Degeorge’s Takeaways: We Don’t Need The Big 10, and the Big 12 is An Entertaining Joke

What Is The Big 12

I love Big 12 football, and the reason is it is the most unpredictable conference in the Power 5, and possibly all of college football. The consensus best team in the conference, Oklahoma, looked to be cruising against a Kansas State team that lost their opener to Arkansas State. And suddenly the Sooners lose to the Wildcats 38-35, for the second year in a row. Highly touted Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler looked impressive most of the game, but he struggled in crunch time and made big mistakes. He was 30 of 41 for 387 yards and four touchdowns, great stats until you add in three interceptions, with one of them to end the game.

The presumed second-best team, Texas, beat Texas Tech in overtime 63-56, but they needed to come back down 15 points with a little over 3 minutes to play to tie it up, and then an overtime victory. The third best team, Oklahoma State, narrowly won for the second week in a row, this time beating a bad West Virginia team 27-13. And then you have Iowa State beat TCU 37-34, even though signal-caller Brock Purdy threw possibly the worst pick-six I have ever seen. This conference does not play defense, and there offenses just compete to outrun the other down the field.

If I have to pick a favorite right now I would say Baylor because they have experience at quarterback with Charlie Brewer, and they are the only team to play anything resembling defense. Am I confident in picking that? Not at all. The Big 12 right now is like March Madness, I have no conviction with any pick.

If you’re looking for a fun football game, I suggest watching the Big 12. That being said, if you’re looking for good teams who live up to expectations… do not watch.

An All SEC Conference Schedule Is A Bruiser

Mike Leach

In every other power five conference, there are two or three games you know are going to be difficult on your schedule, and the rest you do not generally have to worry about, but that is not the case in the SEC. The SEC West has six teams that any team could lose to on any given day. Alabama and Auburn are brutes, LSU is too talented to ever take for granted, and although Texas A&M has not put it all together, they have too many pieces to be taken lightly. Then theres the wonderful emergence of the Mississippi schools. If any state deserves Mike Leach of Mississippi State and Lane Kiffin – the Lane Train – of Ole Miss, it is Mississippi. Mississippi State knocked off the defending national champions, LSU 44-34, and there quarterback, K.J. Costello, threw for 623 yards, 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, effectively leading Mike Leach’s air-raid offense. Meanwhile, Ole Miss lost 51-35 to Florida, but they played the Gators competitively and really impressed me. Even Arkansas, who lost 37-10 to Georgia, looked competitive, leading the ‘Dawgs 7-5 at halftime.

Yes, we did already know the SEC West is tough, but is the East? Yes. Florida and Georgia are always powerhouses, Tennessee recruits at a high level, but does not seem to put it together, but they can win games. Florida’s offense was pretty much impossible to stop as Kyle Trask threw for six touchdowns. Georgia was slow out of the gate, but they eventually rolled Arkansas with their third-string quarterback, and the Vols gutted out a tough road win at South Carolina. Kentucky lost to Auburn 29-13, but the Wildcats were a couple plays away from a different game. Missouri got wiped by Alabama, but traditional cellar-dweller Vanderbilt only lost 17-12 to Texas A&M, So at best, there are 3-4 easy games. That is a grueling schedule for teams. We always see an SEC team come out undefeated or with one loss, and you know they are a legitimate team, because they need to go past so many dominant squads. If I am an SEC coach, there are not many game nights I would be able to get any sort of sleep.

BIG 10 and PAC 12, WE DO NOT NEED YOU

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I have been clear about my issues with the BIG 10, and I feel the same way about the PAC 12, but they are just followers of the BIG 10, so I will focus my anger on the BIG 10. Hear this loud and clear: we do not need you -and your shortened schedules – coming back. College football this weekend was extremely exciting. The SEC games were well played and interesting, the ACC games were competitive, the Group of Five games were close, and it was good football to watch, while the aforementioned Big 12 games were extremely hilarious and engaging. So Big 10, what gives you the right to jump in late because other conferences figured it out? And then think you can schedule Ohio State vs Michigan on the same day of Army vs Navy. This is a shame, and it is horrible that this was allowed to happen. Army-Navy is an American tradition. It is the only game played on week 16, and has been that way since 2008. This is the reason I boycott the BIG 10, because they do things like this. The average fan will watch Ohio State-Michigan and not Army-Navy. It is a shame for the game and a shame for the country. I will not be watching and I hope anyone who calls themselves a fan of college football will watch Army-Navy, not Ohio State-Michigan. BIG 10, how about you take The Game to the spring, and let us have the season we wanted, without you.

Best ACC Bets – Week 3

The ACC is back in action this week, despite the postponement of Notre Dame and Wake Forest’s conference battle, and we are here to give you our top bets you can make for Saturday’s slate of games. All these bets – unless included in our parlay – have odds that are better than -200.

Louisville @ Pittsburgh, OVER 55.5

Louisville put up 34 points against a pretty decent Miami defense, and that was with three turnovers. If the Cardinals clean up the miscues, I anticipate them being able to put up another 30-35 points against Pitt. Meanwhile, Louisville’s defense looked absolutely abysmal, and Pitt QB Kenny Pickett has the talent to take advantage of the blown coverages that the Cardinals offered up at an alarming rate. I think Pitt races to keep pace with Louisville, trying to avoid a home loss, and this game ends up with both teams putting up 30+ points.

Syracuse @ Georgia Tech, UNDER 52.5

Talk about two abysmal offenses in this match-up. In four total games, these two teams have combined for 53 points. That’s horrendous. They should both be 0-2 had it not been for Florida State’s equally abysmal offense against Georgia Tech in the season opener. Syracuse has a pretty solid defense overall, keeping UNC in check for three quarters, and limiting Kenny Pickett and the Pitt Panthers to 21 points. I think this game is an ugly, defensive slog, where whichever team can break 20 points will claim victory. I can’t picture this game hitting the over.

NC State (+7.0) @ Virginia Tech

I flinched on this one. I liked Virginia Tech at first, but the Hokies really struggled at the start of last season, particularly in an embarassing loss to a BC team that lost by 24 to Kansas shortly after, and they’re playing a team that is already a week into their campaign. NC State boasted a new-look offense that was dynamic last week, plastering 45 points on Wake Forest. While Wake Forest isn’t as good as Virginia Tech, I wouldn’t bet on this Wolfpack offense losing by more than a touchdown right now. I’d be tempted to take the +210 moneyline here, but I’ll just give the spread as my go-to pick.

Miami (-11.5) vs. Florida State

This is probably the one I’m least confident out of the four, but I really am going to heap the embarrasment on the ‘Noles here. FSU lost by 17 at home to Miami last year, and the Hurricanes look a lot better this season. Meanwhile, the Seminoles were an absolute embarassment in their home opener, losing to an unimpressive Georgia Tech team in Week 1. Nothing gives me confidence that FSU keeps this one close on the road against their rivals, currently ranked 12th. I’m leaning Miami by two touchdowns in this one, covering the spread.

Andrew’s Weekend Takeaways: The U Is Back

The U Is Back

A one time football powerhouse, tossed into a pit of shambles and mediocrity throughout most of the 21st century. There have been moments of greatness, but never anything sustained. Every time the U looks good, everyone theorizes that they are back to their winning ways, just like in the 1980’s. I am doing that right now. The University of Miami is back. They dominated Louisville on Saturday 47-34. They only won by 13, but this game never felt close. The defense did give up 34 points, but they forced three turnovers, which has become their niche. The turnover chain is what the new U is about. They are flashy, and they fly to the football. They bring to life the term “pressure defense”. They have been doing this since 2017 though, so why are they back?

D’Eriq King that’s why.

King was 18/30 for 325 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He was not very effective running the ball, just 8 carries for 9 yards, but the Hurricanes did not need his legs, just his arm on Saturday. I am also very impressed with offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. In their first game against UAB, Miami ran the ball very effectively and did not throw much, but ran King more frequently. He adjusted against Louisville and opened it up through the air. I predicted Miami was going to run a lot, but I was wrong as they had a very effective aerial attack, while mixing in a very solid ground game, getting 134 yards from Cam’Ron Harris. I do not know whether Miami can return to their former glory in the coming years, but I do know the U is a force to be reckoned with in 2020.

Oklahoma State Needs Spencer Sanders To Be Healthy

NCAA Football: Tulsa at Oklahoma State

The high powered, highly praised Cowboy’s offense looked abysmal against Tulsa on Saturday. An offense I thought would be among the best in the country this year could not get it together. They have a “big three” in Stillwater with running back Chuba Hubbard, wide receiver Tylan Wallace, and quarterback Spencer Sanders. Hubbard had 27 carries for 93 yards and 1 touchdown, Wallace had 4 catches for 94 yards and 0 touchdowns, and Sanders was 2/2 for 23 yards. Wallace was electric, Hubbard was good but could have been better, and Sanders was injured in the first quarter.

What should have been a blow out turned into a messy game for the Cowboys. Part of this was the poor offensive line play which gave up 6 sacks and were poor in run blocking. The other issue was the injury to Sanders. He is the least talked about in this ‘big three’, but a talented Sophomore who has experience and adds a dynamic component to the offense that his backups could not. Stillwater is known for good quarterback play, and head coach Mike Gundy is an offensive genius. If Sanders can stay on the field the Cowboys will be fine and I still believe will have an electric offense, but without him they really struggled.

The ACC Again Proves To Be Unpredictable

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Another good weekend of ACC football left me perplexed at how these games unfolded. I thought Duke would cruise against a bad Boston College team, but BC won by 20. I also thought Pittsburgh would blow out a horrendous Syracuse team, but they only won 21-10. Wake Forest and NC State played a close 3-point game, seemingly cementing both squads as middle-of-the-pack squads with a solid offense. Miami-Louisville was relatively close while providing high-scoring entertainment, even though Miami was in control. And of course, I have to mention preseason favorites Notre Dame and Clemson, who blew out bad non-conference opponents in USF and The Citadel, respectively. Another weekend proved to me that this league is going to be really competitive this year except for Clemson. It is not necessarily the best football, but the ACC will boast some very fun and exciting football games.

Offensive X-Factors For Top ACC Contenders

The X-Factor is one of my favorite discussion points in sports. Every year, contenders in college football enter the year with positions or players they have few question marks about – proven players who they trust to produce. However, teams that win or compete for championships are generally boosted by that surprise breakout performance, an excellent contribution from a player that wasn’t expected to do so. Without that player, that X-Factor, a championship team simply becomes a really good team, and a really good team can beocme borderline average. So with a game in the books for many teams who we consider to be contenders to qualify for the ACC Championship,. let’s take a look at who the X-Factors are for those squads, on the offensive side of the ball. For the purposes of this piece, we narrowed our list to the four teams with the best current odds to win the ACC.

Clemson Tigers – Braden Galloway, TE

Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne headline a lethal Clemson offense, but their wide receiver corps did have some question marks, as the season-ending injury to Justyn Ross forced Amari Rodgers to become WR #1 for the Tigers. This left an opportunity for someone to step up as Lawrence’s second option in the passing game, and Galloway played the part in the season opener. He tied with Rodgers for the team lead with five catches for 60 yards. After not playing in 2019 and having just five total receptions in 2018, Galloway looks primed for a breakout season that could add another layer to this dynamic Clemson offense.

UNC Tar Heels – Michael Carter, RB

Carter maybe doesn’t fit the traditional ‘X-Factor’ definition, as he is a proven player who has produced for the Tar Heels. However, he is so critical in both facets of the UNC offense that, with a lack of unproven breakout prsoepcts, makes Carter my choice for the X-Factor here. The biggest key for Carter will be an increased role in the passing game. Taking too much from one game is dangerous, but Carter collected six passes for 60 yards in their opening clash with Syracuse. He had more than 2 receptions in a game just once in 2019. Combine that with his seven carries for 78 yards, and Carter averaged nearly 11 yards per touch in his first outing of 2020. He’s explosive, and he looks like he might have added more versatility to his toolkit in 2020.

Miami Hurricanes – Jaylan Knighton, RB

The addition of a freshman playmaker is always exciting, and Knighton looks like he could add another dimension to this Miami offense in 2020. The hype regarding the Hurricanes has largely revolved around the arrival of transfer quarterback D’Eriq King. King is a great dual-threat quarterback, and Miami complements his skills with Cam’Ron Harris, a proven running back. However, Knighton played a significant part in the gameplan during Miami’s season-opening victory against UAB. The true freshman notched nine carries for 59 yards, over 6.5 yards per pop. With the sturdy Harris taking the bulk of the rushing load, Knighton, weighing in 20 pounds lighter than Harris, provides a great change of pace. His arrival in Miami hints at dynamic potential and creativity to the Hurricanes’ playcalling.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Michael Mayer, TE

Mayer is currently listed as the 3rd-string tight end for the Irish, but he flashed some of the playmaking ability that enticed the Irish to seek him out as their top target of the 2020 class. He caught three passes for 38 yards, continually racking up yards after the catch and proving very difficult to take down. At 6’5, 235, Mayer is an absolute monster on the field, and Notre Dame offensive coordinator showed an inclination to use tight ends in the passing game, targeting starter Tommy Tremble (5 receptions, 38 yards) frequently. Notre Dame lacks proven playmakers in their receiving corps, and quarterback Ian Book has lost his safety net that was Chase Claypool last season. If Mayer can emerge as a dependable threat, that will be a huge boost for the Irish.

Andrew’s Week 2 Takeaways: ACC a Jumble Behind Clemson, Big 12 Top-Heavy

The Big 12 has a very strong top, and a very poor middle/ bottom

The top two teams in the Big 12 this weekend were dominant. Oklahoma destroyed Missouri State 48-0, and Texas waxed UTEP 59-3. Both played weak opponents, but beat them handily and proved they were good football teams who were ready to play a season. Oklahoma State, who is the third best team in the Big 12, did not play, but I expect them to be good as well. West Virginia also looked good this week beating Eastern Kentucky 56-10, but I do not expect the Mountaineers to be a contender in this conference. Baylor and TCU also did not play because of postponements, so they escape the coming criticism that the rest of the league will be hearing. Now for the rest of the conference, Texas Tech won 35-33 against Houston Baptist, and FCS opponent. Texas Tech comes out of this weekend looking the best compared to Kansas, Iowa State, and Kansas State. Kansas got blown out 38-23 by Coastal Carolina, who finished second to last in the Sun Belt last year. What’s even worse is this is the second year in a row Kansas has lost to Coastal Carolina. Kansas State followed the trend by losing 35-31 to Arkansas State, another Sun Belt opponent. They did lose on a touchdown pass with 17 seconds left, but this is a middle of the pack Big 12 opponent losing to a middle of the pack Sun Belt opponent. It is not acceptable. And lastly Iowa State dropped an egg against Louisiana, yet another Sun Belt team, losing the game 31-14. Highly touted Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy was 16-35 for 145 yards 1 interception and 0 touchdowns. He was absolutely atrocious, and to make matters worse, Louisiana scored two special teams touchdowns. Texas tech, Iowa State, Kansas State, and Kansas embarrassed themselves this week and embarrassed there conference.

The ACC is going to be interesting this year, but Clemson is really, really good

The ACC had a good weekend this week, with four inter- league games. In out of conference play ACC squads went 3-0, as Miami pulled away from UAB, Louisville beat Western Kentucky, and Pitt handled Austin Peay with ease. In conference play, Notre Dame vs Duke ended 27-13 in favor of the Fighting Irish, Georgia Tech beat Florida State 16- 13, North Carolina dominated Syracuse 31-6, and Clemson cruised past Wake Forest 37-13. The Notre Dame and Georgia Tech games were interesting and seemed like they could go either way – the Irish only led by four entering the fourth quarter, and Georgia Tech overcome a 10-0 deficit and two blocked kicks to top the Seminoles. North Carolina was so much better then Syracuse, and a 21-point fourth quarter exemplified that and put the game in the bag. Meanwhile, the #1 team in the country did what they were supposed to against Wake Forest – crush them.

This league looks to be really competitive for the second spot behind Clemson. There are a handful of teams that showed this weekend they are capable. Clemson is easily the best team in this league, and showed why against Wake Forest. With their offense led by the best and most experienced quarterback/running-back duo I’ve ever seen in Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, the Tigers are the most complete team in both the ACC and the country.

The Sun Belt had possibly its best weekend ever

Sun Belt logo

Four Sun Belt teams won this week, three against Big 12 opponents, and one against a Conference USA opponent. Also, South Alabama was close to beating a strong AAC team in Tulane. This conference showed to be stronger then expected, and they looked really impressive in one of the best weekends in conference history. The Sun Belt has become the “Fun Belt” conference officially. Appalachian State is still the best team, overcoming a slow start to beat Charlotte 35-20, but Louisiana (31-14 upset of #23 Iowa State) is very good, and there are other teams that could keep things interesting. For the first time ever, I can say I was impressed with the Sun Belt.

3 Games That Will Shape Each Power-5 Conference Title Race

Well, the college football season is officially underway, proving many wrong who believed that no games would be played this fall. While there’s still a lot of uncertainty – what happens when games are almost inevitably postponed? SMU and TCU have already called off their September 11th contest due to COVID testing results, and if conference games begin to be afflicted, it could be very difficult to stay on course with a tight window to play the season.

But that’s the pessimistic view. The optimist in me is thrilled we have college football and ready to start taking a look at the conference championship race. In each of the Power-5 conferences, lets take a look at which games will shape the title races.

Big 12

  1. Texas @ Oklahoma State, October 31
  2. Iowa State @ Oklahoma State, October 24
  3. Iowa State @ Texas, November 28

There’s a clear pattern in the three games listed above, as these three squads – Texas, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State – are generally considered the three contenders to face Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship. The Sooners should be in it, even as they break in their third quarterback in three years, so none of their games make the list. The separation from #2-4 in the conference is slim-to-none, so these three games will be absolutely crucial in deciding who gets to challenge the Sooners in the Big 12 championship. In a season with just three Power-5 conferences in play, a 1-loss Big 12 champion is virtually guaranteed a Playoff berth, so if one of these teams can go 2-0 in these games, they give themselves a probable win-and-in situation in the title game.

Just from an early outlook, Oklahoma State is probably the favorite to emerge from this group. Chuba Hubbard is just an absolute monster in the backfield, and the Cowboys return a whopping 19 starters. They host both the Longhorns and the Cyclones, and although home field advantage is diluted this season, it still means something, and if the Cowboys can hold up in back-to-back weeks, with Oklahoma looming just two weeks after the Texas clash, then they could emerge. However, one slip from Oklahoma State, and Texas and Iowa State will be chomping at the bit to take advantage.

A worst-case scenario for the Big 12, is each of these teams knocking each other off and losing to Oklahoma, bringing into play a 2-loss Big 12 champion that may be left out of the CFP, a disastrous look for the conference. \

ACC
1. Notre Dame at UNC, November 27

2. Clemson at Notre Dame, November 7

3. Clemson at Virginia Tech, December 5

Notre Dame is a major factor in these games, as the Irish were a consensus pick to finish 2nd in the conference, but we will see if they can match the hype. They’ve got a November 7th showdown with Clemson that they hope to enter unbeaten. An October 24 road trip to Pitt, who always seem to play Notre Dame tough, may be their toughest obstacle to achieving that goal, and if they get to that point, beating Clemson in South Bend seems like a real possibility. But if they don’t, that will leave the margin for error absolutely razor-thin for Notre Dame, who will be forced to potentially play for a berth in the ACC championship with a late-season road trip to Chapel Hill to take on Sam Howell and the UNC Tar Heels. Can the Fighting Irish pull it off? That game may decide if they have a shot at bringing home their first ever conference championship.

I’m listing the Clemson-ND game as the 2nd game, because it leaves the loser with a series of must-win games. This may seem more perilous for Notre Dame, but Clemson has some tricky games as well. The winner of this game is a virtual lock to be one of the two teams in the ACC Championship. Not to mention, it’s arguably the biggest regular season game of the year.

And finally, I’m listing the season-ending contest between Clemson and Virginia Tech. Blacksburg is not an easy place to play, and the Hokies might look forward to a Senior Day clash with the Tigers. If Clemson has lost a road game to Notre Dame and is caught looking ahead to a rematch with the Irish, Virginia Tech may do more than just step on Clemson’s toes in the season finale. Clemson is definitely the favorite in the ACC, but don’t write their name in the championship game in sharpie just yet.

SEC

  1. Georgia at Florida, November 7
  2. Alabama at LSU, November 14
  3. Georgia at Alabama, October 17

The SEC has the best chance of putting two teams in the College Football Playoff, so making the SEC championship could be a ticket to the postseason. Georgia faces Florida in what is listed as a home game, but it is being played in Jacksonville. The pressure is on Dan Mullen to break through and win the SEC after back-to-back New Year’s 6 bowl victories. Can he make it happen against Kirby Smart and Co? This game, barring any surprises, should decide the SEC East.

Alabama at LSU could very well decide the SEC West. Alabama is hosting the Iron Bowl, which makes this their biggest obstacle to an undefeated season. LSU has been hit hard by opt-outs, but the defending national champs won’t go down without a fight at their home stadium against the Tide. Texas A&M and Auburn are also interesting picks in the division, but ultimately, I believe the West comes down to this battle.

That being said, Alabama has to escape an early-season battle with the Georgia Bulldogs. A loss there puts the Tide on the edge, well before they get to Death Valley. By the same vein, it puts Georgia behind the 8-ball in the SEC East race, so that game will serve as a critical clash en route to deciding who makes it to Atlanta in December.

Here’s Why The ACC Won’t Leave Notre Dame Out To Dry

When news broke days ago that Notre Dame would likely be joining the ACC for a year, it provided the perfect setting for Irish-haters to unleash all their frustration regarding the most prominent Independent program. Whether they took to discussion forums, Twitter, or smack-talk groups, the complaints, rants, and general whining flooded the Internet. 

“Why would the ACC bail out Notre Dame?” 

“Make them join a conference, it’s their own fault” 

“They need to join in every sport or get out”

Whatever the complaint was, the pending agreement to let the Irish play in the ACC for a year caused all the outrage regarding what many perceive as special treatment for Notre Dame to spill out of all corners of the web. And quite honestly, the ignorant hysteria was hilarious to take in.

Because nobody gets it.

The ACC needs Notre Dame; they did when they entered their contract with the Irish in 2014 (more on that later), and they do now, more than ever. The ACC is at an all-time low in popularity, and the presence of Notre Dame has been the driving factor in increasing their revenue over the past half a dozen years. In the last ten years, the conference saw just two different football champions, with Florida State dominating the first half of the decade, and Clemson’s dynasty taking over the second. Last year’s ACC championship, featuring the Tigers’ 62-17 demolition of the Virginia Cavaliers, was far and away the least watched Power-5 championship. The game, a primetime kickoff on ABC, drew just 3.97 million viewers, nearly two million less than the Pac-12 championship. They were more than doubled in views by a noontime kickoff Big 12 clash, and they were more than tripled by the Big 10 (13.55 million) and the SEC (13.7). The TV ratings for ACC games not involving Notre Dame are at an all-time low, and outside of their FSU and Clemson dynasties, the ACC has offered the college football world little exciting material over the past ten seasons, and the numbers agree.

So what is this deal between Notre Dame and the ACC?

Essentially, when the Irish and ACC put pen to paper and made this contract official in 2014, it entitled the Irish to full membership in every sport except football (where they remained independent) and hockey (which the ACC doesn’t have). Notre Dame, in return, agreed to play an average of five games per season against ACC opponents (always between 4-6 games) for the duration of the contract, which is currently set to expire in 2037. The Irish were a coveted program by virtually every Power-5 conference, with the Big 10 offering Notre Dame a conference slot, ND being linked to the Big 12, and SEC at least exploring the possibility of adding the Irish to their ranks. The ACC scored about as good of a deal as could have been expected, as even though they didn’t get the full membership of the iconic Notre Dame football program, they got a 20+ year guarantee that the Irish would be engaged on the gridiron with ACC opponents for nearly half of each season. The deal was signed prior to the 2012 season and took effect in the 2013-2014 season. Ultimately, Notre Dame chose the ACC over other conferences because it was good for their basketball program and Olympic sports such as swimming and fencing, the latter being a sport which consistently sees the Irish near the top of the rankings. Why did the ACC go along with this? And why do they continue to do so?

TV Ratings

This is easily the biggest reason. Money talks, and Notre Dame both has money and brings it to the table wherever they play. In the first four seasons with the Irish as their 15th team, the ACC’s guaranteed television revenue increased 48.6%. Because Notre Dame earned 6.2 million off this shared revenue in 2016, whereas ACC programs earned more than four times that, pocketing 26.21 million dollars on average. The financial flexibility stabilized membership within the conference and helped end a period of turmoil and change. In 2019, Notre Dame’s cut of the ACC Network revenue was still under 2 million dollars, ‘costing’ each program under 500,000 dollars. And Notre Dame makes up for that with the national footprint and following they bring with them. Just look at the 2019 season opener in football. Louisville, a 2-10 team in 2018 was given the ACC’s guaranteed Labor Day primetime game on ESPN. Why? Because Notre Dame was visiting. And that game was the 2nd-highest rated game of the weekend, drawing in 5.6 million viewers. No other ACC game, including Duke’s trip to Alabama, attracted that many viewers. By the end of the year, ND’s season-opening trip to Louisville remained the most-watched game involving an ACC team on the year. Not only did the whole conference benefit from the higher TV ratings, but Louisville drew a record crowd of 58,187 for their season opener, outdrawing any of their home games from the Lamar Jackson era which included a top 5 clash with Clemson. 

Last year saw only two weeks past Week 5 in which an ACC game cracked the top-5 most watched games of the week, one of which was Virginia Tech at Notre Dame in Week 10. If it hadn’t been for their Orange Bowl contract, no one besides Clemson would have come close to a New Year’s 6 bowl-game berth. At it’s best, the ACC provides one good team beating up on mediocrity, and at it’s worst, it simply provides unwatchable football. To put this case in point, 12 of Notre Dame’s 13 games last season fell into the top 25 most watched game of the week or bowl season, with many cracking the top 10. The only one that didn’t was Notre Dame’s clash against the Duke Blue Devils. The ACC is so uninteresting to the college football world that even the golden allure of the Irish couldn’t pull in viewers. And how willing are viewers to tune into Notre Dame games? The Irish’s Week 6 game was the 12th most watched game of that particular week. Their opponent? Bowling Green. 

Let me say that again: Bowling. Green. 

The Bowling Green Falcons finished the 2019 season with a 3-9 record and their trip to South Bend ended in a 52-0 defeat. It’s the type of game that even Notre Dame fans don’t particularly enjoy watching after a certain point. And that game was watched more than any single game involving an ACC team that week. 1.28 million people watched that contest, while under 900,000 tuned into a key divisional clash between Virginia Tech and Miami, televised on ESPN. That’s about as embarrassing as it gets. 

Off the Gridiron

Notre Dame does not only provide an impact on the gridiron, having experienced plenty of success away from the football field. The soccer team won a title in the first year of the partnership, the lacrosse team made it to consecutive Final Fours, their men’s basketball team won the conference once and qualified for back-to-back Elite Eights, and most notably the women’s basketball team won four straight conference titles before a national title in 2018 and national runners-up finish in 2019 punctuated their highly successful run. Overall, Notre Dame brings far and away the most well-rounded athletic program to the table within the ACC, which only benefits the conference in terms of strength of schedule, which helps with NCAA Tournament appearances, and it helps elevate the play of other teams in the conference – seen in the rise of Louisville to challenge the Irish for ACC supremacy in women’s basketball, among other areas. For a conference floundering in many areas, the ACC has been saved by the international allure and fanbase of Notre Dame, and they’d be foolish to throw that away for the sake of proving some petty point about Notre Dame being independent. 

Breaking it down

Let’s wrap this up and make it clear: The ACC needs Notre Dame right now. Ever since the initial deal was struck, the Irish have had an open invite to join the conference and are contractually obligated to do so if they opt to eventually surrender their independence permanently. The ACC never expected Notre Dame to accept this invite, and the boys in the blue and gold have never expressed an interest. Quite frankly, the ACC deal hurts Notre Dame in football, as the growing irrelevance of the conference outside of Clemson destroys Notre Dame’s strength of schedule, wasting prime game slots that could have been used to schedule better programs. Notre Dame has been able to fit some of those better programs into their schedule in this upcoming decade, with home-and-homes against Ohio State and Alabama among the most prominent, but they’ve given up chances to have more of those clashes in favor of this ACC deal. Sure, Notre Dame might be in trouble for a year if the ACC didn’t throw them a lifeline. But make no mistake, if the conference ruins that relationship, there’s little incentive for the Irish to stick around.

Whether they join the Big 10, or maybe even switch back to the Big East, which has become a much more competitive program in basketball since Notre Dame left, or retain their independence all the way around, Notre Dame has both the resources and the allure to attract high level opponents wherever they go. Is this “statement” that crazed Notre Dame haters want the ACC to make even close to worth it? The answer is a resounding no. Plus, don’t think Notre Dame is an institution that doesn’t notice when you help them. You can ask Navy about that; after the Naval Academy saved the Notre Dame institution during World War II, the Irish paid the favor back by playing them every year since on the football field, a series which has greatly benefited Navy, who plays their home games at various naval bases around America, even taking the series to Dublin on multiple occasions. The ACC has slowly watched their financial status improve throughout Notre Dame’s tenure as a limited partner with the conference, and if the Irish ever join as a full-time member, including football, the conference’s revenue would skyrocket. Now is not the time to force Notre Dame into anything. To do so would be shortsighted and harmful. Rather, look for the ACC to be accommodating and assist the Irish in whatever they need to make this season work. It’ll strengthen the relationship, and it would be a move that Notre Dame is unlikely to forget. 

Top Returning ACC Guards: #1 – Carlik Jones, Louisville

Our #1 top returning (non-freshman) guard to watch in the ACC hasn’t actually played in the conference yet. Carlik Jones spent three years dominating the Big South with the Radford Highlanders, and now he’s looking to succeed Jordan Nwora as the do-it-all guard for the Louisville Cardinals. While the Big South is no ACC, Carlik Jones was rated as one the most efficient players in the country and, outside of Luka Garza, he was the highest-rated returning Power-5 player. Looking at Jones’ stats and game log, it’s not hard to see why – he quite simply does it all. 

After averaging 11.8 points per game his freshman year, Jones averaged 15.8 in his sophomore year, but he shot just 25% from three-point range. His junior season, the Radford star put it together, shooting 41% from beyond the arc and averaging 20 points a game to go with 5.1 rebounds (3rd on the team) and a squad-leading 5.5 assists. From his 31 point, 6 rebound effort in the season-opener, Jones was on fire out of the gate. He played two games against Power-5 competition (Northwestern and Mississippi State) and combined for 35 points and 14 assists. Against James Madison, Jones was just a single rebound shy of a triple-double – 23 points, 10 assists, and 9 boards.

Against the Big South, Jones tortured virtually every opponent, putting up video game numbers all season. Defensively, he was a lockdown defender, picking the locks on the hands of a bevy of Big South ball handlers. In the conference tournament quarterfinals, Jones poured in twenty-one points, collected nine boards, dished out six assists, and notched four steals. The Radford guard didn’t score under 15 points in the final two months of the season, leading the Highlanders to a 15-3 conference record and split of the regular season title. Now, Jones is on to bigger things, as he heads to Louisville, who certainly knows how to use a versatile guard, after enjoying the talents of Nwora for several seasons. 

Jones has proven over three-years he’s capable of being the go-to-guy for a successful basketball team, and now he’s taking his talents to the ACC, where the dynamic floor general will look to continue to ball out in the best basketball conference in America.

Top Returning ACC Guards: #2 – Tyrece Radford, Virginia Tech

It’s not often you see a guard lead his team in rebounding, but that’s exactly what Tyrece Radford did for the Virginia Tech Hokies. At 6’2, Radford is the third-shortest player on the roster, yet he collected 6.2 boards per game, to go with 10.2 points on 60% shooting. Radford did virtually all his damage inside the arc, leading to highly efficient outputs from the Louisiana product. That efficiency was the mark that caught our attention, and it landed Radford as the #2 guard on our top returning guards to watch in the ACC.

Radford didn’t get a lot of minutes at the start of the year, only playing 20+ minutes in three of the Hokies’ first six contests, but he averaged nine points and nine rebounds in those games on 70.6% shooting. As his opportunities to crash the basket and boards expanded, so did Radford’s production. In an early January ACC contest against NC State, Radford poured in 18 points and 9 rebounds, which he followed up with a 21 point, 13 rebound, and 4 steal effort at Wake Forest.

Teammate Lander Nolley did damage beyond the arc and combined with Radford to deliver a large portion of the Virginia Tech offense. When he got more than five shots a game ,Radford averaged over 13 points per game, and his consistency improved greatly throughout the year, averaging 14.6 points in his final ten regular season games, also improving his averages in rebounds (6.4), assists (2.6), and steals (1.3), becoming an impact player all over the court for the Hokies. Amidst his various contributions, he maintained his efficient shotmaking and took good care of the ball, turning the ball over less than once per contest. 

In the ACC, versatility and the ability to impact the game in different ways is critical and with just one year of collegiate basketball under his belt, the best is yet to come with Radford, who should be a dynamic player for the Hokies in 2020-21. 

What Needs to Happen For the ACC to Become Relevant Again

2016 was a great year for the SEC-haters, and especially for those constantly trying to laud the ACC’s talent in football. Not only did Clemson win the national championship, dethroning Alabama, but the Tide were the only top-10 team in the SEC. The two years prior, the SEC had slipped to just two teams in the top 10, after seeing four of their squads attain such a ranking in each of the previous three seasons. Meanwhile, the ACC had five Top-25 teams, with a pair of top-10 squads. It was the third time in four years they had accomplished that feat, after only doing it once between 1998 and 2013. 

The end of the SEC? The rise of the ACC? Not so much. 

Flash forward three seasons, and the SEC is as dominant as ever, and once again, outside a singularly impressive team, the ACC was more or less a complete joke. The conference championship saw Clemson defeat Virginia by a stunning score of 62-17. While Clemson may be able to challenge the best teams in the country, the SEC offers four or five teams team could give Clemson a very good game and definitely capable of beating them. Against those same four or five teams, I don’t think there’s a single ACC team I trust outside of Clemson to snare a victory on the gridiron. One such example of this? In the Orange Bowl this past season, the Florida Gators, second in their division and the third or fourth best team in the SEC, took on Virginia and won 36-28. The score didn’t reflect the nature of the game, as Florida never trailed and spent most of the contest nursing a two-score lead. A UVA touchdown with 38 seconds left cut the deficit to its final margin. The ACC’s second-best against a fringe top-5 SEC team? No contest. 

So what’s the issue with the ACC? And what needs to happen to get back to 2016, where they were arguably the better conference, or at least closer to the SEC’s equal? Here’s a few things that need to happen. 

Stability in the Coastal Division

In the SEC, the West largely dominates, but when you look at the East, they still have a decent amount of stability. Georgia and Florida have won 9 of the past 12 division titles and consistently are among the top teams in the conference. Between promising stretches from Missouri and South Carolina – and the occasional good year from Tennessee and Kentucky – there have been teams to fill the void when the Gators and Bulldogs falter. The stability in the East has allowed for consistent recruiting that establish top-tier teams in both divisions. In the ACC? No such stability has been created – the last seven years have seen all seven teams win the division once. Nobody has repeated since Virginia Tech in 2010-2011. When there’s no clear dominant team, or even a couple of consistently successful squads, no one gains any kind of significant recruiting edge. Furthermore, the lack of clarity in the division just sends more recruits scrambling for the safety blanket that is Clemson and their pure dominance of the ACC Atlantic, and the conference as a whole. Entering the ACC Coastal right now as a player essentially gives you an even 1-in-7 chance at getting to the title game. Players want to play at the highest level, and no ACC Coastal team is consistently offering that opportunity. 

Not only has no team repeated since Virginia Tech at the turn of the decade, but every single season since then, the ACC Coastal representative in the championship game has come from a team that finished third or worse in the division the year before that. Over the last seven years – the stretch with seven different champions – the Coastal division has had five teams finish in the Top 25 a combined seven times. Virginia Tech and Miami have slotted into the rankings twice, and Georgia Tech, UNC, and Duke have all accomplished the feat once. The last two division champs – Pitt and Virginia – did not finish in the Top 25. The lack of consistency among these programs is frankly astounding, and as long as the ACC Coastal is a complete mess, this conference won’t truly improve. 

A consistent challenger in the Atlantic Division

No recruit who has their eyes on making a CFP goes to a non-Clemson team in the ACC Atlantic if they have the choice. The Tigers are 38-2 over the past five seasons of ACC games. Rather than look forward to a big clash that decides the division, fans and Clemson-haters scour the schedule for a game that looks ‘tricky’ or could qualify as a ‘trap game’. In the SEC, even though Alabama looks like a favorite out of the West nearly every year, every single Bama-LSU game or Iron Bowl clash presents a significant obstacle for the Tide. For Clemson, even if they lose a shocker, no team has been good enough to steal the division crime. Clemson’s dynasty started as FSU faded from relevancy. During the Tigers’ five-year reign, the Seminoles have finished as a ranked team twice, and Louisville, NC State, and Syracuse have done it once apiece. Louisville’s 2nd-place finish in the Atlantic last year made them the first team to have 2 second-place finishes in the division in the past five years. Outside of Clemson, the division is a total toss-up, with nobody becoming consistently relevant. If the ACC wants to ever match the SEC – with 4-5 teams consistently cracking the top 20, and usually 2-3 in the top 10, a consistent challenger must emerge. 

Teams That Need To Improve

In the SEC, for each season of this past decade, at least five teams finished the year ranked in the top 25 of the AP Poll. Outside of 2016, the ACC did not do that once. So which teams need to step it up for the ACC to gain further legitimacy? 

Atlantic: Florida State, Louisville

Florida State was the clear second-best team to Clemson this past decade, winning four division titles to Clemson’s 6. However, the crossing of these two dynasties was thin. Florida State finished 14th and 8th in the country as Clemson took over in 2015-16, but they haven’t sniffed the end-of-season Top 25 since then, going just 17-20 over their last three seasons. Look at the SEC, where, although Alabama has won 7 of the past 12 titles in the SEC West, their three-peat from ‘14-16 was the only time they repeated. We need to see somebody rise and clash with Clemson at the top and Florida State has the pedigree to do it. But their program is in disarray right now, so it’s unclear whether they’re ready to get to a Top-25 level any time soon. One team that is trending back in the right direction is Louisville, who has been very good since joining the ACC, but they haven’t broken the glass ceiling just yet. The Cardinals had a blip in 2018 – finishing in last place in their first year post-Lamar Jackson, but they’ve been very consistently otherwise. Consistency is key – FSU was ranked for two straight years before settling into their three-year reign of the conference, and Clemson had been ranked the prior three seasons before their current stretch of dominance. Louisville bounced back last year with an 8-win season, so if the Cardinals can continue to trend upwards, they may be the best bet at giving Clemson a challenger atop the division. 

Coastal: Miami, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech’s three division titles of the past decade make them one of two programs with multiple (Georgia Tech, 2). They’ve had their off years, but with three #1 finishes, and another three at #2 or #3, the Hokies are close to as consistent as it gets in the Coastal division. That combined with their homefield – Lane Stadium – is one of the more intimidating environments in the conference. If they turn that into a deadly homefield advantage, Virginia Tech could establish some much needed stability atop the division. 

Miami was the second clear and logical choice here. Amidst all the turmoil, the Hurricanes have not finished below fourth in the Coastal Division in the past decade. That being said, they’ve turned those consistent results into just one appearance in the ACC Championship, which ended very poorly. Miami has the most pedigree of any team in this division, and it makes sense that if the ACC is to rise to glory, the Hurricanes need to lead the revolution, or at least be one of the leaders. Their fans say it every year but until The U is Back, the ACC Coastal may struggle to gain any semblance of relevance. 

Georgia Tech, with their two division titles, was an honorable mention here, but their recent switch from the triple option and last-place finish last season cast some doubts on to whether they are entering a rebuilding phase, or whether they’re able to compete. 

SEC apologetics make a lot of claims, but they definitely hit the nail on the head when claiming superiority on the football field. The ACC looked like they might be ready to match that, but the past three seasons have shown they are clearly not ready. It’s years away, but look forward to a time where the ACC may finally be able to rival the SEC – at least in top-tier talent if not in total depth.