In the Atlantic Coast Conference, ’tis the season for blowouts.
Close games need not apply in the ACC so far this year, and down-to-the-wire matchups have been true rarities. Conference football teams have combined to play 56 games, and of those, only 12 were decided by less than 10 points.
Florida State hasn’t played a game decided by fewer than 14 points. Maryland’s four wins came by an average of 28 points, and its one loss was by a whopping 63. Clemson’s only nail-biter was in the season-opener against Georgia.
So forgive ACC fans if they’re leaving games a bit earlier than usual. With the way many matchups have gone, they may as well try to beat the traffic.
“Particularly early in the year, I’d be interested to see if that continues as everyone truly gets into the bulk of their conference play,” Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst said. “But it is an interesting trend.”
Here’s a smattering of scores from games involving ACC teams this season: 77-7, 70-0, 63-0, 62-7, 59-10 ... there isn’t much drama going on out there.
That is, except at Virginia Tech.
The Hokies are already 4-0 in games decided by 10 points or less, and have won seven straight of those types of games dating back to last season. Combined, the Hokies have won their last four games by a total of 30 points.
“We certainly haven’t been a blowout team, that’s for sure,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “But I’m proud of our football team. We’re kind of grinding football team, play a lot of young kids, kids playing hard — they don’t always play well, but play hard, and they’re getting better all the time, too.”
They are very much to the exception to the ACC rule so far.
No. 3 Clemson, No. 6 Florida State and No. 13 Miami are the league’s last three unbeatens this season, and they’ve combined to outscore teams by an almost unfathomable 715-223. That works out to an average score of Tigers, Seminoles or Hurricanes 48, Whichever Team They’re Playing 15. And frankly, a lot of those games haven’t even seemed that close.
“You don’t take any games for granted,” Miami quarterback Stephen Morris said. “In college football, everyone’s a great team. Every team works hard. Everyone’s got great players.”
What makes the eye-popping numbers at Clemson, Florida State and Miami look even better is that the big scoring margins just aren’t predicated solely on fast starts.
They’re keeping the gas pedal down on teams well into the second half.
Clemson has come out flying for the most part, outscoring teams 76-21 in first quarters so far, then steadily adding the rest of the way. The Seminoles have outscored opponents by a surprisingly close 30-21 count in the first 15 minutes of their games – then run away and hidden by a 238-39 combined score over the remaining three quarters.
Miami’s first-quarter margin is 66-30, but the Hurricanes have won second quarters 69-3 and third quarters 63-13.
“It sets the tempo and gives us control of the game early,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “It helps create momentum. It is something that we like to do, especially when you are on the road. ... Again, it just gives us confidence coming out of the gate and shows that the guys are ready to play.”
No team has personified this all-or-nothing trend so far in the ACC better than Maryland, which won its first four games by margins of 33, 37, 11 and 37 points.
Then last week, the Terrapins went to Florida State — and lost 63-0.
“It’s over with,” Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. “It’s done. We move forward.”
These games winding up with large margins doesn’t necessarily mean the league’s been short on entertainment value. Boston College’s Andre Williams leads the nation in rushing yards per game, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd ranks sixth in passing efficiency, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston may be the nation’s most electric freshman and the ACC has three 5-0 teams for the first time in its 61-year history.
And Pitt’s first ACC season has already had its share of wild moments, winning 58-55 against Duke one week and then grinding out a 14-3 win over Virginia seven days later.
“It was an interesting two weeks,” Chryst said. “At the end of it you’re appreciative of the effort and guys finding a way to win, but that’s the exciting thing to me about a season. You don’t know who you are – each week you define a chapter.”