The ACC has been down for a few years, as the recent turnover in 9 of 12 head coaching jobs can attest. But due to solid recruiting from top to bottom the conference is rebounding more quickly than most expected. While everyone predicted them to get crushed (again) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, they were able to get a 6-6 tie.
Ken Pomeroy does the best job quantifying conference strength, and when the year began he had the ACC in 4th (and quite a distance from No. 3 – the Big 12), but during the past week they've passed the Big 12. Being 3rd best isn't going to generate any "A-C-C" chants, but it's movement in the right direction.
On Saturday, Duke hosts Temple (ESPN, 3:15) in a battle of unbeatens. But to be honest, Duke should win this game handily. Pomeroy has them at -10, and the premier program in the ACC simply has to win – which is something they weren't able to do last year in this game. If Duke loses, it doesn't really matter what the other ACC teams do, because they won't be the ones getting the headlines.
No, the games where the ACC can make a statement tip later than Duke. First, at 4:00 on Saturday (ESPN2), Virginia Tech takes their unbeaten record into Morgantown to take on West Virginia. The Hokies offense has been on fire of late, and only one team this season has competed within 10 points of Virginia Tech. They're coming off home wins over Iowa and Oklahoma State by an average of 13 points. Pomeroy has WVU winning by four.
Then, at 8:00 (ESPN2), Clemson hosts No. 8 Arizona. The Wildcats haven't yet played a defense ranked better than 88th nationally. Clemson's tough defense is ranked 40th. Most importantly they have Milton Jennings returning just in time for this game. Pomeroy has Arizona winning by two.
Regardless of what happens in these two games, the ACC is ascending. But a couple of nationally televised upsets by two teams who combined to go 12-20 in the (weak) conference last year would go a long way toward rebuilding the ACC brand, assuming Duke holds up their end to get things started.