch. Our defense, when matched against equal or better athletes, seems to be unable to make a stop when it comes down to it. 3 losses in a row have come after we led late in the 4th Quarter, needing only one stop, and were unable to stop the opponent (regardless of the odds against them), resulting in an overtime loss. Our offense can't get a single yard when it comes to crunch time. Long story short -- a week ago we were on track for a Coastal title. Now we're hoping to hit 8 wins in the regular season.
Maryland was pretty much expected to be 2-2 at this point, but I don't think anyone expected those two losses to be by only a combined 13 points. The general consensus was that West Virginia was going to blow them to hell; losing by 10 points and arguably looking like the better team was way, way above expectations. So while the record is pretty much spot on, the majority of fans probably feel a lot better right now than they had ever hoped. And as a result, expectations for the season as a whole have risen; with a winnable four-game stretch coming up, we're even starting to wonder if Maryland might be a fringe bowl team this year.
Strange as it sounds, i think this Miami team is doing all three. The defense is playing under what we expected, the offense is exceeding the expectations, and the cumulative effect of both of these is creating an overall team that is, so far, meeting what we expected. Sure, being 3-1 and 2-0 in (road) conference games is certainly not expected, but looking at the rest of the schedule, there is every chance that the record ends up right where we thought it would at season's end. Since it's a bit early in the season, we haven't really done a round up yet about what we are seeing, so here's a link to the GT game recap, which is about as good a meter of the current team as there is.
I'd say NC State is meeting expectations, though there is a nagging part of me that feels disappointed. But that's there every year, since the offseason always gets to me and I end up talking myself into an overly optimistic view of the team.
Some areas of the team have been better than I expected, some worse. The result is pretty much the same old Tom O'Brien NC State team that everyone's accustomed to. And David Amerson's football magnet hands are indeed fully operational.
Preseason expectations for Virginia were pretty low, notwithstanding a strong incoming class and a Chick-fil-A Bowl finish last season. Because the Hoos lost a good bit of talent, and because the Hoos got a little bit lucky last season, there wasn't nearly as much hype going into the year. So, after four games, sitting at 2-2, the record would suggest that we are meeting expectations. There are still some question marks. Virginia's defense, viewed with great concern before the season, has proven that it can hold its own (let's just ignore the Georgia Tech game). But Virginia's offense, particularly the offensive line, has played below expectations. And neither of Virginia's two quarterbacks - one proven from last year and one hyped from the SEC - has stood out to be the end-all answer for the Hoos. It's the quarterback controversy that has led to much debate among Virginia fans.
If we're going strictly by the record, Pitt has probably met most expectations at this point. How they've gotten there, though, is a different story. Many people figured Pitt would be 2-2 at this point, but losing to Youngstown State was clearly a surprise as was beating Virginia Tech. One of our contributors wrote about this recently in his review of the first quarter of the season, but the team really did a 180 with the win over the Hokies. Most had left the team for dead after their first two games of the season, but that win really showed what Pitt was capable of - and that's competing in a fairly weak Big East. The Panthers were widely expected to finish around the middle of the conference and that's about where they are right now.