Orange Watch: At midway point, familiar names remain atop ACC football standings

The two programs that Syracuse needs to someday topple in the Atlantic Division have met preseason expectations midway through the season
The two programs that Syracuse needs to someday topple in the Atlantic Division have met preseason expectations midway through the season

Item: Looking back over the preseason forecasts from the annual late July ACC Football Kickoff media event in North Carolina, turned up the expected conference’s two football powers of late, No. 5/6 Clemson (5-0, 2-0) and No. 8/11 Florida State (5-0, 3-0), in the one-two positions to win the league title, but after that the predictions listed four of five teams among the top seven (other than North Carolina at 4-1, 1-0) who have combined to win just one conference game so far this season, and absent entirely from the top seven in preseason was current Top 25 ranked Duke (5-1, 2-0).

Quick, which conferences have multiple Top Ten ranked teams from the same division (averaging out both major polls)?

If you guessed SEC West (LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M), the Big 10 East (Ohio State, Michigan State) the Big 12 (one misnamed 10 team division with Baylor and TCU), and the ACC Atlantic with heavyweights Clemson and Florida State you would be correct.

When the two division rivals that Syracuse stares up at in the standings meet on Nov. 7 at Death Valley, it will be the de facto ACC championship game for a shot at securing one of the four College Football Playoff spots, even though there will be the matter of officially playing for the league crown first, with Duke, Pittsburgh and North Carolina the three current Coastal teams that have won all of their ACC games, and in fact, the winner of the Duke-Carolina game in Chapel Hill, also on Nov. 7, might end up providing the championship game opponent.

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That Costal trio has been a surprise spotlighted by Duke, the only other Top 25 ranked ACC team. Despite the fact the Blue Devils finished first and second the last two seasons, respectively, they received no love in the preseason picked to finish fourth in the division behind Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Miami who so far have combined to go 1-5 in conference play. In fact, Carolina (5th) and Pitt (6th) were picked to finish behind Duke in the summer poll.

No doubt Virginia Tech and Miami have been disappointments based on fan base expectations for perennially successful programs, and talk will escalate over whether the tenures of coaches Frank Beamer and Al Golden will continue, although Beamer has earned the right to leave when he’s ready, while the South Florida heat hasn’t let up on Golden through a 3-2 start.

On the Atlantic side, the ‘Cuse is the only other team to yet lose in conference play, although SU will certainly be tested against the league’s only one-win team Saturday at Virginia (3:30 p.m. ET / ACCRSN-ESPN3), a game that figures to go a long way in determining if SU (3-2, 1-0) gets to six wins overall.

The biggest division disappointments so far are Louisville and North Carolina State. State was picked seventh overall preseason, while the Cards got a first place vote, but the teams have combined to go 1-3 so far in conference play. Boston College, picked one spot ahead of the preseason sixth place Orange, has suffered all three of its losses in ACC games.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.