Somehow, some way, we've reached the halfway point of the 2020 ACC football season.
And if you've been paying attention to the conference, you've seen a few things. You've seen Clemson continue to do things like hang 70 points and play their punter at quarterback just because they can. You've seen a surprisingly competitive second tier–Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech all show the potential to meet the Tigers in the ACC Championship game in December–and a few unexpected disappointments (looking at you, Louisville.)
You've watched a season unfold as the ongoing threat of a pandemic looms. You've witnessed potential Heisman candidates and a few thrilling upsets. You've also seen a lot of this:
THAT'S RIGHT. THE SPURTLE.
The ACC Network is chalk full of the Spurtle. And Brett Favre's Copper Fit gloves. And the Tac Shaver, really big LED lights, a laser tag system that definitely doesn't work and a dozen other terrible made-for-TV ads.
Nothing says "this network shouldn't exist and isn't doing great numbers" quite like commercial breaks filled with "As-Seen-On-TV!" ads and promos for the channel you're already watching. And if you're unlucky enough to be a fan of one of the 15 institutions that frequent the ACC Network, you know these ads by heart.
At advertising school (it's a real place, not a joke) one of the formulas they teach to make simple TV spots is to treat it like a haiku:
Step 1: Set the scene, draw someone in. (You see a funeral. People come to pay their respects and cry overtop an open casket.)
Step 2: Give your scene a condition/problem/situation that needs solving. (We peer down into the casket. A woman lies there. We hear sobs.)
Step 3: Solve your condition/problem/situation with a joke and your product. (All of a sudden the woman in the casket opens her eyes and sits up. We see the logo: Zzzquil. Strong than you think.)
It's a bad, student-y example, but it works. The commercials the ACC Network has blessed us with, however, are not that simple — they're cheesy, overcomplicated and often end with bad tag lines or 800 numbers. We don't need to spend two minutes watching a lady try to use a wooden spoon, yet we mindlessly sit through it until the game is back.
As someone who writes ads and about college football, this opportunity was too good to pass up. Since we're halfway through the conference slate, I wanted to honor both the ACC and its terrible advertisements. So let me present, THE SPURTLE RANKINGS, one part ACC power ranking, one part cheesy spurtle-like script selling each squad.
15. Syracuse (1-4, 1-3 ACC)
We open on a used car parking lot. Dino Babers strolls amongst the vehicles while talking straight to camera.
DINO: Come on down to Syracuse because WE (points powerfully at himself) can give YOU (powerfully points to the camera) what YOU want. And you know what the best thing is? We're not even selling it, we're giving it away for free!
DINO: Need points? We'll give you points! Yards? Turnovers? Wins? We'll give you all of those! We rank 105th in SP+, that's almost worse than Rutgers! Don't believe me? Well just ask my friend Hugh!
Cut to Hugh Freeze in another part of the lot, awkwardly talking to camera.
HUGH: I came to Dino and I said 'I need a win, but I don't have my starting running back or starting receivers.' Well, he not only gave me a win, but he gave me 338 rushing yards on top of it. The good lord may provide the most, but Dino is a close second.
Cut back to Dino.
DINO: That's right. So if you ever need a deal come on down to Syracuse football, because I'll be here for a long, long time.
LOGO: Syracuse football. We don't know what happened to us either.
14. Duke (1-5, 1-5 ACC)
We open on David Cutcliffe. He's wearing a commemorative pin that says DUKE 45 VIRGINIA TECH 10. He points to the pin.
CUTCLIFFE: Nice right? Well it can be yours for the low, low price of $45.10. What better way to celebrate the peak of our storied football program? The final time we touched glory. Our last dance with destiny. The rainbow that somehow came before the shit storm. Don't think about how we've gone 3-11 since that win last September. Think about the good times. The New Era Pinstripe Bowls and that year we won 10 games.
Cutcliffe begins to cry.
CUTCLIFFE: (unintelligible sobbing noises)
LOGO: Duke football. We're bad again, y'all.
13. Virginia (1-3, 1-3 ACC)
We open on a forest. We hear crickets. There are trees and moss and deer and other woodland creatures scurrying around. The voiceover kicks in:
VOICE OVER (VO): Do you ever get the feeling that you'd just rather not be seen? That maybe life would be a little easier if people didn't notice you?
We pan from left to right across the scene, until we come across Bronco Mendenhall, standing completely still, pretending to be a tree.
VO: Maybe things aren't going your way, maybe you just need a little peace and quiet or maybe you don't want anyone to see the defending ACC Coastal champions start a 240 lb quarterback who wears number 36. Well, then Virginia football is for you!
Bronco still stands there. He remains motionless, desperately hoping you can't see him. He is very much visible.
VO: No matter if you're playing in a pandemic or in front of seven fans at your own spring game, Virginia football is perfect for anyone trying to hide a fall from grace. So come on, let your defense get gashed by Wake Forest. Get outscored by a combined 48-3 in the first quarter of your four games. Tell the press you're thinking about running a three-QB system. You can do whatever you want, because with Virginia football you can distract anyone from the fact that 2020 has been a crushing disappointment.
Bronco remains in place, but holds one finger up to his lips and whispers "Shhhhhh"
LOGO: UVA Football. We really, really hope you don't see how poorly this is going.
12. Louisville (0-4, 1-4 ACC)
We open in the kitchen of a Billy Mays-esq infomercial. The counter is covered with grease, and Scott Satterfield stands behind it with a spray bottle in one hand and a rag in the other. He speaks directly to camera.
SATTERFIELD: You ever have a mess that you need to clean, but then you just stop halfway through because it seems like the job is finished?
He takes the rag and starts smearing the grease around. Not really cleaning it, just spreading it out more.
SATTERFIELD: And in your heart, you know it's not finished. But hey! You spread all the mess around and picked up eight wins. Sure you still have the mess. And at some point it's going to start to smell weird if you don't clean it up.
He begins to try wiping at the grease, but it still doesn't do anything, just spreading around.
SATTERFIELD: And so you keep wiping! And wiping and wiping! And it may not look cleaner, but it's working.
He's now desperate. He takes off his team issued polo and uses it to wipe at the counter before belly flopping onto the mess, trying to absorb it with his skin. He gets up, covered in grease. The counter is...better? It's hard to tell.
SATTERFIELD: (laughing maniacally) See! Better! Haha!
LOGO: Louisville. Things are going a little better than they seem! Maybe! (It might be too soon to tell.)
11. Georgia Tech (2-2, 2-3 ACC)
We open on a green screen. There's a can of Georgia Tech in the middle. The background is just explosions and lightning and other big loud cool stuff.
VO: DO YOU LIKE COOL THINGS? HYPE TRAINS? LOUD MUSIC? PUSHUPS? YELLING, BUT NOT IN A MEAN WAY?
VO: WELL CRACK OPEN AN ICE COLD CAN OF GEORGIA TECH. IT TASTES EXACTLY LIKE THE 404. WHAT DOES THE 404 TASTE LIKE? IT DOESN'T MATTER! MAYBE IT TASTES LIKE WAFFLE HOUSE. MAYBE IT TASTES LIKE THE WINGS AT MAGIC CITY. MAYBE IT TASTES LIKE A FUNNY GIF YOU SEE ON TWITTER FROM ONE OF THOSE ACCOUNTS THAT ONLY TWEETS FUNNY VIDEOS.
VO: WHAT DOES THE 404 NOT TASTE LIKE? THE TRIPLE OPTION. IT ABSOLUTELY DOESN'T TASTE LIKE THE TRIPLE OPTION WHICH MEANS IT'S AWESOME. AWESOME! AWWWWWEEESSOOOOOOOOME!!!!!!! RIGHT JEFF???
We cut away from the explosions to four-star freshman quarterback Jeff Sims, holding a can of Georgia Tech.
JEFF: I don't know it's...fine I guess?
VO:FINE LIKE A 49 YEAR OLD WHITE MAN WEARING FLAT BRIM HATS, RIGHT JEFF??
LOGO: GEORGIA TECH. WE'RE COURSE CORRECTING REAL HARD THE OTHER WAY.
10. Wake Forest (1-2, 2-2 ACC)
We open on Dave Clawson, alone in his office. He smiles, gets up and shuts the door behind him.
CLAWSON: Well, thanks for having me. A little bit about myself, I'm the head coach at Wake Forest, after inheriting Jim Grobe's disaster I've gone to four straight bowl games, which has literally never happened here.
It's quickly become clear that instead of filming an ad, Clawson thought this was a job interview over Zoom.
CLAWSON: Strengths? Well I design offenses that score. I turned Jamie Newman from 3-star into a legitimate NFL prospect. Hell, I'm even running the ball now. And weaknesses?I try too hard. Care too much. And, well, I don't think things'll ever get better here than they are right now. We've got a handsome quarterback. A star running back. A first round pass rusher.
He looks deeply into the camera and makes one last desperate plea.
CLAWSON: Please take me away from here. I know I'm not cool. I know I'm not some young, hip whiz kid who wears stylish visors and skin tight Nike polos. But I'm good! I promise you I'm good! I can turn your program around, just give me a chance. Please. Shit, I'll even go back to Tennessee.
CLAWSON: Okay maybe not Tennessee, but I'll go anywhereelse.
LOGO: Wake Forest football: Someone please hire Dave Clawson, because this is kind of our ceiling.
9. Boston College (2-2, 3-2 ACC)
We open on a big huge warehouse store, panning quickly past the shelves and displays.
VO: If you're in the market for a Ben Roethlisberger type? A passer with a dash of Schaub? Someone between 6'4" and 6'5" to take some snaps and fling the ball real good? Well come on down to the recently reopened big white quarterback depot.
VO:You know us from our older models like the deluxe (cuts to a picture of Matt Ryan), the standard deluxe (cuts to a picture of Brian St. Pierre) and our fleet of economy selections (cuts to pictures of Chase Rettig, Paul Peterson, Dave Shinskie and Tim Hasselbeck).
VO: Well now we're selling a new model! (cuts to a picture of the hulking Phil Jurkovec) And we promise you, you'll only be mildly disappointed.
LOGO: Boston College. We're rebranding to basically be the same team we've been since 1995
8. Florida State (1-3, 2-3 ACC)
We open on and then cut between Florida State fans singing this commercial's song in empty parking lots around Doak Campbell Stadium.
We had a fall from greatness and we want to know why
Call Jim-bo Fisher!
We wanted to blame Taggart, but it's still a tire fire
Call Jim-bo Fisher!
We beat North Carolina with a 3-star quarterback
But there's still a culture problem that we can't unpack
Who made this thing so bad? We just want to be back!
FINE PRINT: Jimbo Fisher will not be held responsible for anything that happens after he leaves your program. This phone number is actually disconnected and you will be left with nothing.
7. Pittsburgh (2-3, 3-3 ACC)
We open on Pat Narduzzi on the sideline, doing Pat Narduzzi stuff on the sideline.
VO: If you feel aggressive, lIke you just want to run, hit, press and punch all day, you're going to need something to protect your eyes from everything exploding around you.
Cut to product. We see a pair of safety glasses with transition lenses in them.
VO: Introducing the Duzes. A pair of safety goggles with lenses that transition from "aggressive" to "even more aggressive" to "wait did we just blitz everyone and also give up a 60 yard touchdown?" The Duzes work great for blocking out nerds on Twitter who call you a liar, argue against your AGGRESSIVE offensive tendencies, or say you should "take responsibility" for your "actions."
We cut to now see Narduzzi wearing a pair of The Duzes on the sideline.
VO: The Duzes can protect your eyes from anything. Defenses who give up backbreaking last second touchdowns. Kickers who miss extra points in overtime. The fact that things aren't any better now than they were under Dave Wannstedt. And they'll definitely protect you from your own reflection when you realize the one common problem with all of these mistakes.
LOGO: Pittsburgh football. Welp, looks like we're going .500 again.
6. NC State (4-1, 4-1 ACC)
We open on Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren sitting alone in a blank room. He stares at camera for a length of time that begins to feel uncomfortable.
DOEREN: Are we good? Are things going well? Are things not going well? Are we the worst team in the ACC? Are we above average? Why do four-stars come here? Shouldn't we be about as good as Carolina? Can you tell me literally anything about my team? Please?
Doeren simply stares at the camera for the remaining 45 seconds of his 60 second commercial.
LOGO: NC State football. Our guess is as good as yours!
5. Virginia Tech (3-1, 3-1 ACC)
We open on an elderly woman pushing a cart at the grocery store.
VO: Do you feel in peril? Like someone could threaten you at any moment? Well do we have the service for you.
Suddenly Brock Hoffman and Christian Darrisaw appear on either side of the woman, pushing other shoppers out of her way.
VO: Introducing Vice Squad Personal Protection.
We see a kid riding a school bus, squished between Luke Tenuta and Doug Nester. They menacingly glare at the elementary schoolers around them, preparing to hit anyone who gets too close.
VO: We'll follow you anywhere. To work, to school, 60 yards down field on a screen pass.
We cut between different scenes of protection. A man sitting in office as Lecitus Smith acts as a bouncer in front of the door. A pair of girl scouts selling cookies, with Luke Tenuta and Silas Dzansi keeping an eye on the cash. A couple walking to their car in a parking garage, but not before Bryan Hudson and Zachariah Hoyt check every corner for safety.
VO: So if you need someone hit, call the Vice Squad by Virginia Tech.
LOGO: Virginia Tech: We'll hit you in the mouth*
*On offense. Product may not be effective against Clemson (or Miami).
4. Miami (4-1, 3-1 ACC)
We open on a series of Hurricane football clips. Kyle Wright trading snaps with Kirby Freeman. Javarris James running headfirst into his offensive line for 2 yards. Jacory Harris tossing a devastating interception. Brad Kaaya falling to the ground before getting hit.
VO: Ahhh yes, memories. So many years, so many disappointing finishes.
We continue the montage. #7 Miami losing 41-14 to #3 Florida State in 2013. #9 Miami losing to #11 Virginia Tech 31-7 in 2009. #2 Miami falling to Pitt 24-14 in 2017. Al Golden getting fired one day after losing 58-0 to Clemson.
VO: And now that we're coming up on 15 years of Miami mediocrity, what better way to celebrate than with Now That's What I Call Hurricane, a compilation celebrating nearly two decades of "being back."
We cycle through coaches. Larry Coker. Randy Shannon. Golden and his interim successor Larry Scott. Mark Richt and then finally landing on Manny Diaz.
VO: This collection is a great way to remember all the mediocre Miami squads of years past. And if a good quarterback and a defense isn't enough in 2020, come back next year for Now That's What I Call Hurricane 2, featuring new tracks from D'Eriq King and Quincey Roche!
LOGO: Miami. Maybe it's different this time?
3. North Carolina (3-1, 3-1 ACC)
We open on Mack Brown, home alone, staring out a window and talking into a corded telephone.
VO: Do you have a loved one who, at their age, you just can't leave alone? We've been there. In fact, we are there.
We pan the camera away from Mack and see that the cord to his phone isn't even plugged into anything. We continue to pan and see Phil Longo and Jay Bateman intently talking on their cell phones, working on their computers and drawing plays on white boards, all while keeping half an eye on Mack.
VO: We're Phil and Jay, and we run A Place For Mack. It's somewhere you can go to bring your beloved head coach when they may not have their fast ball anymore. Are you worried about things he'll do on the recruiting trail? Game planning? Depth chart management? At a place for Mack, you won't have to worry about any of that. We'll take care of the whole thing.
We cut to Jay and Phil standing confidently behind Mack, who stares bewilderedly at his flip phone.
VO: Our patented system is (borderline) foolproof. We just prop your Mack up and let him pretend like he's doing things. We'll give him a headset that isn't plugged in, a desktop computer to play solitaire on, hell we'll even catfish him with a fake recruit if need be! And while he's distracted trying to figure out what catfishing is, you have the chance to sign blue chip prospects, design explosive gameplans and do whatever else you need to build a winner.
VO: Now, will he sometimes get a hold of some timeouts and burn them at inopportune times, or panic when the game gets close? Well, like we said, it's almost foolproof!
LOGO: A Place For Mack: Found only at the University of North Carolina (Arizona State coming soon).
2. Notre Dame (4-0, 3-0 ACC)
We open on Brian Kelly dressed in full Catholic priest regalia.
KELLY: Hello and welcome to the church of Notre Dame. We'd like to cordially invite you to watch our parish this Saturday live on television. I can't promise that you'll enjoy it, but I'll definitely promise that it's the most boring thing you'll see on basic cable. Yep, even more boring than PBS.
Ian Book and Tommy Rees join Kelly. They too, are in priest attire.
REES: We'll score points...
BOOK: Without ever once hitting a receiver down field.
REES: We'll pick up wins...
BOOK: But not in a way that keeps you attention.
Cut back to focus on Kelly.
KELLY: So come on over to Notre Dame. It's like church! Very boring, you won't like being here and you're going to leave three hours later with more questions than answers.
LOGO: Notre Dame football. Well, someone has to be #3 in the country.
1. Clemson (5-0, 4-0 ACC)
In this virtual reality ad, we open on Dabo Swinney giving you a tour of the Clemson facility. You see the weight room, the meeting spaces, the nap pods. It's glorious. He takes you to the dining hall, it's the most delicious thing you've ever tasted.
He takes you outside and now you're strolling down the hill and into Death Valley. You can't help but break into a huge smile, what an experience this is. When the two of you hit midfield Dabo smiles, puts one arm around you before speaking:
DABO: I'm sorry I have to do this.
He stabs you. Right in the chest. Before you know it, Clemson players start pouring out from the stands and as you bleed they each individually walk up to you.
TREVOR LAWRENCE: I'm sorry I have to do this.
He stabs you.
TRAVIS ETIENNE: I'm sorry I have to do this.
He stabs you, too. Before you know it, you're bleeding out like Jon Snow right in the middle of the tiger paw at the 50 yard line. You quickly realize this isn't a VR ad at all, this is really how you're about to die.
As the light slowly fades from your eyes, the last thing you see is the logo.
LOGO: CLEMSON. There will be no survivors.