Days after Thanksgiving, it’s appropriate to give some thanks that we’ve made it this far through a college football season that was always in doubt. Is it going to happen, is it not — that was the question back in August and, against all odds, we’ve made it this far.
Well, sort of. There’s been lots of weirdness, which was to be expected. Charlotte has played only five games. Wake Forest seven. Clemson had a game called off the morning of, at Florida State. Duke went from a scheduled game against Florida State this weekend, to one against Miami, pick-up-basketball style. Who’s got next?
The finish line is in sight, and yet it’s fair to wonder if the entire enterprise is being a little bit greedy, too. Virus cases are spiking around the country. Different places are shutting back down to varying degrees. The very act of just staging a game seems to be becoming more difficult.
And so, a thought: Just pack it in and get to the playoffs. Play the conference championship games, sure. But the rest of it? Does the world really need Miami at Duke on Saturday night? Or Charlotte and Western Kentucky on Tuesday morning? (Which was the plan until it was canceled at lunchtime Monday.) Feels like every week the season continues, the ending grows more in doubt.
Onto the latest All-Carolina poll:
1. Clemson (8-1, 7-1 ACC)
Previous ranking: 1
Last week: W vs. Pittsburgh, 52-17
Up next: at Virginia Tech, Saturday
Looking at the Clemson-Pitt box score, I’m reminded of the sort of thing that Jeff Bzdelik used to say during his comically bad tenure as Wake Forest’s basketball coach: If you take out the [insert reference to terrible stretch of play here], it was actually pretty competitive. If you take out Clemson’s 31-0 first quarter on Saturday, it was actually pretty competitive. Alas.
2. Coastal Carolina (9-0, 7-0 Sun Belt)
Previous ranking: 2
Last week: W at Texas State, 49-14
Up next: vs. Liberty, Saturday
Coastal Carolina will host ESPN’s College GameDay on Saturday before its top-25 matchup against the 25th-ranked Flames of Liberty. It’s a shame that college football’s playoff is so limited, because it would be intriguing to see how Coastal’s defense, which certainly seems plenty legit, would hold up against the likes of a Clemson.
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) November 30, 2020
3. North Carolina (6-3, 6-3 ACC)
Previous ranking: 3
Last week: L vs. Notre Dame, 31-17
Up next: vs. Western Carolina, Saturday
Shades of early 2000s N.C. State going on at UNC these days, where the Tar Heels have a great quarterback (the way State did with Philip Rivers back in the day) and excellent complementary offensive skill players, but are still missing some pieces. Notre Dame exposed UNC’s suspect offensive line, which stands to get better with experience. But by how much, and when?
4. NC State (7-3, 6-3 ACC)
Previous ranking: 4
Last week: W at Syracuse, 36-29
Up next: vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday
You don’t know comedy until you’re driving around on a Saturday and hear State radio play-by-play man Gary Hahn yell, “And light the belltower red!” after Syracuse’s quarterback spikes the ball on fourth down in the final seconds, securing a Wolfpack victory. What a silly ending to an ugly game. And yet, State won the kind of game it so often loses.
5. Appalachian State (7-2, 5-1 Sun Belt)
Previous ranking: 6
Last week: W vs. Troy, 47-10
Up next: vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Friday
Time for some Sun Belt trivia to impress your friends: Did you know that App has never lost to Louisiana-Lafayette? It’s true. Mountaineers are 8-0 all-time in this series, though the game Friday figures to be more of a challenge. The Ragin’ Cajuns have lost but once, and only by a field goal against Coastal Carolina.
6. Wake Forest (4-3, 3-3 ACC)
Previous ranking: 5
Last week: off
Up next: vs. Notre Dame, Dec. 12
If it feels like Wake Forest hasn’t been playing much football of late, that’s not an illusion. Things were squirrely, and they’re becoming squirrelier. The Demon Deacons were supposed to play Miami this weekend, but that’s already off the schedule. Now they’ll plan to play Notre Dame in a week and a half. Wake played but one game in November.
7. South Carolina (2-7, 2-7 SEC)
Previous ranking: 8
Last week: L vs. Georgia, 45-16
Up next: at Kentucky, Saturday
Let’s use this space to talk about coaching candidates. Or at least one who’d make for a decent candidate. One name that’s not getting any run but perhaps should: Larry Fedora. If not for some bad luck at quarterback, and an uncanny run of injuries, he just might still be at UNC. Offensively, at least, he’d inject some energy into a program that needs it.
8. East Carolina (3-6, 3-5 AAC)
Previous ranking: 9
Last week: W vs. Southern Methodist, 52-38
Up next: Season complete
The Pirates lost six of their first seven games and had lost four in a row before ending the season with consecutive victories against Temple and SMU. No, they won’t give out trophies for that sort of thing, but give ECU credit: It could’ve called it a season amid that four-game losing streak, but didn’t. That sort of resilience can carry over into an off-season, and into next year.
9. Duke (2-7, 1-7 ACC)
Previous ranking: 7
Last week: L at Georgia Tech, 56-33
Up next: vs. Miami, Saturday
If Duke’s football season were an emoji, it’d be that one that’s grimacing and wearing an expression of, “Yikes.” Granted, you can’t really take too much away from a season that’s gone off the rails in a pandemic year, but still. Now the Blue Devils’ swan song is a primetime finale against Miami, which it didn’t know it was playing until a couple days ago.
10. Charlotte (2-3, 2-1, Conference USA)
Previous ranking: 10
Last week: off
Up next: vs. FIU, Saturday
You need an abacus, or something, to keep track of all of Charlotte’s scheduling changes, and the number of times games have been called off. The 49ers will make it through November without playing a game. Their game scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday was canceled less than 24 hours before kickoff and the status for their game Saturday against Florida International — a make-up of a previously postponed game — is still TBD.