ElViento: Since summer means it’s time to start looking forward to football, I’ve decided to check out how well Conference USA performs against other conferences in football. All figures listed are since 2005, the year that C-USA became cemented at its current twelve schools.
The Atlantic Coast Conference
Conference USA Record vs. the ACC: 7-14 (.333)
Helping the Cause: East Carolina has gone an impressive 5-5 against the ACC.
Making us Look Bad: Marshall has lost both of their match-ups against the ACC by a combined score of 72-17.
Toughest Opponent: Miami has gone 3-0 against C-USA, with wins over Houston, Marshall and UCF.
Punching Bag: Playing .500 ball doesn’t exactly make you a punching bag, but I’m guessing that North Carolina State isn’t thrilled with their 3-3 mark against C-USA.
Just Can’t Get Enough: Those six games make NC State the most frequent ACC opponent for C-USA.
Ducking Us: Georgia Tech, Clemson and Maryland have all failed to schedule a single C-USA team.
Most Impressive Win: Four different Pirates ran for a TD in a 2006 tilt against Virginia. The Cavaliers would go on to win four games in ACC play, but trailed ECU by 17 at the half, and never really made it close in a 31-21 Pirate victory. Not a bad win, considering that ECU was just a middling C-USA team that year, with a 5-3 conference mark.
Most Disappointing Loss: The Houston Cougars were 4-0, and on their way to a C-USA title in 2006, but they found a way to lose to a mediocre Miami team. Leading 13-7 in the third quarter, a crucial Jackie Battle fumble turned the tide in favor of the Hurricanes, who eked out a 14-13 victory.
Best Game: In a season-opening battle of two eventual conference champions in 2008, East Carolina out-Beamered a Frank Beamer team, with T.J. Lee blocking a punt and returning it for a late Touchdown to decide a 27-22 win for the Pirates over Virginia Tech.
Biggest Blowout: It may not be a coincidence that the Rice Owls haven’t played an ACC team since a 55-7 slaughter at the hands of Florida State in 2006. Jarrett Dillard was the game’s leading receiver, but that’s about all that went right for the Owls, as seven different Seminoles were credited with a TD, and two different FSU running backs racked up 100+ yards.
Moral Victory: It all comes back to East Carolina. While it still went down as a Loss in the scorebooks, the Pirates had to feel good about at least staying close with Virginia Tech in 2007, before succumbing by a score of 17-7. VT went on to win 11 games, and the ACC title, and ECU went on to beat the Hokies the following year.
Upcoming Schedule: In 2009, ECU takes on North Carolina and Virginia Tech, Marshall also takes on the Hokies, Southern Miss hosts Virginia, and UCF hosts Miami.
Best Hope for Victory: If Damion Fletcher and DeAndre Brown are ready when Southern Miss takes on Virginia on September 19th, the Golden Eagles could take home a victory. Sans stud WR Hakeem Nicks (NFL draft), UNC looks vulnerable against ECU, too.
Hide the Children: When Marshall travels to Blacksburg, I’d be surprised if Virginia Tech’s not resting the regulars by halftime.
Cougar Connection: The painful loss to Miami is Houston’s only game against ACC competition since 2002.
Did You Know?: Conference USA has been pretty good at picking lower-tier ACC teams to play. Before Boston College (5-3) beat UCF in 2008, the only ACC team to put up a winning record in conference play, and play a C-USA team the same year had been Virginia Tech.