ACC fans [myself included] ranted and raved all season that the league was full of really good teams beating up on each other. The SEC uses that excuse every season, so why couldn’t the ACC this year?
We argued that we only had seven- and eight-win teams because everyone was so young, yet so talented and surprised everyone by putting 10 of our 12 teams into bowl games, something that had never been done before.
The league also had the lowest percentage of teams with losing records, only having two, Duke and Virginia.
Fans said the league was full of parity and couldn’t wait until the teams played in the bowl games to prove how talented these players and coaches were.
ACC Coach of the Year Paul Johnson was bragged about for bringing his triple-option offense to a big league and being successful with it.
On Dec. 20, the league looked like it had a valid argument when Wake Forest redeemed a loss earlier in the season to take home the Eagle Bank Bowl Trophy in a win against Navy.
Things were looking good, the ACC was 1-0, having already almost matched their two bowl wins from the 2007 season.
Then came Dec. 28, a day in which the ACC was featured in all three bowl games on the ESPN networks. A day for the ACC to jump over that two-win hump from last year and prove they could win some games.
The day started with North Carolina playing essentially a home game against West Virginia in Charlotte, N.C.
It was an exciting game for the entire 60 minutes, but eventually the first loss for the ACC when the Mountaineers’ Pat White played remarkable throwing for over 300 yards for the first time in his career and became the first college football player to win four bowl games as a starter.
OK, so you can’t blame the league for losing this game right? It was close, and WVU is an extremely talented team, who with a few breaks here and there could have won the league and been playing in a BCS bowl this week.
So the ACC dropped to 1-1, with Florida State taking on Wisconsin in the early afternoon game. FSU did exactly what everyone thought they would do. They hammered Wisconsin 42-13 and gave the ACC its second win of the bowl season.
Things were looking good again, though many had predicted Miami to lose to California in the late game on the West Coast. No surprise that the Hurricanes lost the game, but they did keep it close throughout.
With Miami’s loss, the league fell back to .500 at 2-2.
Two days later, N.C. State took on the Rutgers in a mid-day battle between two of the hottest teams in college football at the end of the season.
Rutgers were riding a six-game win streak, while the Wolf Pack won their last four to finish 6-6 and become bowl eligible. NC State was the ACC team left out of the league’s nine bowl tie-ins and had to look elsewhere for a bowl.
They found a home in the PapaJohns.com bowl against an evenly matched Rutgers team.
The ACC probably would have gotten a win in this game if Wolf Pack starting QB Russell Wilson had not gotten injured, but in the end they fell 29-23, dropping the ACC to 2-3 in the bowl season.
The next day, ACC fans were nervous as they waited for the wildly inconsistent Maryland Terrapins to take on one of the highest powered offenses in the country, Nevada.
This was one that many people thought the ACC would lose, yet Maryland fought hard and put up 42 points to take home a win, putting the ACC back at .500 with a 3-3 record.
Then came New Year's Eve. The day that featured the loser of the ACC Championship Game in Boston College and what was deemed the ‘hottest’ team in the league, Georgia Tech.
The Eagles went into the Music City Bowl against SEC foe Vanderbilt with the nation’s longest bowl winning streak at eight. They left singing a different tune when Vandy won their first bowl game in 53 years.
Later that evening, the most anticipated non-BCS bowl game of the season featured the Yellow Jackets and defending national champions LSU.
Granted, the bayou boys hadn’t looked like defending national champs in recent weeks, but they did on this night en route to 38-3 beat down of Georgia Tech. Needless to say, the Jackets got stung.
Their triple option looked like a bunch of high school kids trying to play against an NFL team, and once again the SEC flexed its muscles and showed the ACC why it’s doomed to always be below the league.
The two losses dropped the league to 3-5 in bowl games with two very winnable, yet also losable games remaining on the first day of 2009.
On New Year's Day, Clemson showed up in Jacksonville ready to play. Unfortunately, turnovers late in the game gave Nebraska two easy field goals to put them up 26-21.
Clemson marched down the field and appeared to be on its way to retaking the lead, but QB Cullen Harper was sacked for a 16-yard loss, setting the Tigers up with a third-and-goal from the 26-yard line.
That play turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and two plays later, Nebraska took over and ran the clock out.
Going into tonight’s finale, the ACC is 3-6. Only one win better than 2007 and several wins behind where most fans thought the conference would be at this point.
Regardless of how Virginia Tech does tonight, the ACC proved it’s a bunch of middle-level teams that cannot hang with the big boys when it counts.
The only problem I have with the ACC catching so much flak is that the Big 10 does the exact same thing every season, yet one or two teams finish 11-1 and/or 10-2 and they are all heralded as awesome.
This year, the Big 10 had two teams in the BCS, one of which got HAMMERED AGAIN in the Rose Bowl. As I write this, they are trailing 38-17 in the fourth quarter.
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