Ah… you have to love an election year. Folks just in an uproar over everything. No one can agree on one thing.
Except this–2012 is the most important year of football ever in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
No one will ever argue the greatness of the ACC and its legacy as compared to other leagues. It is safe to say no conference can ever construct the current dominance of the SEC.
In the glory days of the 90s, ACC fans could always look to Florida State University as the leader with Clemson University, Georgia Tech, University of Virginia or North Carolina State University lurking.
As the century turned, expansion brought such great hope with the addition of the University of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College. ACC Commissioner John Swofford was on the verge of transforming a conference known for its hardwood prowess into one equally feared for its pigskin dominance.
The timing seemed so right…
But here we are eight years later, still waiting and coming off what could be the worst year ever in the history of the conference.
The 2011-12 season marked the first time since 1971 that the ACC did not have a team finish in the final AP Top 20.
Add the decline of super powers Florida State and Miami over this stretch and the complete and utter shameful performace by the 2011 ACC Champion Clemson Tigers in a 70-33 loss to West Virginia University in the Orange Bowl, the state of the conference is going in the opposite direction.
The numbers are ugly and staggering for ACC football fans.
Since expansion in 2004, the ACC is 141-112 against all other conferences. Versus the Big 4 power conferences, the ACC is a mere 39-62.
Yes, 39-62 that includes a 7-8 mark versus the Big 10, 10-12 facing the Big 12, only 3-10 against the Pac 12 and a retched 19-32 drubbing against the top dog in the SEC. Add a 4-5 mark versus the amazing MVC and you have one of the worst losing percentages in all of the BCS.
Even the good news outside the conference is not stellar. The ACC is 32-27 against the Big East, 30-11 versus CUSA, 12-2 head to head with the MAC, 16-2 versus the Sun Belt and 4-3 against the WAC.
“We just need to take advantage of the opportunities and win games,” Swofford said when asked about the conferences inability to compete better on a national level. “We need to win more of those kind of games (high profile), whether it’s at the end of the season or at the beginning of the season when we’re playing out of conference. There’s no reason that won’t come with the quality of the programs and the quality of coaches we have in this league.”
Virginia Tech is the only shinning star of the conference as it has finished as the top ranked team in the polls seven out of the last eight years. But that is it. The rest of the conference simply hasn’t delivered.
So, what needs to happen this year to get back on track? Three simple things…
- Florida State and Miami needs to return to the perennial power it use to be. No excuses. Recruit better and show up when you are on the national stage and win those games. Florida State is primed for its welcome back party as it is ranked in the top 10 in every preseason poll. Phil Steele has the ‘Noles as the No. 1 team in the country. Miami, though, is more like ‘Who?’ than ‘The U’ and still needs another year. But the ‘Canes better be prepared to jump back on the scene by 2013 for the good of the conference.
- Win non-conference games that you are suppose to win. This is especially true for Clemson, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech this season. Those are the three schools that have the hype heading into play this season and must perform at a high level to sway momentum. NC State and Virginia are two key pieces here as well and they must win, especially against the pansy teams they schedule for wins. The remaining conference teams, the University of North Carolina, the University of Maryland, Wake Forest Univesity, Boston College and Duke University just needs to hold its own and win the games it should and play close in the games is should not.
- Beat the SEC. The ACC battles the king of college football conferences 6 times in 2012. Two games are in Atlanta to kick off the season with the hungry eyes of the football world watches. NC State is a better team and should beat the University of Tennessee. Same for Clemson as they are the best in the battle of the Tigers versus Auburn University. Then we sit and wait until the last weekend of the regular season with the rivalry games in University of Georgia battles Georgia Tech, the University of Florida travels to Florida State, Vanderbilt University takes on Wake Forest and the University of South Carolina squares up against Clemson. A mark of 6-0 would be a statement, but the conference has to go 3-3 or 4-2 to begin the rebuilding process.
Sounds simple, right?
But with the Big 12 trying to lure away Florida State and every other conference in the world courting Clemson, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, losing two of these teams to another conference will be the end of ACC football. At this point, why would one of these teams not want to leave for another opportunity and a fresh start?
The pending addition of the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University does absolutely nothing to help the swagger of the ACC.
After all, Pitt and Syracuse is a terrifying 67-89 since 2004.
So as the ball flies in the air around 7:30 pm in Atlanta in about 2 weeks, the ACC will be on the stand. Can the conference be acquitted of its competitive football crimes or will the evidence be too burdensome to overcome.
Time will only tell.