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Several struggling ACC teams better than records indicate

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

The first fact Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer is quick to point out about Maryland -- the team with the worst record in the ACC -- is that the Terps beat Clemson, the front-runner to win the Atlantic Division.

“I know they’ve had some tough injuries, and they’ve been close,” said Beamer, whose team will travel to College Park this weekend. “And like I said earlier, they beat Clemson at their place. This is a very, very dangerous football team.”

You just wouldn’t know it by looking at Maryland’s two wins this season.

“I think we’re a lot better, when we’re all healthy and everything,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “If you look at the way our season has gone, we could very easily be 7-1 or 6-2, but that’s not the case. But I think we’re a lot better than what our record indicates.”

He’s not the only one.

Good teams find a way to win. Great teams find ways to win every weekend. But every now and then, there’s a little bit of luck involved in this game. Sure, you can argue that the good teams make their own luck, and they do. But look at what’s happened to NC State and North Carolina this year in terms of injuries. Look at how close Wake Forest is to a nine-win season right now.

“I think our team has been playing hard, and I don’t think we’re a bad football team, we’ve just been playing a lot of good teams and it doesn’t ever stop,” said Grobe, whose Deacs will host Florida State on Saturday. “There is a concern that after you have so many heartbreaking losses that after a while it’s hard to get the guys back up again, but we’re in a situation now where there’s no other choice. We’ve got two games left against two real good teams and we better bounce back.”

Five ACC teams are currently bowl eligible, but it’s unlikely the conference will fill its nine allotted bowl slots this year. A closer look at the conference, though, shows several of these struggling teams aren’t as bad as their records indicate. They’ve just fallen on some tough luck:

  • Maryland has played 24 freshmen (10 true, 14 redshirts) this year, the most ever during Friedgen’s tenure. Seven have been on the defensive line. Paul Pinegar and Phil Costa are the only two offensive linemen to start all nine games. Overall, injuries have kept potential starters out of 32 games.

  • At UNC, injuries have accounted for 23 missed starts. Three offensive linemen and the starting tight end have missed at least four games each. Six players on the team have had season-ending injuries, and UNC has missed three tailbacks, two fullbacks, two wide receivers, two tight ends, and three offensive linemen because of injuries. Conversely, only a backup safety has been out for the defense. And Tar Heels fans wonder what's wrong with their offense.

  • NC State has had six starters on defense miss games, causing the Pack to start eight different lineups in nine games. This team would’ve been capable of more with the ACC’s No. 3 offense. A dozen players have suffered season-ending injuries. A total of 13 starters have missed a total of 39 games due to injuries.

  • The Deacs have lost five games each by three points or fewer, including two games in overtime. It’s a school record. John Mackovic’s 1980 Wake Forest squad lost four games by three points or fewer. Wake Forest lost five games by a combined 13 points. This might be the unluckiest team in the country.

The bottom line is always the win-loss column, but it’s only fair to look at how each team got there. And for a few teams in the ACC, at least some of their struggles can be attributed to factors that were out of their control. All of these teams could've been better, we'll just never know by how much.