ACC mailblog: QB hype, Duke's sinking season, a two-loss champ

Only three ACC games on the docket Saturday, but we’ll dig into the mailbag anyway…

Context is everything when discussing the playoff, but odds are, any two-loss conference champion is going to have an uphill battle. I’m assuming your “friend” is a North Carolina fan, and while the Tar Heels have had an exceptionally tough schedule thus far, odds are those two FCS games will be a talking point again at year’s end if they’re within shouting distance of a playoff berth.

Now this is an intriguing question because the polls almost certainly would favor Louisville, and the committee would be within its guidelines to suggest that too. So sure, if, for example, North Carolina won the ACC with two losses, I’d expect Louisville to still be the higher-ranked team.

Two big problems with the Cardinals’ hopes for a playoff berth, however, would still exist. First, if the ACC title game was Clemson’s lone loss, it would be impossible to envision Louisville jumping the Tigers. And even if it was Clemson’s second loss, it’s tough to punish a team for playing an extra game. Additionally, the playoff committee has made it clear that it will select a conference champion unless there is clear evidence another team is superior, so while Louisville may fulfill that caveat compared with the ACC’s champ, it still would need some help from the Pac-12 and Big 12.

“Credit” is a tough term to define. The ACC tends to float beneath the radar nationally on a lot of subjects, but certainly Jameis Winston and Deshaun Watson and (to a lesser extent) Brad Kaaya have gotten plenty of love. The difference this year is that the depth of the ACC’s quarterback play has been on display while other leagues that usually put up a ton of points -- Big 12, Pac-12 -- haven’t had many star QBs emerge. So while the stars at the top aren’t a surprise, the fact that Jerod Evans, Mitch Trubisky and Eric Dungey are getting some love outside their home markets is a nice change of pace for the ACC.

Indeed, the Tar Heels’ secondary has been solid. Per ESPN Stats and Information’s numbers, they’re 15th in the Power 5 in completion percentage (52 percent) and just two opposing wide receivers have caught touchdowns, tied for the second fewest in the Power 5.

This is still a tricky answer as a lot of players designated as tight ends -- such as Virginia Tech’s Bucky Hodges or NC State’s Jaylen Samuels -- line up as receivers, and a lot of slot receivers in spread formations may not be matched against a corner, so obviously these numbers can leave open a bit of debate.

As for the most successful defenses at slowing opposing receivers, however, the best yards-per-target numbers in the Power 5 belong to Oregon State (5.38), Michigan (5.45), Ohio State (5.66), Clemson (5.68) and Miami (5.76). And if you’re curious, Syracuse (10.4), Pitt (10.0), Virginia (9.7) and Duke (9.3) all rank among the worst.

Duke has suffered through some tough injuries during a season in which its schedule was the hardest it’s been in years. That’s a bad combination. With three of the final five games on the road, it’s certainly possible Duke won’t be favored again this season, so I’d go ahead and stock up on egg nog and prepare to enjoy all 24 hours of the “Christmas Story” marathon from the comforts of your living room.

It depends what you're trusting them with. The program is still probably two years away from where Justin Fuente wants it, and the coaches acknowledge that. But there's enough talent on the roster to win the Coastal now, and after Thursday's impressive win over Miami, the Hokies are in the driver's seat. And if they get to the ACC championship game, who knows?

Just trying to add fuel to Dino Babers’ fire. Also, I was so perplexed by the Las Vegas line that I went opposite my gut.

Wrote a bit about NC State’s recent history of heartbreak earlier this week. Aside from the shutout to Clemson in 2014, the Wolfpack actually have done a nice job of bouncing back, and if Matt Dayes can have a big game, it’s actually a pretty decent matchup for NC State. I’m still expecting a Louisville win, but I’d be surprised if NC State doesn’t put up a good fight.

Historically, there have been a few crazy seasons, but usually because the league lacks a truly good team. Next year, however, has a chance to be a nice mix of new blood competing and strong overall talent. If we assume Deshaun Watson and Dalvin Cook leave for the NFL, along with myriad veterans on Louisville’s defense, the Atlantic should have a much different look. In the Coastal, another year of rebuilding for Mark Richt and Justin Fuente certainly figure to make things more competitive there too. My guess is, if both finish strong this year, Louisville (with Lamar Jackson back) and Miami (if Brad Kaaya returns) will get the bulk of the preseason love, but I’m with you. The 2017 season could be bonkers.