Football Outsiders' F/+ ACC Rankings and Some Love for Huxtable

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

Things are never as bad as they seem.

We haven't posted power rankings in a bit because, well, the pain. But the Football Outsiders' F/+ rankings should suffice. One could argue that Wake Forest belongs in the 11-12 range since it actually has won two league games, and Clemson perhaps belongs above Virginia Tech. Nonetheless, five teams in the top 30 is pretty impressive for a league that is routinely panned for its 404-ness in football. And Louisville (10th) and Notre Dame (30th) would make it seven.

Team

F/+ Overall

F/+ Offense

F/+ Defense

F/+ Spec. Teams

Florida State

2

3

6

91

Virginia Tech

11

69

1

11

Clemson

23

25

18

85

Georgia Tech

27

20

37

23

Miami

29

6

84

57

Duke

37

34

52

30

North Carolina

41

28

53

84

Pittsburgh

52

66

33

100

Boston College

56

47

83

21

Syracuse

74

85

61

68

Maryland

78

88

77

26

N.C. State

81

103

49

46

Virginia

82

99

48

77

Wake Forest

84

110

39

64

While Boston College's power running attack does not appear to be a good matchup for the Pack, free-falling Maryland suddenly looks like a winnable game, or at least the closest thing to winnable for the ACC's second worst offense. East Carolina (#33 overall) is going to be a tough out. At this point of a season with vastly lowered expectations, sending the Terps out with a loss would be like washing this bitter pill of a season down with beer (sucked up through a straw extending from a frosty mug wedged in the cleft of your favorite SI swimsuit model's ample bosom). Sweet, wonderful beer from boobs.

Wait...where was I going? Ah, yes: to me, beating Maryland is the only thing that rivals beating UNC as far as satisfaction level goes. Either way, there will be beer. Lots of beer.

The chart above makes losses to Syracuse and Wake sting a bit more, but I suppose it is encouraging that the Pack had a chance to win going into the fourth quarter against three conference rivals ranked among the top third in the FBS. The team is not that far from going to infinity (if infinity = TOB-level mediocrity) and beyond if what appear to be improved recruiting results continue (and Jacoby Brissett proves serviceable at quarterback).

As we're quick to heap hellfire on the coaching staff when their strategies backfire, we should also offer an olive branch of love when something goes right. Dave Huxtable, you da man. Despite losing Earl Wolff and David Amerson to the NFL, not to mention a third secondary member in Brandan Bishop and two starting linebackers, N.C. State is a top 50 defense. The Pack are exactly where they were (49th) last season in the F/+ rankings, so kudos to Huxtable for not taking a step backwards while installing a new system to a lot of new faces.

Surprisingly, given that Wolff and Amerson have already seen time as starters as NFL rookies, it's the secondary that has led the Pack to respectability on defense. The Pack yield just 6.6 yards per opponent pass attempt, good for 30th in the nation; they gave up 7.1 YPA last year (60th). After being among the most blitz-happy, sack-tastic-but-big-play-givin'-up defenses under the two-headed Archer-Tenuta monster, Huxtable has scaled back the blitz at the expense of some negative plays. State got 2.5 sacks per game a year ago and 3.1 the year before that, respectively ranking 26th and 9th in the FBS, but are down to 1.9 (67th) this year. While rushing four may not get the quarterback on the ground as often, Huxtable's more conservative approach is limiting opponents' big plays. State surrendered 25 passes of 30+ yards last season, which ranked 111th in the FBS, and only Duke and Louisiana Tech gave up more bombs of 60+ yards than the five pulled off against the Pack last year. This year, State has surrendered just 11 strikes of 30+ yards (35th) and just one pass of 60+ yards (27th...26 teams are tied at 0).

If Brissett, as expected, proves to be a major upgrade at quarterback and execution in general improves in year two of the new offensive system, it's not hard to imagine the Pack placing a top 50 offense and defense on the field next season, something the program last achieved in 2010. The Pack were 9-4 that year and in the conversation for a division title into November. I'm pretty sure we would all take that in 2014. Amirite? (Also, am I crazy to even think it?)

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