Here are the 2020 ACC standings.
So we know what each team achieved, but how did they perform? To answer that, here are the Yards Per Play (YPP), Yards Per Play Allowed (YPA) and Net Yards Per Play (Net) numbers for each ACC team. This includes conference play only, with the championship game not included. The teams are sorted by Net YPP with conference rank in parentheses.
College football teams play either eight or nine conference games (typically fewer in 2020). Consequently, their record in such a small sample may not be indicative of their quality of play. A few fortuitous bounces here or there can be the difference between another ho-hum campaign or a special season. Randomness and other factors outside of our perception play a role in determining the standings. It would be fantastic if college football teams played 100 or even 1000 games. Then we could have a better idea about which teams were really the best. Alas, players would miss too much class time, their bodies would be battered beyond recognition, and I would never leave the couch. As it is, we have to make do with the handful of games teams do play. In those games, we can learn a lot from a team’s YPP. Since 2005, I have collected YPP data for every conference. I use conference games only because teams play such divergent non-conference schedules and the teams within a conference tend to be of similar quality. By running a regression analysis between a team’s Net YPP (the difference between their Yards Per Play and Yards Per Play Allowed) and their conference winning percentage, we can see if Net YPP is a decent predictor of a team’s record. Spoiler alert. It is. For the statistically inclined, the correlation coefficient between a team’s Net YPP in conference play and their conference record is around .66. Since Net YPP is a solid predictor of a team’s conference record, we can use it to identify which teams had a significant disparity between their conference record as predicted by Net YPP and their actual conference record. I used a difference of .200 between predicted and actual winning percentage as the threshold for ‘significant’. Why .200? It is a little arbitrary, but .200 corresponds to a difference of 1.6 games over an eight game conference schedule and 1.8 games over a nine game one. Over or under-performing by more than a game and a half in a small sample seems significant to me. In the 2020 season, which teams in the ACC met this threshold? Here are ACC teams sorted by performance over what would be expected from their Net YPP numbers.D'Eriq King to tight wins against Virginia, NC State, and Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, both of their conference losses game in blowout fashion. The Hurricanes were crushed by Clemson and North Carolina by a combined 61 points. On the other end of the luck spectrum, Louisville finished 0-4 in one-score conference games and had the second worst in-conference turnover margin (-11) behind Duke.
Florida State's Absurd Run as a Conference Favorite
2020 marked the fourth consecutive season Florida State finished with an ACC record of .500 or worse. Their 2-6 conference record was their worst since joining the ACC in 1993. I'm not a fan of kicking someone while they are down, unless of course there is almost no chance they can get back up and exact some revenge, so I decided to look back on happier times for Florida State fans. Thanks to the fantastic database at Goldsheet and my handy Phil Steele magazines, we can look back at the point spread for every Florida State game since they joined the conference and compare their run of dominance to contemporaries like Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Oklahoma.
When Florida State began ACC play in 1993, they were head and shoulders above the rest of their conference brethren. The Seminoles were double digit favorites in all eight of their conference games in 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1996. In fact, the first conference game in which they were not a double digit favorite was their penultimate conference game in 1997 (their 39th overall) when they were laying a touchdown in Chapel Hill against Mack Brown's final (first run) North Carolina team.
Bookmakers and the general public likely remembered the previous year's battle in Tallahassee when North Carolina allowed just one touchdown in a 13-0 loss. The Tar Heel defense played well again in 1997, but the Tar Heels could only muster a field goal a 20-3 defeat.
From that point on, Florida State was a double digit favorite in their final conference game of 1997, and all their conference games in 1998, 1999, and 2000. In 2001, the Seminoles showed their mortality in a surprising shellacking at North Carolina, losing 41-9 to a team coached by John Bunting. That loss didn't stop them from being heavy favorites. They were double digit favorites in their next two conference games before hosting unbeaten and tenth ranked Maryland. The Seminoles were eight point favorites against the Terps, marking the first time they were laying less than ten points to an ACC team at home (in their 69th conference game).
The Seminoles beat the Terps handily in that game, but Maryland would not lose again in the regular season and won the ACC becoming the first outright champion other than Florida State since the Seminoles joined the league.
Despite losing their stranglehold on ACC dominance, Florida State was favored (though not by double digits) in all their conference games in 2002 and 2003. Finally, in their conference opener in 2004 (in their 89th conference game) the Seminoles were underdogs at ACC newcomer Miami.
Although the Seminoles were underdogs, this was Miami's first game as an ACC team meaning the Seminoles had yet to be an underdog to any of the eight teams that were there when they joined in 1993. The Seminoles were favored in their other seven conference games.
This trend would continue for sometime. In their conference opener in 2005, the Seminoles were home underdogs in a conference game for the first time (97th conference game) against...Miami.
The Seminoles were favored in their other seven conference games.
Once again, in 2006, the Seminoles were underdogs at Miami, but were favored in their other seven conference games. Finally, in 2007, the Seminoles were underdogs twice in conference play. And neither team was Miami. However, both teams (Boston College and Virginia Tech) were also newcomers to the ACC, having joined in 2004 (Virginia Tech) and 2005 (Boston College) meaning the Seminoles had still not been an underdog to the other eight ACC teams that were there when they joined in 1993.
Finally, in their fifth conference game of the 2008 season (125th conference game), the Seminoles were underdogs at Georgia Tech.
This marked the first time they were not favored against one of the other long-tenured conference members. The malaise of the end of the Bowden era continued in 2009, with the Seminoles going off as underdogs three times. The Seminoles were underdogs at North Carolina, Clemson, and even Wake Forest!
When Jimbo Fisher took the reigns in 2010, things improved. The Seminoles were conference underdogs once in 2010 (at Miami) and 2011 (at Clemson), but then began another brief era of dominance. They were double digit favorites in all their conference games in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Then in 2015, the unthinkable happened. The Seminoles were double digit underdogs in ACC play for the first time, catching 10.5 at Clemson (183rd conference game).
In 2016, the Seminoles were home underdogs to Clemson, marking the first time they were home underdogs to one of the other long-tenured ACC members. They were double digit underdogs at Clemson once again in 2017. While that may have seemed like a low point for the Seminoles, things were about to get worse.
In Willie Taggart's first season in 2018, the Seminoles were underdogs four times in ACC play, marking the first time they were not favored in at least half their conference games. 2019 was not any better with the Seminoles once again going off as betting underdogs four times in conference play. Finally, in 2020, Mike Norvell's first season, the Seminoles were underdogs six times in the eight conference games they managed to play. While we weep for the Seminoles dominance that is no longer with us, we should also admire it. The Seminoles were favored in their first 88 conference games (eleven seasons worth of games). How does that compare to the current crop of elite teams?
Pretty favorably (note these numbers are regular season only, so conference title games are excluded). Alabama has the longest active streak of being favored in conference play, but would still need to go five more years as a favorite in every conference game to match Florida State's streak. Clemson would need to be favored in all their conference games for more than six years to pass the Seminoles. Oklahoma, with a nine-game conference season, would need to be favored for nearly seven more years and Ohio State has more than eight years to go.
Florida State may be down at the moment, but their fans can always wax nostalgic about the 90's and early 00's. The ACC may not have been a football power, but Florida State's dominance deserves to be acknowledged.