Before the season we all knew that the ACC was Florida State, Clemson and 12 also-rans. Little has happened on the field to change that, but some people want to imply that the conference is strong, resurgent and ready to compete with the big boys.
The Kanell tweet is absolutely true, but the implication that the conference is impressive or that it is filled with good teams is absurd. The ACC remains a borderline power conference. This season they are 33-15 out of conference, but only 4-10 against other power five conferences. Both records are the worst among Power Five conferences.
To believe that the ACC is comparable to other power conferences, one must believe that Duke, North Carolina and Pitt, three one loss teams, are worthy competitors. Nothing that has happened on the field should make you think that. Duke and Pitt have quality losses, if such a thing exists, in losing to Northwestern and Iowa. North Carolina lost a head shaker to South Carolina. That alone should remove them from the conversation, but one game does not a season make.
It’s not about who you lose to, it’s about who you have beaten. Here the resumes of these pretenders are transparently thin. Pitt’s best win out of conference is at Akron, 24-7. In conference, it’s a toss up between Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech. That’s not the resume of a contender. Duke’s resume is similarly lacking. Out of conference they’ve beaten Tulane, North Carolina Central and Miami. In conference they also built their record on the backs of wins against the Techs. North Carolina hasn’t gotten to beat Virginia Tech yet, but their most impressive win is Big Ten power Illinois.
North Carolina’s win over Illinois is far and away the most impressive for these three would be contenders. Why is this game so much more impressive than the other wins? The win over Illinois is the only win over a FBS team with a winning record. North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central also have winning records, but they are FCS teams. Meanwhile Pitt has no wins over teams with winning records.
The ACC simply doesn’t have the contenders to compare to the other conferences. Clemson may be a playoff contender, but Florida State doesn’t appear to be. No other team can legitimately claim Top 25 status, though ACC teams are starting to show up there by virtue of record alone.
Nuance is famously missing from 140 character tweets, but the implication of Kannell and his ilk is clear: the ACC has done something impressive on the football field. Outside of Clemson that narrative is plainly false, and it is abundantly clear after any cursory glance beyond mere win loss records. Those records are the products of weak schedules and conference competition so lacking it has more in common with an off week than the games the rest of the nation is playing.