ACC Football: Glory Days Ahead

Oscar PSenior Analyst IJanuary 20, 2008

I may be what some people on this website would consider a SEC "homer"—but that wasn't always the case.

I actually grew up in the heart of ACC country: Atlanta, Georgia.

Atlanta is the one place in the state of Georgia where the Georgia Bulldogs don't have a monopoly on the fanbase.

When I was a kid, there was plenty to cheer about for ACC football fans. But a lot has changed since then.

In the last 20 years, more national championships have gone to current ACC programs than to teams from any other conference. Of course, this counts the titles that the University of Miami won while in the Big East—but the point stands:

The ACC was once a premier football conference.

A few years ago, the ACC added two powerhouse programs in Miami and Virginia Tech, and a perennial overachiever in Boston College. The additions were supposed to make the ACC as formidable as any conference in the country.

The plan, thus far, has not worked.

So what in the name of Mike Patrick's Britney Spears love affair is going on?

One problem is geography. Many ACC schools share recruiting bases with teams from the SEC.

What's more, many schools in the ACC, such as Duke, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech, are much better academically than their SEC counterparts—which could make recruiting more difficult due to higher admissions standards.

But those two factors alone can't explain why the entire conference has fallen on rough times.

Teams like Clemson, Miami, Florida State, and Virginia Tech have chronically underachieved in recent years. It seems that many of the schools in the ACC have similar, if not better talent, than schools in other conferences—but are still failing to measure up.

Why is that?

There are many possibilities. From facilities to fan support to luck, any number of reasons could explain the ACC's rut.

And then there's the coaching issue.

Earlier this decade, the ACC coaching pool began to stagnate. Bobby Bowden isn't getting younger. Chan Gailey was a robot. Tommy Bowden seems to just do enough to not get fired. Al Groh recruits talent and then fails to develop it it. Chuck Amato was a better Corey Hart impersonator than a football coach.

You get the picture.

The good news, though, is that the ACC is on an upswing. It may not show in the final standings, but the conference's revitalized coaches are making their marks:

Randy Shannon is recruiting another great Miami class.

Jimbo Fisher is attempting to make positive strides at Florida State.

Paul Johnson is bringing a new offense to Georgia Tech.

Jim Grobe has turned Wake Forest into an upper-middle-class football program.

Butch Davis is ready to turn North Carolina on its (tar) heels.

David Cutcliffe is going to end that 25-game ACC losing streak at Duke sooner rather than later.

Tom O'Brien is ready to turn NC State around, and Jeff Jagodzinski, the man who replaced O'Brien at Boston College, has already done an excellent job.

Even Groh and Ralph Friedgen are recruiting well, and seem to always be ready to win 10 games out of the blue.

The ACC may be a weak conference now, but along with the Big Ten, it looks poised to make a giant leap forward. Don't be surprised if you see a team from the ACC playing for the National Championship sometime in the next two years.