The independent news organization of Duke University

SPORTS  |  COLUMNS

The perfect storm of upsets for the ACC

<p>Lamar Jackson and Louisville are still alive for a College Football Playoff spot.&nbsp;</p>

Lamar Jackson and Louisville are still alive for a College Football Playoff spot. 

Week 11 was arguably the craziest week in college football history, with the second-, third- and fourth-ranked teams in the nation losing on the same weekend for the first time since 1985.

The week was just as bizarre in the ACC, as the three highest ranked teams in the conference—then-No. 3 Clemson, No. 15 North Carolina and No. 18 Virginia Tech—were upset by teams that combined for a total of four conference wins entering their matchups.

But in a matter of pure luck, it was the perfect storm for the ACC.

All three upsets brought excitement with two of the games ultimately decided by a single point—including the fight for the Victory Bell between North Carolina and Duke on primetime television Thursday night. Overall, there were few repercussions for the top teams in both divisions. The Tigers and the Hokies still control their destiny for a matchup in Orlando for the ACC championship game.

Virginia Tech and North Carolina are still tied atop the Coastal Division, with Miami and Pittsburgh trailing by two games with only one conference game remaining for the division leaders. Due to Virginia Tech’s 34-3 victory in Chapel Hill, the Hokies only need to beat in-state rival Virginia—which only has one conference win this season—to guarantee a spot in the conference championship game.

Although Clemson and Louisville both have just one loss in conference to lead the Atlantic Division, the Tigers still have a 42-36 victory—on the strength of five touchdowns from star quarterback Deshaun Watson—against the Cardinals on their resume. That leaves the Tigers needing just a win against Wake Forest this weekend to return to Orlando with a chance to cement their position in the College Football Playoff.

Although traditional Atlantic powerhouse Florida State has disappointed this season in large part due to injuries on defense, the emergence of Louisville and Heisman trophy front-runner Lamar Jackson has helped the ACC keep multiple teams in playoff contention.

And that’s not all.

There is the exposure that comes with these close games, making middle-of-the-pack ACC teams such as Duke, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech seem more watchable to the casual fan. Although the SEC reigns supreme in the minds of many around the country, it’s no secret that the Big Ten and ACC have made strides in recent years.

If people see different ACC schools involved in nail-biting upsets, viewership of other games could increase, leading to more media exposure and a better reputation for the conference.

These underdog victories also clinched bowl appearances for the Panthers and Yellow Jackets, giving the ACC two more teams with bowl eligibility, with N.C. State just one win away. Duke is also potentially a win away due to its high academic performance rating, giving the Blue Devils a leg up on other potential 5-7 teams if there are open spots in bowl games.

The fact that more than half of the conference’s teams are guaranteed to play in the postseason solidifies the ACC as one of the premier conferences in college football.

This all came without a major shakeup in the college football playoff's standings for the ACC. Clemson remains in the playoffs—sliding down to the fourth seed in the most recent rankings—with Louisville on the doorstep in fifth. The Cardinals could potentially move into the playoffs barring any major slip-ups, as No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan will face off Nov. 26 with the loser picking up its second loss should both win this weekend's matchups.

If all shakes out as expected—which never seems to be the case in college football—Louisville would be in the conversation for the final playoff spot with a possible one-loss Pac 12 champion in Washington or even a two-loss Big Ten champion in Wisconsin or Penn State. 

In a week full of chaos, the results still seem to have favored the ACC, and the conference's top two teams are still in position to battle on college football’s biggest stage.

That is really all you can ever ask for. May the best team win.

Discussion

Share and discuss “The perfect storm of upsets for the ACC” on social media.