ACC Football 2012 in review
Posted November 26, 2012
Well, I'm glad that's over.
Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, ACC Football gave you the 2012 season. A season in which Virginia Tech -- arguably the most consistent program in the modern ACC -- produced it's worst season in 20 years. The Hokies lost six times in 2012, including four times in ACC play, giving Frank Beamer his worst record since 1992. It's been an ACC season in which from the 4th week of polling the league had only two teams even worthy of placing in the Top 25. This Atlantic Coast Conference season produced non-conference records of 4-17 against teams from the automatic qualifying leagues (SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big East), and 4-19 against FBS teams that won enough games to qualify for a bowl invitation.
I'm still rubbing my eyes at those numbers.
These are the best six non-conference wins for ACC teams this year; Penn State, Ball State, Temple, South Florida, Bowling Green and East Carolina. The Nittany Lions are ineligible for a bowl game, but still won enough and would have beaten Virginia had their kicker not been suffering from a clear case of double vision. ECU is headed for a bowl after an impressive enough conference season. And, the two Mid-American Conference schools had quality seasons each and should both find a post season landing place. As for the Owls and Bulls from the Big East, well, they have a combined 7-15 record entering the final week of the season.
That's just awesome.
On top of what I've already mentioned, we had one of the league's defensive coordinators fired during the middle of the season, two coaches already fired at the end of their respective schedules and in the most painful season-ending week ever, four ACC schools took on teams from the SEC -- the conference where football was invented -- and every single one of them got kicked in the teeth. What's worse, is that three of the four games were at home. Florida State and Clemson, the only two teams worth a flip on the national stage each were handled on their home fields by their in-state SEC rivals. Florida proved too much for the Seminoles in a 37-26 win while the Gamecocks pulled away from Clemson in the second half in a 27-17 victory, after which a very "confident" Steve Spurrier surmised, "I don't know what it is, but every time we play Clemson they don't seem to play very well."
Salt, meet open wound.
In all, the 4-game shellacking, which also featured lopsided losses by Georgia Tech and Wake Forest to Georgia and Vanderbilt, respectively, came out to a 161-74 pummeling. It's going to take years to remove the stain of the 2012 season, and because of the worst news of all -- the departure of charter member Maryland to the Big Ten -- you wonder just how much longer John Swofford is going to have to sort this league out. Unless the commissioner can take the best news of the year -- Notre Dame's inclusion as an ACC partial member -- and parlay that into a 7-game football schedule that has the Irish fighting for the ACC title on the gridiron as well, I just don't see how much longer he can keep this band from breaking up.
In theory, a league with Florida State, Miami, Clemson, Virginia Tech and improving situations in North Carolina, Syracuse and Pittsburgh would be more than enough to build a serious football image around. Add in the potential for a Louisville to be included and then throw in the Notre Dame portion of the schedule and the commissioner might have a lot to sell. It's just never going to be as much as the guys in the offices of the SEC and the Big Ten have to peddle and as Maryland -- Maryland -- has already proven, money talks.
I'm certain it can't get any worse than it is right now, unless the Yellow Jackets were to somehow upset the Seminoles in Charlotte. And, I'm not sure if that would make it worse, or simply be the most ACC football thing ever. In any case, let's try our best to forget the 2012 football season, the worst in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
But, before we do, let's honor the very best of the year.
(Yes, not everything stunk like 4-day old spilled milk under the seat of your car in the summer)
Player of the year…
Giovani Bernard, North Carolina. Gio averaged more than 120 yards on the ground this year, more than 145 in league games, and had over 1,700 yards from scrimmage despite missing nearly 3 full games with injuries. Bernard sat out games at Wake Forest and Louisville after a knee injury kept him sidelined in the second half of the season opener against Elon. He got back on the field against Idaho, but carried just twice in limited duty as the Heels didn't need to risk aggravating an injury in a 66-0 laugher. He also had the second best play of the year, the 74-yard, game-winning punt return that stunned NC State, snapping a 5-game losing streak in the series. Tahj Boyd had a great year, but the world is set up for quarterbacks and it's time someone took a stand.
Coach of the year…
David Cutcliffe, Duke. I'm well aware that the Blue Devils lost their last four games to finish at 6-6. I'm also well aware that they allowed nearly 600 yards in total offense on average over that span. I'm also not oblivious to the fact that in games against teams that are physically superior to the Blue Devils they pretty much were handed their hats. But, Cutcliffe got his team ready for the half dozen games in which they had a chance and won every single one of them. I don't care who Duke is playing there are no automatics. That Cutcliffe had his teams 6-0 in those games says a ton about the quality coaching job he did. Larry Fedora also did a wonderful job this year and could have easily been the honoree.
Rookie of the year…
Duke Johnson, Miami. It's one thing to be a freshman running back at the University of Miami and finish third in the ACC in rushing (80/ypg), fourth in touchdowns (13), third in all-purpose yards (172/ypg) and 1st in kickoff returns (33/ypr). It's another matter entirely to live up to that hype after LeBron James tweets about you during your college debut. During the season-opener at Boston College, as Johnson was piling up 135 rushing yards including a pair of long touchdown runs, James tweeted "Duke Johnson is the truth out there for the U! True Freshman. #Speedkills". That's enough for me. Stefon Diggs, Maryland's future all-Big Ten receiver is a great player, but these are ACC awards.
Play of the Year…
There were 19 seconds left in the 4th quarter of a game that the Duke Blue Devils controlled from the start. But, somehow, after North Carolina scored three fourth quarter touchdowns, Duke found themselves trailing by four with a final drive left to claim a 6th victory of the season. A drive that began at their own 13-yard line, amid the disappointment of giving up the lead for the first time since early in the 1st quarter, had come to a stop, at the five yard line, facing a 4th down with likely one play to revive the season. On that play, with senior quarterback Sean Renfree nervously jitterbugging in the pocket, looking for an open receiver, he fired the ball into traffic in the middle of the end zone looking for future Blue Devil star Jamison Crowder. After a couple of viscous hits from Tar Heels defensive players Crowder rose to his feet securely with the ball and the Blue Devils had their most important victory in the five years of the David Cutcliffe era; the one that put them over the top of bowl-eligibility. As an added bonus they also got to spray paint the Victory Bell the darker shade of blue for the first time since 2003.