Catching Up (And Looking Ahead)

Has it been a week already? Man, this one flew by.
Since I never did a rehash of last week’s games, I’ll try to combine that with a look ahead to this weekend’s games. Let’s see if I can pull it off…
First things first – last weekend did nothing to dispel the notion that the ACC sucks this year. It’s bad. No more making fun of the Big East’s inclusion in the BCS. Not this year, anyway. I mean, NC State lost to Akron, Virginia needed a missed extra point to beat Wyoming in overtime at home, Wake Forest barely squeaked by Duke and Florida State very nearly lost at home to Troy. Troy! Not the USC Trojans, but these guys! (Wanna bet a lot more coaches spring for a big slip ‘n’ slide next year?)

But the big story of the week was Chuck Amato and his big, fat, red-shoe-filled mouth. Man. Talk about your bad press conferences. Nothing like a presser that manages to alienate a huge hunk of your fanbase (more, more and more), insults the opponent who just beat you and inspires a coach of a completely unrelated team to call you out and challenge you to a game this year! That’s a historically bad showing. (Read Dave Glenn’s take)
The thing is, a lot of the criticism about Chuck’s comments misses the critical issue. Yes, he said something really dumb (oh, the irony) in whining about non-qualifiers and compounded that by randomly listing schools, but that’s just your run-of-the-mill foot-in-mouth mistake where you say something that you (and others) believe, but you just shouldn’t say outloud. But what really rubbed me the wrong way was that he was making excuse after excuse for why his team lost to Akron. To Akron! Sure, the MAC is a actually a pretty good conference that takes out a few BCS teams every year (and Akron won the MAC last year), but when you are program that aspires to elite status, you shouldn’t lose games like that. If you do lose, you need to man up and take responsibility. You don’t go pointing fingers in every direction and try to explain why you can’t hang with a school from the Big Mean MAC. You don’t whine that you’ve only had your world-class facilities for a year or two. You say that Akron is a good team and they played very well, but we have high standards here and we expect to win games like that. We played and coached poorly and we let our fans down. I promise you it won’t happen again.
They say that the true measure of a man is how he performs when his back is against the wall. Anyone can say the right things when life is going smoothly. Anyone can be brave when there is no danger present. Not everyone can stand up to pressure, look himself in the mirror and then find and admit his faults. How can Amato get in his players’ faces and demand excellence? He’s giving every excuse he can find for failure, so how can he honestly tell his players they shouldn’t do the same?
I think it’s a safe bet that Chuck Amato’s NC State career ended this week, not on the field against Akron, but on Monday when he opened his big mouth and showed what a small man he really is.
Whew. Sorry, that rant’s been welling in me all week, and I’m not even a State fan. I can’t imagine how they are feeling about it.
Now for a quick rundown of the rest of the league…
Boston College kept their quiet excellence (well, very goodness) rolling with a huge win over Clemson last weekend. The Tigers led most of the way, but the Eagles stayed with them and outlasted Clemson in triple overtime. With the next three weeks bringing them BYU, NC State and Maine (followed by a bye week), don’t be surprised if BC is 5-0 and ranked in the top 10 when they play Virginia Tech on October 12.
As for Clemson, their season’s high hopes are now teetering precariously. They travel to Tallahassee this weekend to get a Seminole team looking for revenge for last year’s loss and disappointed after their flat effort against Troy. I have a feeling that the Tigers are going to be 1-2 and screaming for blood.
Duke nearly got a win! That has to count for something, right?
Georgia Tech performed as expected in their scrimmage against Samford last week and now gets that same Troy squad that scared FSU. Think Coach Gailey was able to use that game to get his guys’ attention this week? Don’t look for the Trojans to repeat their (near) upset ways.
Holy crap, did you see that Maryland – West Virginia game last night? Man, talk about your beatdowns! It was 21-0 practically before ESPN had a chance to introduce Maryland’s offense. Their defense in the first quarter, particularly against the run, was some of the worst I’ve ever seen. Sure Steve Slaton’s a great running back, but the Terrapins made him look like Barry Sanders on speed last night. I guess those two games against William & Mary and Middle Tennessee didn’t do much to learn them about how to play against the big boys. Fortunately they get Florida International next. Boy that Ralph Friedgen really put together quite a schedule this year!
Miami got a chance to work on their offense a bit last week against Florida A&M and they’ll need to show off what they learned tomorrow when they play at Louisville. The Cardinals haven’t seen the kind of defensive speed the Hurricanes will bring, but they will still score some points. The ‘Canes will need to score to win this game. I think they will.
UNC lost pretty soundly to Virginia Tech, but honestly the score was a bit misleading. The Tar Heels looked better on defense than they did against Rutgers (was that praise faint enough?), but they gave up too many big plays on special teams and, well, on their offense. I’m sorry, but you can’t throw four picks against a good team and hope to stay within three touchdowns. Once again, I don’t know what to make of this squad. They look bad, but Bunting seems to have a knack of turning things around. He better hope they figured out how to do that this week. A(nother) loss to Furman would surely mean the end of his Tar Heel career. And they most certainly could lose.
I talked about Chuck Amato above, but didn’t say much about the loss to Akron. It appears that the refs blew the call on the last play, but why would NC State be in that situation anyway? How can a team that prides itself on defense give up two critical, long drives to a MAC team late in the fourth quarter? They better have learned from that failure, because they are traveling to Southern Mississippi this weekend absolutely needing a win. Vegas has them as three-point dogs.
Virginia squeaked past Wyoming at home, winning in overtime on a missed extra point. Not much else really needs to be said about that. I’m sure the Cowboys have a good team and all, but good ACC teams shouldn’t be relying on overtime miracles to win at home against Mountain West squads. Of course, the easy answer is that UVA isn’t a good ACC team. This weekend they host Western Michigan and if they don’t play better, they just might add one more embarrassing loss to the ACC’s 2006 growing collection.
I mentioned the Hokies‘ efficient win over UNC above. They weren’t super, but they were plenty good enough. With Duke traveling to Blacksburg tomorrow, the “plenty good enough” bar will be even lower. Somehow I don’t think Frank Beamer will let his guys play down to the competition though. More likely, they’ll simplifier their play book a bit and nail down their execution while they nail down the Blue Devils.
Wake Forest is 2-0, and that’s always reason to celebrate in Winston-Salem. On the flip side, their first win was against one of the worst teams in Division 1-A and their second win relied on a blocked field goal against THE worst 1-A team. They’ll learn a bit more about themselves and their post-Benjamin Mauk future when they travel to Storrs, Connecticut this weekend. The Huskies are a surprisingly solid, if young, program. If the Deacons can get a win there, they might start thinking about bowl possibilities this year.
To wrap things up, a quick note about the three putrid Triangle teams. They have a combined record of 1-5 with the one win against a 1-AA school. Caulton Tudor of the News & Observer wrote articles in the past week calling for the firing of both John Bunting and Ted Roof, and compared to Chuck Amato, they had good weeks! How long until basketball season?

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