Saturday, December 5, 2009

Another Year, Another Irrelevant ACC Championship Game

This year, I've tried defending the ACC and their reputation and legitimacy as a BCS automatic qualifier. As expected, it got tougher as the year went on and now that it's the end of the college football regular season, I'm pretty much back at square one. The title of this post is the main reason why.

It started out so promising though. Over the first month of the season, there were several games that would seem to suggest progress in the conference.
  • Virginia Tech hung with Alabama and played a very competitive game before losing the Kickoff Classic. Compare that with the previous year, where Alabama handled Clemson in convincing fashion.
  • Miami and Florida State played a thriller in front of a national audience that caused people to debate whether each program was "back," and had most pundits saying, "yes" or "probably."
  • Both schools followed up with beatdown wins over top-15 opponents. Miami took down Georgia Tech 33-17 in front of national television again while Florida State went to Provo and beat BYU 54-28.
  • Virginia Tech beat the now top-10 Miami team in soggy Blacksburg, which suggested that those two teams plus Georgia Tech was a trio of powers that may play out like the Big 12 South from a year ago.
Unfortunately for the ACC, the rest of the season played out similar to how it's been in the last few years. On the Atlantic side, each team beat each other up and seemingly had three conference losses by November, while no teams were ranked and relevant in the national picture. Florida State was especially disappointing, losing a non-conference battle to South Florida before racking up three more ACC losses.

On the other hand the Coastal division looked good for a while. As I mentioned, the trio of GT, VT, and Miami appeared to be solid top-15 teams. But the second half of the season proved otherwise. The Hokies lost at home to North Carolina, who also tripped up Miami later after they had already been bit by surging Clemson.

Still, there was hope of a worthy BCS representative and a top-5 finish in the polls for Georgia Tech who was sitting at 10-1. All they had to do was take down an inferior Georgia team in a game they should have no problem getting up for, considering its a rivalry and it was Senior Night at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Wrong. The Bulldogs ran the ball 44 times for 339 yards and Tech coach Paul Johnson, triple option genius, called four straight passes on the final drive, the last of which being a flat out drop by Demaryius Thomas that even Ted Ginn thinks was embarrassing.

Not to be outdone, the surging Clemson I mentioned earlier went to their in-state rivals South Carolina, who had lost three in a row, and got housed. Fraudelent Heisman candidate CJ Spiller started the game with a kickoff return for a touchdown but it was all downhill after that. It was 24-7 South Carolina by the half, and it ended up 34-17 in the Gamecocks favor. It wasn't as close as that score would indicate.

So yet again we have a BCS Consolation Game in effect for the ACC title. This the fifth year of the ACC Championship Game and of all the ten teams that participated, only two were even ranked in the top-10 (VT in 2005 & 2007). Obviously that means no game has even had the smallest of impact on the National Championship Game selections.

That is what the ACC needs.The past couple years, the ACC hasn't been as bad people would think. There is good depth, and as recently as a couple weeks ago, it was the conference with the most teams in the top-25. But, that doesn't mean much in the court of public opinion. The SEC has shown us in the last 5-10 years that if you have teams playing for and winning national titles, it makes the whole conference look better.

So, in another hour or so, I'm going to turn on the SEC Championship Game, a de-facto National Semifinal (Playoff? What a novel idea!) and keep dreaming that the ACC will someday reach this level. Cheers!

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