Mike Kern: ACC football stuck in neutral

Posted: October 11, 2012

WASN'T THIS the year the ACC was supposed to make a statement?

Well, it has. Trouble is, it's pretty much the same one we've been getting for the last decade or so.

Florida State's impossible-to-explain, come-from-ahead, last-second loss at North Carolina State pretty much ensured that. Yes, the Seminoles could still win a lot of games, but probably not enough to get back into the BCS championship game.

Ditto Clemson, which turned a 14-point, third-quarter lead into a 12-point loss at FSU on Sept. 22.

FSU closes at home with Florida on Nov. 24, the same day Clemson hosts South Carolina. That can either be construed as a good thing, or . . .

As for the rest of the conference, hey, Duke is 5-1. Too bad this isn't hoops.

I mean, at least the Big East still has three unbeatens.

OK, N.C. State is 4-2. As are Miami and North Carolina. N.C. State lost 2 weeks ago at Miami, which lost at Kansas State by 39 and to Notre Dame by 38 in Chicago. N.C. State also lost to 3-2 Tennessee by 14 in Atlanta. North Carolina fell at 3-3 Wake Forest and at No. 18 Louisville, where it trailed by 29 at halftime.

Georgia Tech, which won its first six a year ago, is 2-4, having lost at home to Middle Tennessee by 21. And one of its wins was over 2-4 Virginia, which was 8-5 last season, but would be 1-5 had Penn State's kicker not matriculated to Texas.

And how about Virginia Tech, which was ranked 13th after two games but is now 3-3, its worst start in 2 decades? The Hokies, who won at least 10 each of the last 8 years, still have Clemson and Florida State to deal with.

Boston College, which used to beat Notre Dame on a regular basis, is 1-4. The win was over I-AA Maine, which lost by 21 at home to Villanova. And the Eagles just lost at previously winless Army.

Somebody will make it to the Orange Bowl, because the rules say so. It could even be a one-loss team. But would you risk your 401(k) on it? The last time an ACC team went into the bowl season with a single blemish was FSU in 2000. Then it lost to Oklahoma in the OB for the national title. V-Tech also lost only once that year, when it still played in the Big East. It beat Clemson in the Gator.

Trivial pursuit

Duke senior Conner Vernon just set an ACC record for career receptions (he now has 239). Whom did he surpass? Hint: He's never played in the NFL. See Answer man.

Irish wall

Notre Dame has given up 12 points, all on field goals, in its last three wins over Michigan State, Michigan and Miami. The last time the Irish went that many games without allowing more than six was 1983, when a club that finished 7-5 for Gerry Faust won its first four in October by counts of 27-3 at Colorado, 30-6, at South Carolina, 42-0 over Army at Giants Stadium and 27-6 at home against Southern California. Both USCs scored touchdowns before missing two-point conversions.

This 12-quarter TD-less stretch is ND's longest since 1980, when a 9-2-1 team did it for 23 quarters spanning six games to close out the regular season.

In losing three straight to the next obstacle, Stanford, ND gave up 37 in 2009, 45 and 28 last year.

Not offensive

LSU has given up more than 14 points only once in six games. That was 22, against I-AA Towson. Of course, in its last two against I-As, the Tigers have scored 12 and six, respectively, having gone without a touchdown in their last six quarters.

In case you're wondering

Urban Meyer went 5-1 in his first six games at Florida in 2005. The loss was at Alabama (31-3), in Week 5. Those Gators finished 9-3, with a bowl win, which can't happen this year at Ohio State. His other losses in that Gainesville debut were at LSU and South Carolina.

These Buckeyes, who've played only once on the road, still have to go to Penn State and Wisconsin. We won't count the trip to Indiana.

Answer man

Clemson's Aaron Kelly, who had 232 from 2005-08.

Spotlight on ... the other Oregon

That would be State, as in Beavers, who are 4-0 for the first time since 2002, when they lost their next three and finished 8-5. Even in 2000, when they went 11-1, they lost their fifth game (33-30 at Washington). They haven't been 5-0 since 1939, when they lost their sixth game and ended up 9-1-1.

The Beavers, after going 3-9 last season, were picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North. But Mike Riley, in his 12th season, might at least be strengthening his job security. Nobody's suggesting this team will make it to the Rose Bowl, something OSU's done only three times. The last was after the 1964 season. Their lone win came in their first try (Jan. 1, 1942), when they played Duke in Durham, N.C., due to the war.

But if nothing else, they've provided one of those early unexpected story lines.

Now the Beavers go to Brigham Young (4-2), which has lost, 7-6, at Boise State and beaten Utah State, 6-3, in the last 3 weeks. The Beavers opened the season with wins over then-nationally ranked Wisconsin and UCLA (on the road). They also won at Arizona. Both times, Riley celebrated by taking his kids to Jack in the Box, a fast-food chain that's big in California and Arizona. Where else can you get two tacos for 99 cents?

They'll be without sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion, who injured his knee last week. He was throwing for 339 yards a game. His replacement is junior Cody Vaz, who hasn't played since 2010 and hasn't started since high school. Backing him up will be redshirt freshman Richie Harrington, a walk-on.

"It's a great opportunity for our team," said Vaz. "I can't wait."

BYU, which is favored, won last year in Corvalis, 38-28.

Jack in the Box doesn't have a store in Salt Lake City.

Sidelines

BIG EAST BITS

* Rutgers junior Jawan Jamison has rushed for at least 100 yards in all six games. Last year, he did it three times, but had 97 and 96 in two others. The Knights, who host Syracuse, are trying to get to 3-0 in the conference for the second time (the other was 2006).

* Pitt, which hosts Louisville (5-0 for first time in 6 years), is trying to avoid its first 0-3 conference start since 2001. Nine Louisville players have at least eight receptions, but none has more than 16.

MAC ME UP

* Ohio (6-0) is off to its best start since 1968. Kent State (4-1), under second-year coach Darrell Hazell, is off to its best start since 1977 and is 3-0 in the conference for the first time since 2006. Toledo (5-1), under new coach Matt Campbell, is off to its best start since '05. And Northern Illinois (5-1), under second-year coach Dave Doeren, is off to its best start since '03.

COUCH POTATO

THURSDAY

7:30 Western Kentucky at Troy, ESPNU

9 Arizona State at Colorado, ESPN

FRIDAY

8 Navy at Central Michigan, ESPN2

SATURDAY

11 Louisville at Pittsburgh, ESPNU

Noon Texas vs. Oklahoma, 6ABC

Noon Iowa at Michigan State, ESPN

Noon Northwestern at Minn., ESPN2

Noon Richmond at New Hampshire, CSN

Noon Wisconsin at Purdue, BTN

Noon UAB at Houston, FCS

Noon Kansas State at Iowa State, FX

Noon Brown at Princeton, NBCSN

Noon Auburn at Mississippi, WMCN-44.2

Noon Kent Stat at Army, CBSSN

12:30 Duke at Virginia Tech, CW57

3 Utah at UCLA, FOX29

3:30 Alabama at Missouri, CBS3

3:30 Oregon State at BYU, 6ABC

3:30 West Virginia at Texas Tech, ESPN

3:30 Stanford at Notre Dame, NBC10

3:30 William & Mary at JMU, TCN

3:30 Oklahoma State at Kansas, FCS, WMCN-44.1

3:30 Bucknell at Harvard, CBSSN

3:30 Fresno State at Boise State, NBCSN

4 Utah State at San Jose State, WMCN-44.2

5:30 Boston College at Florida State, ESPN2

6 Florida at Vanderbilt, ESPNU

7 USC at Washington, FOX29

7 TCU at Baylor, FCS

8 South Carolina at LSU, ESPN

8 Ohio State at Indiana, BTN

8 S. Mississippi at Central Fla, CBSSN

9 Tennessee at Mississippi State, ESPN2

9:15 Texas A&M at Louisiana Tech, ESPNU

10:30 California at Washington State, Pac-12

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Contact Mike Kern at kernm@phillynews.com.

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