There might not be a more telling statistic in the Atlantic Coast Conference than total defense.
Every ACC school that gives up an average of 392 yards or fewer either is going to a bowl game or could be going to one. And the three teams that allow more than that will be staying home.
There is a direct correlation in the conference between a solid D and a winning record.
Last year, every team that allowed an average of 372 total yards or less wound up going to a bowl game. Every team worse than that didn’t.
“You’re never a great team unless you’re great on defense,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Any time an upset happens …very rarely are they high scoring.”
His Seminoles lead the league in total defense, allowing 283 yards per game, and they’re assured of playing somewhere during the holidays. The schools with the ACC’s second- and third-best defenses – Virginia Tech and Virginia – meet this weekend with the Coastal Division title on the line.
At the other end of the spectrum, the defenses at Boston College, Duke and Maryland have been leaky all season, and that’s a major reason why they will miss the postseason.
“I think this: If you play good defense, then you’re always going to be in the ballgame,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said.
Nationally, 19 schools already are bowl-eligible or have a chance to be, despite allowing at least 400 yards per game.
This season has gone generally according to form – with the exception of Clemson.
The Tigers, historically one of the league’s strongest defensive teams, instead have offset an eighth-place defense that allows 380 yards per game with an explosive offense that outscores opponents, rolling up averages of 465 yards and 35 points.