Sagarin: ACC #1 College Football Conference

The Atlantic Coast Conference is accustomed to holding the top spot in USA Today’s Sagarin Ratings, but that top spot is traditionally reserved for the conference’s basketball prowess. Although NC State may have experienced its worst football season of the Chuck Amato era… the Atlantic Coast Conference ‘s new additions helped the conference flex enough balanced muscle to claim this year’s designation as the #1 conference in college football.

The ACC schools finished as follows:

(#7) Virginia Tech

(#9) Miami

(#16) Florida State

(#22) Virginia

(#25) Georgia Tech

(#35) North Carolina

(#40) NC State

(#45) Clemson

(#47) Maryland

(#67) Wake Forest

(#90) Duke

The final Sagarin ratings underscored some interesting trends:

* ACC Champion, Virginia Tech ended the season as the ACC’s top team at #7. The Hokies finished the season 10-3, with their three losses at the hands of (#1) Southern California, (#2) Auburn, and (#40) NC State. The Hokies started the season picked 6th by the ACC football writers.

* The Pac-10, SEC, and Big 12 all placed at least one team ahead of VPI. The Pac-10 was the only conference to have two schools ranked ahead of VPI. Despite this, the ACC’s depth and balance ultimately paved the way for the successful season as the conference placed 5 teams in the Top 25.

* Florida State came in at an acceptable #16 for the year. But, is the recent trend really ‘acceptable’ to Seminole fans. Although the Noles got to #6 in lasy year’s rankings, they ended the 2002 season at #11 and the 2001 season at #9. Believe me, I know that it is CRAZY to say, but Florida State hasn’t finished in the Top 5 since the 2000 football season (when they finished #3).

* Virginia’s season looked fine at #22 by defeating all of the teams that they “should” have beaten and losing to all of the teams ranked ahead of them (including Fresno State).

* Georgia Tech at #25 exemplifies the (important) difference between computers and polls. The computer logged GT at #25 based solely on the Yellow Jackets actual results on the playing field; which is all that really should matter. No subjective human assessment would have ever placed the Jackets at #25.

* Why does it matter what someone “thinks” about who is better? By applying the exact same parameters of assessment to every single team/game (which is what a computer does) and judging teams solely on their actual performance/results on the field, then an ulitmate and accurate ranking of teams is generated. In situations like these, coaching deserves a tip of the hat. Chan Gailey created a Top 25 Team from a set of youngsters that nobody considers to be Top 25 talent.

* Carolina at #35 and NC State at #40. Carolina 6-5 in the regular season and gets a bowl bid to play on ESPN. State 5-6 in the regular season and misses a bowl for the first time in 5 years. Tell me again how I am not supposed to let the officiating in Chapel Hill bother me since “one game” doesn’t have much impact on anything?

* Of course, with the “Luck of the Wolfpack”, NC State drew the 2 new additions to the ACC this season – Virginia Tech & Miami. Both schools finished the season in the Top 10. The Hokies and Canes served to replace Virginia (#22) and one of the worst teams in the country, Duke (#90). Amazing.

* Next year’s addition to the ACC, Boston College, would have only improved the league’s rank. The Eagles beat future-conference foe UNC-Chapel Hill in the Continental Tire Bowl and finished the season a solid #26.