Sunday, October 17, 2010

ACC's reputation takes another hit as N.C. State falls at ECU

The ACC’s dreadful season in football took another hit Saturday with East Carolina’s overtime victory over N.C. State. The league has only one team – No. 16 Florida State – ranked in the AP Top 25 anyway and seems to take another blow to its dwindling football reputation each week.

 You have to give the Pirates credit. Skip Holtz took a program that had collapsed under John Thompson and turned it into a Conference USA power. With Holtz gone, bringing in ECU graduate Ruffin McNeill seemed like a stretch, at best.

But McNeill’s creative offense and passion for the school has led to a 4-2 record for the first time since 2000. The defense has still held only one opponent under 27 points, but the Pirates were stout enough when they had to be against NCSU.

The loss for State is probably more annoying – given how the fan bases are interwoven – than devastating. The Wolfpack is still 5-2 and, at 2-1 in league play, on course for a critical game with Florida State in Raleigh on Thursday, Oct. 28. The winner of that could well wind up in Charlotte for the ACC title game.

State made great adjustments Saturday, reducing its number of defensive linemen to counter ECU’s passing attack. The Wolfpack's comeback, given the circumstances, was impressive. Mustafa Greene (16 carries, 75 yards) continued to emerge as threat at running back and Russell Wilson strafed ECU for 322 yards and a score, although his interception count continued to be high as he threw three more on Saturday.

But for the ACC, this was yet another smack in the gut. The dominant conferences continue to produce riveting games, like South Carolina’s upset of Alabama last week and Wisconsin’s stunner overOhio State Saturday, while the ACC bumbled along like the JV. Regionally, fans know that ECU beating a rival like N.C. State or North Carolina is no huge surprise, but nationally, it looks terrible for the ACC.

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