Step into my office ...
Aaron in Missoula, Mont., writes: Hey HeatherI am a Miami fan and I am happy with the outcome of the season so far. I mean at least the losses came against top 10 opponents. But in whole the ACC seems pretty embarrassing? specially defensively. Al groh is gone, Miami doesn't even seem like they have a defense, the almighty Bud Fosters defense isn't even close to being as dominate as it once was. Is this a down year or is this conference always going to be the "at least we are better then the big east" conference. Thanks for your time!! p.s. Do you think we would be a huge laughing stock if Duke won the ACC championship
HD: Yep, not good, not good at all, Aaron. I talked to one former ACC assistant recently who said he thought the league has hit rock bottom this year. You're right in pointing out the defenses. They've been well below-average in most cases. I don't think Duke is going to win the ACC title, Aaron, but at this rate you never know. It would be amazing for Duke's program, but certainly not in the best interest of the ACC's image problem. And P.S. it's not better than the Big East right now, either.
Francis in Blacksburg, Va., writes: Now that the ACC is officially sticking to the eight conference game format. Do you foresee Notre Dame joining the conference as a football member also? It is only three more games per year against the ACC now than their current deal.
HD: I can see how on the surface that might be enticing to Notre Dame, but I don't think that move is going to be what pushes the Irish over the edge and into the conference. It seems like it's only a matter of time before it happens, but I think the general landscape of college football and the playoff system as it emerges will be what eventually tips the scale in the ACC's favor.
Ryan in Fort Mill, S.C., writes: Heather,My fandom is still completely shattered for this season after our inexcusable lose to a mediocre Wolfpack team Saturday night. Can you tell me something positive about my Noles to get my spirits back up? Thanks, Ryan
HD: All is not lost, Ryan. The Noles still have a great shot to finish with one loss, win the ACC title, and get a win in the Discover Orange Bowl. It's a consolation prize, no doubt, but remember -- only one team can win the national title every year. FSU is in good company. How's that for your positive spin of the week?
ACCecil in Orlando, Fla., writes: Do you think the Seminoles loss to NCST makes the ACC irrelevant this year in the hunt for the national championship or do you think a 1-loss Clemson or FSU can get back into it?
HD: Never say never, but ... well, never. Not when FSU has two wins over FCS teams and the rest of the ACC is struggling so much.
Gregory Jones in Wake Forest, N.C., writes: Heather,You are sadly mistaken about NC State beating FSU. I am a State alum but I am also a sports junkie. State beating FSU proves that they just can't throw their hat on the field and win anymore. They actually have to play the games to win them.I graduated from State in 1992. I remember looking at the schedule back then, seeing the FSU game date knowing we would lose. The only questions was by how much.When FSU came into the league there was a wide gap between the talent they had and the talent the rest of the ACC had. That gap has closed now to the point where in the ACC, if you don't bring your A game every single night, you run the risk of going home with an L, regardless of who you are.FSU's days of running through the ACC unbeaten are over. Case in point, State has beaten FSU 5 out of the last 8 times they have played them. Back in the day, some would say that is impossible. Now, it just goes to show that FSU isn't scaring anybody the way the used to.I would love to hear your response to what I have said.Take care and God Bless,Greg
HD: Thanks, Greg. I agree that FSU doesn't scare anybody anymore, and I will also tell you that Tom O'Brien is one of the best when it comes to doing more with less. What he did at Boston College and what he's doing now at NC State doesn't get enough credit. With that being said, Florida State is talented enough that it should be able to separate from the rest of the ACC and avoid a letdown like that, especially during a season in which the rest of the conference is so blatantly struggling. I appreciate your thoughtful comment and think you make a valid point -- FSU is never going to truly dominate like it used to -- but it can certainly find a way to be a more consistent winner.
Scott in Atlanta writes: HD,Al Groh may know a lot about football, but he has serious issues influencing the emotions, motivations and responsiveness of collegiate players. There was a clear disconnect between him and the players in football matters. Knowing x's and o's has never been enough to be a successful coach...Groh's programs in UVA and GT have declined in his presence. Mike London is great proof that success takes knowledge alongside player relations and influence. London gets the most out of his players. Groh does not, and that is why he is gone from GT. It has nothing to do with his knowledge or GT's option offense in practice.
HD: I completely agree, Scott. Groh is not the easiest person to talk to, let alone play for, when you're an 18-20-year old. I have no doubt that his players have had trouble relating to him. Heck, I would guess even NFL players have trouble relating to him. Add to that the fact he was asking them to do something they couldn't, and Groh's firing was inevitable. Here's the thing, though: Paul Johnson knew exactly what he was getting when he hired Groh. Johnson coached against him and prepared for that defense, in the same division. This is the second coordinator Johnson has fired. He picked 'em.