It wasn’t long ago that the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) was a force to be considered when playing college football. Florida State ruled the east coast, and the other eight programs could do very little to knock the Seminoles from their perch. Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Maryland, Clemson, and NC State all had their “great” days, but the Seminoles were too dominant.
The Seminoles played in and won the BCS National Championship for the 1999 season. Since then, it has all been downhill for the ACC. Florida State played in the national title game the following season, and Oklahoma destroyed them. Close score, yes, but as I watched that game, it seemed like the Sooners defense had the Seminoles’ offensive playbook in their huddle.
Clemson, well every year is supposed to be Clemson’s year. The Tigers have never had a 10-win season during the BCS era. This team has it all. Great stadium, awesome fans, and talent all around. However, the right things never fell into place for the Tigers.
Like I said, Georgia Tech, Maryland, NC State, and North Carolina had some great runs including BCS bowl bids, 10+ win seasons, bowl victories over quality opponents. Some of the players, coordinators, and coaches were top notch or pretty near it. These teams were great out of the gate at times, but didn’t have the stamina to keep up with the rest.
But it just seemed that a piece of the ACC college football puzzle was missing. This nine-team conference needed something extra to put them in the same class as the SEC and Big 12. Three teams were needed to create a 12-team super-conference and thus allow a conference championship game. The beginning of the 2005 season marked the full change in the ACC. Boston College, Virginia Tech, and the University of Miami filled the three necessary spots to create what was billed as the “next best super-conference”.
So, what has happened since the 2005 season? An 8 – 4 Florida State team played in a BCS bowl game as ACC champions. What? Four losses. This had to be a sign of things to come. Very bad things. The ACC teams combined bowl record for the 2005 season was a decent 5 wins and 3 losses. The 2006 season brought a combined bowl record of 4 wins and 4 losses. Can you see where this is headed? Then, the ACC bowl teams combined for a dismal 2 wins and 6 losses for the 2007 season. The ACC doesn’t have a single BCS bowl victory since the 1999 season, much less since 2005.
Since 2005, the “new” ACC versus their out of conference rivals (including Florida State vs. Florida, Georgia Tech vs. Georgia, Clemson vs. South Carolina, and Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia) has a combined record of 3 wins and 7 losses. Miami and FSU have more losses in the past 3 seasons than fans could ever fathom along with missing (or almost missing) the post-season. Maryland had 31 wins in three seasons and a BCS bowl vs. Florida. Outside of the 9-win 2006 season, the Terps have done very little. NC State, UNC, and Georgia Tech have done even less outside of the Yellow Jackets playing in - but losing - the 2006 ACC Championship Game.
This new super-conference was fine with the media, many fans, and most of the entire college football world. No one ever saw the next thing coming. The ACC Championship Game was NOT the smash hit most expected it to be. Can you say “one-hit-wonder”? Well, no you really can’t. Because it never established a hit. This has been a point of discussion since the first ACC conference champs game. The two best teams from each division play in order to decide the ACC champion. That is a big misconception where the conference champs game and ACC relate. The two teams that have faced each other in each match-up have not looked like the “best”. Attendance was major issue, and new locations were and are being looked at in order to attract more fans.
So, here we are, with one month until the start of the 2008 college football season. The ACC was supposed to be better than the SEC and Big 12 or at least up to par with them. It hasn’t shown that. To be honest, the ACC is barely ranked above the best mid-major conference, and that’s putting it nicely. There is one positive outlook to gain from all this: Hey Atlantic Coast Conference. The only way to go is up.