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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

ACC Round Table: Rivalry Edition. This Week We're Hosting!

Well, it's the final week of the season, Rivalry Week, and it's also the final regular season edition of the ACC Round Table. I'm hosting this week and figured to toss out some rivalry-themed questions. I even managed to sneak in a barbecue question at the end with a rivalry twist.

My (yes, Brandon, insanely long) questions and their answers follow. You can find all of our Round Table contestants' entries here (yes, Block-C, I totally ripped your HTML).

From Old Virginia | College Game Balls | Gobbler Country
Jim Young, ACC Sports Journal | From the Rumble Seat | BCInterruption
Block-C | On the B.Rink

1) The ACC scheduling gods really did their best this year to ensure a true "rivalry" week to conclude the season. Here in North Carolina, the two large state schools (N.C. State and Carolina) and the two smaller private schools (Duke and Wake) face off against one another. Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami, Virginia and Virginia Tech all face off against in-state foes. Even the Boston College/Maryland game has a twinge of regional flavor to it, pitting the two northern-most schools of the ACC against one another. On paper, is this the best rivalry week lineup in recent memory?

The overwhelming consensus was that this year's rivalry week--while scheduled to set the table for some interesting matchups--pretty much arrives DOA.

Brian from BCInterruption pretty much sums up everyone's thoughts:
As for the rest of the conference, on paper this might be one of the best rivalry week lineups in recent memory. But on the field, these games leave a lot to be desired. I'm not sure anyone will care outside of each team's respective regions. No team is playing for bowl eligibility. Clemson and Georgia Tech are playing for nothing more than bragging rights. Only one of four NC teams is going bowling. Florida State is a three touchdown underdog to the Gators. Miami (Fla.)-South Florida isn't a rivalry game with only one game ever played between the two programs. And I'm sure Virginia Tech will take again take Virginia to the woodshed.

Nice attempt by the league's scheduling office, but much like this year's college football season, rivalry week seems to be a bit of a dud.
The rest of the questions and answers follow. Warning: Dial-up users, proceed with caution...massive text-age ahead.


2) Clemson and Georgia Tech will face one another in the ACC title game. Do you think both teams facing out-of-conference rivals the week prior will help or hurt either team's performance in the big game, depending on the outcomes of these rivalry games?

There wasn't quite the same consensus on this question as the first. Jim Young makes a case for these rivalry games being a negative the week prior to the title tilt:
I think it actually hurts their performances this week. It’s a weird situation. Whoever heard of a rivalry game as a potential “trap game”? Yet in the grand scheme of things, the games in Columbia and Atlanta don’t mean nearly as much as the one in Tampa.

Put it this way. Let’s say C.J. Spiller’s bum toe really starts acting up in the second quarter against the Gamecocks. Should Dabo Swinney rest him in the second half to make sure Spiller is ready to go the following week?

Ordinarily there’s no question about what Swinney should do. This week it’s at least debatable.
Gobbler Country takes a differing, more succinct look at it:
If you can't get up for a rivalry game you have no right to be in the conference title game. I vote that if they lose it should count as two ACC losses.
Winfield of From The Rumble Seat introduces math into the equation (which really hurts the brain on a Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving):
If we were only considering BCS championship games, the numbers don't really indicate much. Teams that lost their regular season finale are 6-8 all time in conference title games since the first SEC title game in 1992. Teams that lost the conference title game are 25-9 coming into the title game while teams that won the title game are 26-7-1 in their last regular season contest. I'm not jinxing GT or CU by any means because 18 out of 34 BCS conference title games were played by teams that both won their last regular season games. One game, the 1993 SEC title was played between two season finale losers - UF and Bammer.

To answer the question, yes, if either lose their finale, they'll lose the championship game. We're basing this thought on GT's demoralization in 2006 after a terrible loss to the dogs and eventual loss to the Demon Deacons (that, and Pat Nix). Clemson and GT don't deserve to play such pathetic SEC teams to finish the season but alas they are. If either gets upset, it'll be a pretty big blow to the ACC and the respective school's psyche going into the ACCCG.
Everyone seems to agree, however, that the potential for injuries is heightened in a rivalry game and that could have a big impact on the title game picture.

3) It's the tail end of the season and you know what that means: Coaching Carousel Time! I'm a firm believer in giving a coach five years to prove his worth before even considering a change...at least I was, until I saw how quickly Paul Johnson and Brian Kelly turned their respective programs into top-10 squads. With an ever-increasing desire from fanbases to WIN NOW, is five years still "industry standard," or can coaches legitimately be expected to show marked improvement in four years or less before finding a pink slip in their inbox? How bad would a situation have to be to fairly jettison a head coach before year five?

For this question, we turn first to From Old Virginia, the blogger representing the school with perhaps the most embattled head coach in the league in Al Groh.
I think it's perfectly fair to shorten that to three or four years. By year four, you've got all your guys in place and there's absolutely no excuses about learning a new system. You should be hitting your stride. Industry standard should be four, and if after three years the program is still foundering and there appears to be no reason to expect any improvement in the next season, then dropping the axe is also fair.
Jim Young of ACCSports.com weighs in with a broader perspective:
I still think five years is a good standard. Yes, Paul Johnson has made an immediate impact, but it also helps to make that impact when the previous coach has left you Jonathan Dwyer, Demaryius Thomas, Derrick Morgan, Morgan Burnett … you get my point. Plus, Johnson also happened to inherit a quarterback with the physical skills to run his system. Rich Rodriguez did not, and we all know how well that’s going at Michigan.

Speaking of RichRod, he may be the answer to that last question. Personally, I think he deserves more time. I believe his system can win. But right now, his abrasive personality isn’t helping fans of Big Blue stay patient.
Brandon from On The B.Rink uses Clemson's situation to illustrate his point:
Look at Clemson, possibly Bowden could have done what Dabo did this season with how inconsistent the Atlantic has been–but Swinney brought a whole new mentality to Clemson football and they are going to Tampa now. The five years theory really should depend upon the talent level he is left with–I don’t know how you gauge that though, but in some cases, it is clear. Sticking with the Clemson example, there is no way that Dabo gets 5 years if he went 6-6 four years in a row. Ultimately, there is no fairness in college coaching these days–you either win or your gone. I would say it is down to 3 years now for the standard and even that is kinda shaky.
And Willy Mac follows up with the Clemson perspective:
I think it depends on the situation, but three to five should be the given norm. Agreeing to this only fuels the beast that is the “What have you done for me lately attitude.” It’s a disgusting outlook on the game. Again, I said it depends on the situation. If Dabo had come in and laid two stank seasons in a row, I wouldn’t even want to give him a third. Especially if we lost to Carolina or did not so great in recruiting. In the end, five years still is and should be the industry standard. Hell, we gave our last coach twice that.
Winfield of From The Rumble Seat with the view of a school benefiting from the rapid success of a recent hire:
We gave Chan six years to show some marked improvement. He got some helluva good recruits but couldn't achieve the GT fanbase's collective goals: beat Georgie and win the ACC every once in a while. All in all, he is remembered for 6 failures against Georgie and big time flops against quality ACC teams. When he had time to scheme, he was a great coach. In games where there was no external motivation, his teams played like crap (ala Duke and UNC games).

It's all relative. Some coaches need time to rebuild programs like Wannstedt at Pitt while others can build instantly because of their unique offenses and the personnel they inherited (Paul Johnson).
Bottom line: There seems to be no real "standard." Coaching hiring, firing and the validity of a coach's seat temperature all differ on a case-by-case basis.

4) Certainly the four-letter network likes to pimp the big rivalries--Ohio State Vs. Michigan, Texas Vs. Oklahoma, etc.--but I think the ACC has quite a few solid rivalries that never get the coverage they deserve. Where do you think your school's rivalry rates in terms of passion, prestige and what's at stake each season? What steps--beyond the obvious "win more"--could be taken to improve the visibility of your team's rivalry matchup every year?

Brian from BCInterruption brings the funny:

Since BC doesn't have a rivalry game this week, I'll focus on the other ACC rivalries and what can be done to improve the visibility of these games:

  • Florida-Florida State - send ESPN College Gameday to campus to create buzz for a game that features a 21 point underdog (check)
  • Georgia Tech-Georgia - the Rambling Wreck runs over the next Uga. Too soon?
  • Clemson-South Carolina - more above .500 seasons for South Carolina in the SEC
  • NC State-North Carolina - these two teams play in a very rare college football doubleheader - in the final regular season game and the ACC Championship (try to hold back your laughter)
  • Wake Forest-Duke - disband both school's basketball programs citing budget shortfalls
  • Virginia-Virginia Tech - UVa hires Bud Foster as HC
  • Miami-South Florida - play more games against one another
Willy from Block-C offers his version of "reality:"
Honestly, as a traditionalist I have to say ours is the best. Now as a realist, I have to say ours is the best. In the nation. Just because more schools have more fans that will disagree a la a Texas or a Michigan, doesn’t mean I’m not right. And for those that nay say, let me ask you this: Has your rivalry ever reached the point of on field fisticuffs? Hell, one year way back in the day when Clemson lost Big Thursday down in Columbia our Cadets started taking shit over and forcefully held Cola with rifles until our professors went down there and calmed things down.
The folks in Virginia weigh in.

Not very high. The combination of basically almost never having both teams be good at the same time and not having anything tangible to play for (i.e., Michigan/Ohio State lore is founded on the Rose Bowl as the every-year prize) combined to make the Virginia instate rivalry not too important in national eyes. And yes, "win more" would be a huge plus. But I think the right step has already been taken, and in 2007, it came to fruition, with the winner earning the ACCCG berth and the game on national TV. With the two teams in the same division, there's a good chance each year that the outcome of the game will have some kind of effect on the division title. That'll slowly but surely increase visibility.
The Commonwealth Cup would become more than just a blip on the national radar if Virginia was more relevant and won the game once in a while. A rivalry loses its luster when one team continually shows up, gets slaughtered and is eaten up.
And Gobbler Country with a very solid idea:
I said this in the summer. The Hokies and Hoos need a better trophy. The Commonwealth Cup is stupid, should be replaced with something awesome and I think it should be a giant bust of George Washington. He was the father of our country and from Virginia, so he's a perfect choice. I want to see Virginia Tech seniors carry ol' George above their heads and I want to hear our fans chanting "we want head" as the second tick away on a Hokie victory. Other than winning, I think that's the best step to improving the visibility of our rivalry.
To follow up on Gobbler's point, I think the State/Carolina game needs a trophy, as well. In fact I tackled this proposition last season and, well, it's barbecue-themed. I may in fact be somewhat obsessed with barbecue.

Which brings me to the final and least-topical question of the affair:

5) Few rivalries in the South have as much tradition, passion and generated as much heated discussion as a good ol' fashioned barbecue debate. Here in North Carolina it's Eastern versus Lexington style, and a good many shouting matches have arisen between folks east of I-95 and those godless heathens that put ketchup and brown sugar in their "dip." No doubt similar verbal wars have been waged on behalf of your favorite barbecue, as well, so the question is this: In an all-out, Armageddon-type scenario where the righteous are separated from the unholy on the basis of what type of barbecue they bring to the judgment table, what style of barbecue are you bringing and who--among the purveyors of this style of 'cue in your state--will you select to be your Champion?

Perhaps no question divided the group into opposite camps than this. The answers ran from CGB's "Fuck barbecue" and FOV's "I might have gone to school in the South but I was born and raised in the North. And besides that, Virginia isn't really the barbecuing epicenter of the world anyway. You want barbecue debates, go to Alabama or something," to On The B.Rink's "This is quite an awesome question," and a range of answers in between.

Instead of condensing their opinions into bite-sized nuggets, I'll risk breaking the internets, throw caution to the wind and just repost their answers all in full. (If it took your machine five minutes to download this entry, I apologize in advance. And thanks to all the Round Table participants for their entries! Visit their sites! Click on their ads! Make them money!)

Brian from BCInterruption:
Eastern style? Lexington style? Hell if I know. I'll go with Brother Jimmy's style (the one on the Upper East Side, not the one near the Garden). Which type of barbecue is that?
College Game Balls:
Fuck barbecue, in Virginia we’re all about ham. But, if you’re putting a gun to my head, which if I read between the lines you are, I’m slow smoking my meats over a combination of charcoal and maple chips slathered in my homemade (Sweet Baby Ray’s) honey barbecue sauce.
From Old Virginia:
Alright, look, man. I might have gone to school in the South but I was born and raised in the North. And besides that, Virginia isn't really the barbecuing epicenter of the world anyway. You want barbecue debates, go to Alabama or something. It's not that we don't like barbecue, but damn if we don't find it a bit silly that you care that damn much. We don't really expect you to know the right way to order a coney dog or care which of the two rival establishments you get it from (and if you don't know what the hell I'm talking about or who these establishments are then you get the point), and we don't want to be pulled into a knock-down, drag-out fight over who has too much vinegar in their sauce.
On The B.Rink:
This is quite an awesome question. BBQ is so different from one part of the country to another. My parents grew up in Upstate NY and BBQ to them was chicken in a special vinegar-based sauce(good stuff too). In Memphis where I once lived, it was all about Gridley’s. In South Carolina now, there is a BBQ place on every corner seemingly that is not occupied by a church. My favorite now is the pork BBQ with a tomato-based sauce at Ole Country Smokehouse in Anderson, SC as mustard-based is gross(though they offer this also).
From The Rumble Seat:
Winfield wants a mustard base and Dane licks his chops when he hears "Mrs. Griffin's Barbecue sauce". Bird is a communist and doesn't like pork so he doesn't understand.
Because I don't live in the Commonwealth, I really can't give you a good answer for Virginny. But here in the 405 we are fortunate enough to have the best BBQ sauce I've ever experienced, Head Country. So even when you run into the occasional restaurant that has no idea how to cook a pig, you're still good to go if you have a bottle of Head Country. The best way to tell people who know BBQ vs. those who don't is ribs. If they like beef ribs, they aren't to be trusted and you're best to distance yourself from them. If they like pork ribs, they're good people. Virginia Tech = pork ribs. france = beef ribs.
Jim Young, ACCSports.com:
You’re putting me in an impossible position here. Whatever answer I give will earn me angry emails from whichever barbecue constituency I ignore.

It’s very similar to the questions about job openings that coaches get this time of year.

So allow me to use a little coachspeak in my answer.

“I’m extremely happy with my current style of barbecue. As of right now I have absolutely no reason to consider other styles. I look forward to many, many years of eating the style of barbecue that I prefer.”
And finally, Block-C's Willy Mac with the best answer of them all:
I don’t know where Chili stands on this issue, but as a man with an underground pig pit that I built myself in my backyard, I’ve found that three things are most important when talking about barbecue: BBQ is smoked pork, anything other meat doesn’t qualify; Never trust a BBQ joint that doesn’t serve both pulled and chopped pork; a sweeter sauce or mustard-based sauce are best for serving company. Personally, I love the Cheerwine sauce from Smokin’ Stokes off Augusta Road here in Greenville for any application on any meat. I’ve found through personal experience though that if you cook your pig with time and care, the people eating the pig shouldn’t need too much sauce. You need a nice seasoning and salt application to begin with. The next important part is consistency in temperature and the type of wood you use to smoke the beast. Lastly, when you flip the pig lather it with a whole jar of honey on the tenderloins, butts, and any other portion you deem necessary.
There you have it. God bless you if you made it this far. Even if the games don't have much riding on them, it should be a good final weekend of ACC football.

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