Despite a few ups and downs, the four North Carolina ACC football teams are still in the mix for post season eligibility.
At the top of the list is undefeated Wake Forest at 5-0, who cracked into the top 25 at No. 22 two weeks ago.
The Demon Deacons are just one of four ACC teams to crack the top 25 code thus far. Joining the Deacons is No. 2 Clemson, No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 23 Virginia. It’s a season of nearly unprecedented parity in college football with 12 unbeaten teams still remaining in the top 25 at the midway point of the 2019 college football season.
The same could be said for the ACC at large.
The Demon Deacons are clearly at the head of the class at this point, but you can’t look past NC State, Duke and North Carolina either. All have proved to be not only capable, but perhaps post season contending worthy teams.
Largely an afterthought as far as football goes following the departure of former head football coach Steve Spurrier, who left in 1989, current head coach Dave Cutcliffe has proven to be the new gold standard when it comes to Blue Devil football.
Cutcliffe, who turned down other major offers over the years, has become royalty in the state and has made a fine home in Durham since he took over in 2008. Because of his efforts, Duke turned from a laughing stock prior to his tenure, into a contender.
Currently at 3-2, the Blue Devils are once again back in the conversation when it comes to getting back to a bowl game.
Their season opening loss to Alabama became a distant memory following three-straight wins over NC A&T, Middle Tennessee State and Virginia Tech. Last week’s 33-30 loss to Pittsburgh was a setback, but there is still a great deal to play for in Durham.
Up next for the Blue Devils is Georgia Tech who is coming off of a 38-22 loss to North Carolina last Saturday. It should be a good measuring stick to see how close the Devils and Heels are at this point of the season.
Above .500 at 3-2 at this point of the season, NC State is never out of the conversation when it comes to league contenders, especially considering seemingly unbeatable Clemson’s notable struggles at Carolina last week. Head coach Dave Doren always puts a solid team on the field and the Wolfpack programs seems to be getting back to a perennial top 25 caliber bowl team. Perhaps one of the best accomplishments in Doren’s seven year tenure is in the recruiting battle in the state. Add to that, the cherry on top of NC State’s cake is a three-year winning streak over their hated rival in North Carolina.
A lot needs to happen though as the Wolfpack embarks on the second half of the season especially considering undefeated Wake Forest and Clemson still remains on their schedule. The Atlantic division has been comparably tougher over the years, and 2019 is no exception,
Maybe the dark horse of the league, the Tar Heels average 3-3 record is a little deceptive because they are well above average. After a 2-0 start with upset wins over South Carolina and Miami in head coach Mack Brown’s second stint as head coach of the Tar Heels, UNC hit a snag in successive weeks.
Winnable fourth quarter games versus three currently undefeated teams, Wake Forest (5-0), Appalachian (4-0) and then No. 2 ranked Clemson (5-0) — proves the Heels can hold their own versus tough competition.
Last week’s game versus the Tigers, then ranked No. 1 in the country, is the primary example of UNC’s potential. After a score that pulled the Heels within a point, North Carolina elected to go for the 2-point conversion which would have won the game with mere seconds remaining. It would have been one of the greatest upsets in all of sports history.
But Clemson read the play all the way however to preserve the 21-20 win. Brown’s call to go for it with the game on the line was gutsy although arguably misconstrued. Great strategy, poor call. A call or turn here or there this past season, and Carolina could very well be 6-0.
The good thing for UNC is that they 2-0 in ACC Coastal division play, so they still have a shot at earning a spot in the conference championship game. That is exactly the message that Brown told his players after the Clemson game. There could be a rematch on deck if they continue to improve.