Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Smurftacular Look Back at the ACC Season

So, this is now a basketball blog. But we are also approaching the very first ACC Championship game this weekend, and I thought it was worthwhile to take a look back at the ACC season and look back at not only what happened, but the overall states of the programs in general. Somewhere in the depths of my truly addled mind it just struck me how much a few of the Smurfs matched up with ACC football teams ... so here goes.

Virginia Tech

Papa Smurf

Frank Beamer keeps cooking up his magic in the foothills of Virginia, taking collections of young people that wouldn't seem to fit together at first glance and winning games with a blend of discipline, defense and special teams. He isn't just winning with Vicks, either - the guy went to a BCS game with Jim Druckenmiller, for goodness sake. As long as the man with the grey hair and red hat is on the sideline in Blacksburg, they are going to keep winning a lot of football games.

From time to time Papa Smurf is away and all heck breaks loose, but make no mistake - he's still in charge. VT just looked like they took a leave of absense during that Miami game, but Beamer had them quickly regrouped by the next weekend and they took UVa behind the woodshed for one of the ugliest beatings in the ACC this year. The best way to judge a program is how well it plays against the teams one tier below themselves, and VT just pounded GT, UVa and UNC this year. Right now they are looking at their second straight ACC title right in the face, and are the undisputed top dog since they joined.

King Smurf

When Papa Smurf took a quick leave of absense this year, they seemed poised to take over the conference - and then reality set back in a week later. Miami might have been the top dog of the Big East, and has a sexy name to go with their pretty wardrobe - but so far in the ACC they have been more pretender than contender. Losing key games at home late in the year both seasons in the ACC is not a recipe to overthrowing the current regime. Like King Smurf, one of the most important Smurfs, but still more flash and pizzaz than actual results.

What you really have to wonder about is how long this can go on in Coral Cables without some serious changes. Miami doesn't have a huge fanbase, and has the worst home attendence in the ACC. This is a small private school in a large metro area, and if they can't win the conference on a regular basis they could be on a very slippery slide to mediocrity. Larry Coker can't go 9-2 every year and feel comfortable about his job.

Georgia Tech Astrosmurf

Each year we look our window and dream of going places, and some years we even go so far as to build a spaceship and spacesuit and it looks like it's finally going to happen ... and then we lose to NC State and the spaceship never leaves the ground. So many seasons of feeling like this is the one where the Jackets get over the hump, just to start the next year exactly the same. Never truly dissapointing, but never truly exciting. In the Smurfs, Papa Smurf helps out Astrosmurf by letting him make-believe that he's been to a strange planet, but that isn't happening here, GT has to get over the hump on our own.

GT has very quietly been on a nice run the past decade now, going to 9 straight bowl games and being ranked in the top 25 at the end of the season 6 of those years. It's consistent inconsistence though, and that is starting to wear thin on fans. It's not difficult to get people excited about a lower tier bowl game when you haven't been in a while (see: Kansas, Rutgers), but when you've been to one 8 years in a row, suddenly Boise just doesn't sound so appealing. As fans, we're just like Astrosmurf with our little space helmets on staring at those faraway planets we can't quite get to.

Vanity Smurf

In love with themselves, their beautiful campus and their academics. In love with their "wonderful" head coach to the tune of a giant extension that is probably more of a weight around their necks than anything else. Possessed of a completely overblown sense of self importance, and regarded by the rest of the conference as being somewhat of a neccessary and humorous evil. More wasted talent over the past quarter of a century than probably any other team in the conference, with some results to show for it, but nothing really memorable. In a wierd way, somewhat harmless.

I don't get UVa, I honestly don't. They are very tough to beat at home, have tons of money and recruit pretty good talent, and yet for some reason it just never seems to come together. Call it the curse of Scott Sisson, but they've spent the past 15 years wandering around the ACC wilderness, never a bad team, but never a great team. Even GT and Maryland have broken through in somewhat recent memory, but UVa seems forever stuck in a mild malaise.

North Carolina
Lazy Smurf

They just don't care. Brainy Smurf is constantly on Lazy Smurf because he gets nothing done, but there isn't a Brainy Smurf around for UNC. Even when there was a possibility of becoming very good, nobody cared enough about football to keep the winning head coach. As long as basketball keeps winning, expect somewhere between 4-7 and 6-5, just enough to keep people from falling completely asleep. There is no solid reason for this, both Lazy Smurf and UNC have plenty of things going for them, but just completley lack any desire to actually work.

My parents and grandparents are UNC alumni, I can say things like this. It's a basketball school, always has been and always will be. The football program is a cute little diversion, and if they happen to win then it's great fun to celebrate, but if they don't ... well, it's just football. Letting Mack Brown know he'd never be paid as well as the basketball coach sent a clear message, and it wasn't one that made people think UNC football mattered. Keenan Stadium, Nike's money and those wonderful facilities could easily support a big time football power, but Lazy Smurf just doesn't care enough to make it happen, and so UNC football is just "there".

DukePoet Smurf

There is nothing to say about Duke football, they might as well not even have a program at this point. The facilities suck, the team sucks, the fan support is beyond awful and the basketball coach hates the program. Since I can't think of a single decent thing to say about Duke football, falling back on J.J Redick jokes is the only option.

Florida StateGrandpa Smurf

Loves to show off the trophies he's collected on his travels, but isn't quite capable of actually making those travels anymore. Papa Smurf will probably end up being like Grandpa Smurf one day, but that's still in the future. Florida State has had their glory days, and can still show flashes of their old selves from time to time, but really they are just old and tired at the core. Fortunately for Grandpa Smurf, he isn't stuck with Jeff Bowden.

Speaking of Jeff Bowden, he's terrible and it's obvious to everyone. How does Bobby break it to him? This could be one of the most interesting events of the offseason in the ACC, because I don't think Bobby can go another year with this coaching staff, and will probably be strong armed into removing Jeff. This has the makings of a nasty power struggle inside the program, and that's about the last thing FSU needs right now. I'm so glad the ACC split up Miami and FSU instead of splitting up the conference geographically, especially since Clemson might be the Atlantic division favorites next year.

Boston CollegeBrainy Smurf

Bossy, smart, and ultimately a pain in the butt. BC isn't a great program, they aren't a bad program, but really - they add nothing but a bit of New England attitude to the ACC. Aren't there already 4 other programs that fit the "not great, but not bad" role just as well already? What exactly is the difference between BC and Virginia, other than worse weather and the fact that their great-great grandparents marched under Sherman? Nobody has anything against them exactly, but also find them slightly annoying. Just like Brainy, BC doesn't really fit in with everyone else.

The saddest fact of this is that for BC fans, they are a northern team in a southern conference. As the only team north of the Mason-Dixon line, they are at a huge disadvantage come bowl season, because they won't travel as well as teams like Clemson or NC State. 8-3 and looking at Boise or Orlando isn't what they expected, I'm sure - but I bet that becomes more the rule than the exception. I just still don't see how this is a good fit, I know the ACC needed a 12th team and BC wanted out of the Big East, but it just smacks of square peg in a round hole to me.

ClemsonFarmer Smurf

Hardworking and never causes problems, even if things don't ever go quite right. Clemson has probably the best fans in the conference, don't embarass themselves, but can't quite catch the perfect break. Nobody can doubt that they care deeply about their program, support it in an enviable manner or have a fair degree of success to show for it. But they are never quite able to sastify themselves, and the rain never falls just when they need it. All in all, probably the hardest program in the ACC to dislike - but partly because nobody feels truly threatened by them.

I thought they overcame the ugly incident against USC last year well, and really are a couple of heartbreaking losses away from being a serious Top 15 team. Of course, that's a broken record for the Tigers, though next year is shaping up well for them. Florida State looks like it's on the skids for a while, and the Atlantic division will be wide open. I won't be surprised at all to see T. Bowden in the ACC championship game and not his father.

MarylandHefty Smurf

The strongest Smurf of them all, but probably the dumbest as well. Capable of feats of strength nobody else can match, including finally toppling Florida State as the conference ruler, but also capable of following that up with a big fat nothing in the next few seasons. Fridge is a terrific coach, but this program is wandering the wilderness right now instead of flexing the muscles they showed off earlier. Still capable of the occasional shocking display, but mostly just bumbling around.

I need a Maryland fan to explain to me what on earth is going on in College Park. Is it recruting failures? Talent just not panning out? Those hideous black uniforms? Maryland looked like they were jumping to the big time, and instead just took a header off the high dive. Speaking of Hefty Smurf, could Fridge eat Mangino? Maybe the other way around?

Wake ForestHarmony Smurf

Harmony Smurf badly wants to be a great musician, but just has no talent. Wake Forest fans would really support a true winner but their team just doesn't have the talent either. Everything else is there, and Grobe is a heck of a coach, but in the end it just comes down to players on the field and Wake hasn't had many truly BCS caliber guys. Maybe Harmony Smurf will finally break through to play the music he so desires to, and maybe Wake will routinely get players equal to the rest of the conference, but both are unlikely to happen. Still though, they get the most out of what they have and have no reason to hang their heads. Wake is the littlest brother of the Big 4, and thus always suffers the comparison to the two big state schools and the enormous wealthy obnoxious neighbor, but they handle their business well and have one of the best run athletic departments in the country, especially considering the constraints they operate under.

NC StateSnappy Smurf

Oh dear, what a ball of energy. From week to week, no fanbase in America goes through such violent mood swings. At the beginning of a season they are going to compete for a national championship, by the middle of the season they want to fire the coach, and then by the end it's another year of excitement over going bowling while the Tar Heels don't. And this just isn't football, the basketball fans yo-yo around even more, if that was possible. I have no idea if Chuck Amato is a good coach or a complete clown, and if you ask State fans you'll get a different answer each week depending on the result of the previous game. This program badly needs a chance to just calm down, but the insanity that is the NC State fans will never allow to happen. Raleigh is never boring, that is for sure.

(all pictures from smurfs.com)


Blogger Dan said...

I don't know whether to be impressed or frightened by this article. I think it's a little bit of both.

12:07 PM  
Blogger J A Greer said...

Well thought out, creative, good job.

Oh yeah, I am one of the contributors to a Clemson blog:

CU Sporting News.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

Before you start planning wacky moon trips, you might want to start with more reasonable goals, say, getting out of Charlottesville alive.

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Blogger Nathan said...

How about just not going to Charlottesville to begin with?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maryland's Problems boils down to one issue, quarterback. In a way they are similar to the Ravens. Each had glory with a good but not great quarterback who didn't make mistakes ( Dilfer and McBrien), some smart play calling, and a good defense. Now both are mired with either underprepared quarterbacks (Wright and Steffy), or injured quarterbacks who don't play to their potential and make stupid mistakes. ( Boller and Hollenbach). Plus they have missed out on some big name home state recruits like D.Williams and the D linemen for Notre Dame whose name escapes me.

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hahaha! I especially like the Vanity Smurf one and the comment about Groh. You're not the only one who knows he stinks!:


9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Duke might suck at football but they have facilities better than alot of schools in the ACC for football.

Big multimillion dollar gift for it - it's at the stadium but behind it on the sidelines.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maryland, the "Free State" below the Mason Dixon line?

1:22 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

The Mason-Dixon Line is the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania. So yes, UMD is south of it.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're an idiot. Maybe we should be baby smurf because with the two latest recruiting classes we should pretty much be kicking UNC, Wake Forest, Maryland and State's ass in the next two to three years. Also our facilities are better than most in the ACC now.

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...

I am a Clemson fan and my blood runneth orange. Here's a tip - look out for the Tigers next year!!

5:32 AM  
Blogger Gregory said...

Maryland's problem? Two years ago, no quarterback. Last year, no kicker. In the VTech game, we missed about seven field goals - including SHORTING a 25 yarder. The 10-3 loss to GT a couple years ago was pretty emblematic. Quarterbacks have just been MIA.

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

let me guess, Va Tach fan? your giving them a little too much credit,head of the ACC? not likely, miami or even florida state is much better, they at least have had national championships before i honestly think clemson could take VA Tech with better coaching

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if my first comment sounded kind of harsh, i didnt mean for it too, i just think u give VA Tech too much credit, they didnt take a leave of absence in the miami, they just got straight up owned, but honestly a very clever and well writen article

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