In day three of our midseason roundup, it’s time we take a look at the American and ACC. If you haven’t done so already, make sure to take a look at our midseason updates for the Big Ten and Pac-12, Mountain West, Conference USA and FBS Independents, and MAC and Sun Belt.
East Carolina (5-1, 2-0): No one thought of it that way at the time, but South Carolina’s 33-23 upset of East Carolina is the only thing barring Ruffin McNeill’s Pirates from a shot at a perfect season. You know about Lincoln Riley’s passing attack, but did you know the Pirates rank 11th nationally at 6.11 yards per carry, 14th in rushing defense at just over 104 yards a game and 15th in yards per attempt allowed at 5.8?
Temple (4-1, 2-0): For my money, the hands down winner of “Best Unit You Didn’t Know About” over the first half of the year goes to Temple’s defense. The Owls are one of four teams to allow less than 10 touchdowns to this point in the season, rank fifth in passing defense, sixth in pass efficiency defense, third in turnover margin (3-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio), and are top 20 in yards per attempt allowed, opposing completion percentage, third down defense, and lead the country in red zone defense. East Carolina’s trip to Philadelphia on Nov. 1 is no gimme.
Central Florida (3-2, 1-0): When they aren’t traveling to Ireland or Columbia, Mo., George O’Leary’s Knights are undefeated. UCF has won 14 straight against non-Power Five competition.
Houston (3-3, 1-1): The insertion of Greg Ward, Jr., into the starting lineup led to a 28-24 upset of Memphis – he produced 283 total yards and two touchdowns on 45 total touches – and preserved the Cougars’ season from total collapse. For a team that was picked to compete in the American to start 2-4 (and 0-2 in the conference) that… wouldn’t have been good.
Memphis (3-3, 1-1): The best part about what Justin Fuente has done at Memphis is that the Tigers are 3-3 through the first half of the season, and can be legitimately upset they aren’t 4-2. A team that runs with UCLA for four quarters and Ole Miss for three and blows out Cincinnati should not lose at home to Houston.
South Florida (2-4, 1-1): South Florida’s scoring output since beating Western Carolina 36-31 to open the season: 17, 17, 10 and 17. The Bulls are 1-4 against FBS competition, and rank 104th or lower in every major offensive category.
Tulsa (1-5, 1-1): The fact that Tulsa, at 1-5 overall, is technically tied for second place in the American tells you all you need to know about the state of this conference. There are 11 teams in this league, and two are above .500.
Tulane (2-4, 1-1): Continuing the theme of American teams that can’t score, Tulane beat Southeastern Louisiana 35-20 on Sept. 13, and has scored 28 (in regulation), 21, 13, six and 12 points. The Green Wave are 64th in rushing, and 94th or lower in every other major offensive category.
Cincinnati (2-3, 0-1): Have you seen the rest of this conference. Cincinnati can’t defend anyone – 124th in scoring and yards per play allowed, dead last in total defense – but the Bearcats can move the ball and they can score, which means they fall into at least seven wins.
SMU (0-1, 0-5): Same song, different metropolitan university. While ranking 99th nationally in its specialty category – passing – the Mustangs are 115th or lower in every other major category, and dead last in scoring, third downs and plays of 10+ yards, and third to last in rushing. Beyond this sunken season, SMU’s next head coach needs to campaign with his superiors to lighten his load in non-conference. The Mustangs could be a legitimate AAC contender and still be 1-4 thanks to the Ponies’ suicidal scheduling strategy. While it’s nice to keep the memory of the Southwest Conference alive and playing local programs is the best way to drum up interest, there’s no reason to schedule Baylor and Texas A&M in the same season, especially when SMU already plays TCU every season. And that longterm home-and-home with North Texas is a bear trap as well.
Connecticut (1-5, 0-3): Bob Diaco’s first (and, so far, only) win came by a 19-16 final over Stony Brook. Thank goodness for that and Diaco’s defense, because UConn may have the American’s worst offense. Considering the sludge we’ve already trekked through, that’s saying something. The good news for UConn? Temple was 0-5 at this point last season and finished 2-10. This ship can be turned.
Florida State (6-0, 4-0): Do teams that rank 65th in pass efficiency defense, 54th in rush defense, 44th in yards per play allowed, 98th in rushing, 78th in turnover margin, 74th in sacks allowed, 107th in sacks, 53rd in first downs allowed, 96th in third down defense, and 51st in plays of 10+ yards allowed usually go undefeated?
Clemson (4-2, 3-1): The end of the Florida State game and the second half of the Georgia game will always stick in Clemson’s craw, but the Tigers have a very real chance to finish the season at 11-2 with a win over South Carolina and rank in or around the top 10 for the third straight season, all with an absolute star in true freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson. The future is bright in Clemson.
Louisville (5-2, 3-2): Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford are gone, and Todd Grantham is the new sheriff in town. And the Louisville defense has gotten better? Louisville is third in scoring defense, first in rushing defense, second in yards per carry allowed, second in pass efficiency defense, first in interceptions, third in yards per attempt allowed, first in total defense, second in yards per play allowed, first in opponent first downs, tied for third in sacks, first in tackles for loss, second in passes defended, first in third down defense and a mere eighth in red zone defense. Whew. The Cardinals host Florida State two weeks from tonight. How weird is it that Louisville would be an easy Thursday night home upset pick if only Bobby Petrino could get some good play out of his quarterbacks?
Boston College (4-2, 1-1): No Andre Williams, no problem. If not for preventable home losses against Pittsburgh and Colorado State, B.C. would be undefeated. The Eagles have moved up from 20th to fifth in rushing offense, and if not for the misfortune of living in the same division as the conference’s three best teams, Steve Addazio’s bunch may be headed for the ACC title game.
Syracuse (2-4, 0-2): The Orange beat Villanova (by one in double overtime) and Central Michigan to open the season, and haven’t come within 14 points of victory since.
Wake Forest (2-4, 0-2): The Demon Deacons have beaten only Gardner-Webb and Army and haven’t scored more than 24 points this season, but none other than Jimbo Fisher is the president of the Wake Forest defense fan club. I’d buy stock in Dave Clawson and company.
N.C. State (4-3, 0-3): Through one quarter on Sept. 27, N.C. State was 4-0 and held a 24-7 lead over No. 1 Florida State. Since that moment the Wolfpack have been outscored 120-31 and have slid to 4-3. Dave Doeren is 7-1 against non-ACC competition and 0-11 against the ACC.
Virginia (4-2, 2-0): Two months ago Mike London was everyone’s favorite hot seat candidate. Now he’s alone in first place in the ACC Coastal and has the conference’s second-best defense.
Georgia Tech (5-1, 2-1): With the parity in the ACC Coastal, I wouldn’t be shocked if Georgia Tech won its next four to win the division and stood at 9-1 before finishing with Clemson and Georgia, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Yellow Jackets finished 6-6.
Duke (5-1, 1-1): The Blue Devils miss Kurt Roper. If not for quarterback play that ranks 103rd nationally in pass efficiency – starter Anthony Boone is not among the nation’s top 100 – Duke would be an easy choice to repeat as ACC Coastal champions. Duke at Virginia on Saturday is Week 8’s most interesting game that you won’t watch.
Virginia Tech (4-2, 1-1): Virginia Tech went on the road and gave Urban Meyer his only regular season loss at Ohio State, ending the game on a 28-14 run, and then promptly gave it back and then some with consecutive home losses to East Carolina and Georgia Tech.
Pittsburgh (3-3, 1-1): Pittsburgh started 3-0 with a pair of wins that were more impressive now than they seemed at the time, winning at Boston College by 10 and hitting FIU for 42 points and 422 yards, and have since dropped three straight to Iowa, Akron and Virginia. Pittsburgh is the only ACC team sitting even at .500, and that feels entirely fitting.
Miami (4-3, 1-2): You would never guess it to be true, but the friendly confines of Whatever They’re Calling The Dolphins’ Stadium Now Stadium provides a significant home-field advantage for Miami. The Hurricanes are 4-0 at home with average scores of 40-17, and are 0-3 on the road with losses via an average score of 33-20.
North Carolina (2-4, 0-2): North Carolina’s defense has to be the most disappointing unit in the country, dropping a team that started the year ranked in the top 25 to last place in its own division. The Heels have lost four straight while allowing 70, 50, 34 and 50 points.