There are the long-term surprises—Georgia Tech is 4-1! Miami has more losses than Duke! A respected columnist predicts an 11-1 record for North Carolina!—and then there are the more immediate shocks.
Virginia 31, Maryland 0 qualifies for the latter. If you had told any college football fan that Virginia, just one week after being trounded 31-3 by Duke, would turn around and shut out Maryland, one week removed from shocking preseason top-10 Clemson, the laughter would have been louder than the calls for Al Groh’s firing. Same scenario, albeit on a smaller level, with Florida State and Miami’s shootout, or the Tar Heels’ pounding of No. 24 Connecticut.
The ACC might not be a good league, but it certainly has the parity to satisfy any rabid football enthusiast, even if that same equanimity might hinder the league in the eyes of the BCS committee. The ACC has only three teams in the top 25, and none in the top 15. Yet somehow, it has, week after week, proven to produce exciting, unexpected and, in the case of Virginia-Maryland, downright flabbergasting results.
“Nobody is going to tell me they predicted that,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said of the Cavaliers’ win, although he could have been talking about the league in general. “It’s a funny game. It’s not all decided by looking at the results of one game. That’s just part of this crazy game. We will be trying to figure it out, but, again, I don’t know how you measure that.”
Indeed, it is an upside-down league. Duke’s season might be judged a failure if it doesn’t go to a bowl, North Carolina’s might be a failure if it doesn’t go to the ACC Championship and no frontrunner—Bueller? Bueller?—has yet to emerge in the Atlantic Division.
That’s why I’m circling one game to watch next weekend: Gardner Webb at Georgia Tech, 3:30 p.m.
Rock on, Runnin’ Bulldogs.
—by Ben Cohen