We’re about as close to the halfway point in the regular season as you can get with all teams having played either five or six games, so now seems like a good time to take a look an inventory of what’s happened so far... through the eyes of some advanced metrics!
Taking a look at how the teams have progressed week-by-week in the eyes of both the F/+ and Sagarin rankings tells a good story, and one that’s pretty well reflected in the ol’ Eye Test, too.
Graphing out the average weekly rankings of F/+ and Sagarin gives us this:
With an eye on the above data, teams can start to be dropped into a few broad buckets and also some groupings/tiers. Let’s look at the buckets first.
There’s the Dennis Green bucket, the teams (Clemson, Duke) who have pretty much lived up to preseason expectations. For the Tigers, that is a national title contending team, and for the Blue Devils, that’s a team that should spend the season in the ‘Others Receiving Votes’ realm of the major national polls.
There’s the Overachievers bucket, which really could be further divided into two buckets. NC State and Miami are teams that were expected to be hanging around with Duke in that ORV realm, but have displayed results worthy of higher expectations. Syracuse and Virginia have also been punching above where most expected them to be, but those expectations were much lower to begin with, so while they are both certainly teams on the rise, they’re still not ready to challenge this year in their respective divisions. Bowl games are in their futures, though.
Unfortunately for the ACC as a conference and a brand, eight of the fourteen conference teams fit into one of the last two buckets.
There’s the As Seen On TV bucket, the teams that - while not terrible - aren’t quite living up the billing. Boston College and Virginia Tech are teams that aren’t as good as they were thought to be, but still hold their destiny in their hands (especially for VT at 2-0 in conference play). Georgia Tech is a team that struggled for the first few weeks of the season, but is looking like they’re coming into the always dangerous Paul Johnson form now; however, with two ACC losses already against them, their division title chances have all but vanished at this point.
And finally there’s the Titanic bucket, those teams whose seasons are either slipping beneath the waves or are completely sunk at this point. Florida State, based on talent alone, can beat anyone, but... sheesh... it’s been ugly for the Seminoles so far under Willie Taggart. Pittsburgh has alternated between looking like hot garbage and looking like a midrange ACC team, yet at 2-1 in ACC play, they still somehow control their destiny. Wake Forest is not nearly as good as people were expecting in Year 5 of the Dave Clawson era, but they still at least have a capable, if inconsistent, offense.
Louisville and North Carolina might as well just mail it in now. Those teams are horrible and it’s still (hilariously) only getting worse.
The buckets aren’t completely fair, though, as they lump some teams that aren’t on the same plane right now. Looking at where each of these teams is sitting and based on their trajectory, there are six groupings/tiers that can be determined:
Then again, this is the ACC, so you can bet none of this will hold up over the 2nd half of the year...