The ACC‘s football reputation is as shaky as the conference’s general long-term viability, and the 2012 ACC Championship Game, between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Florida State Seminoles, did nothing to boost opinions about the conference.
Both teams had relatively disappointing seasons: FSU had an outside chance at a national title before a late-game rally by N.C. State robbed the ‘Noles of their high BCS ranking, along with any shot at the title. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, arrived in Charlotte for the conference championship expecting a blowout, even petitioning the NCAA to be ruled bowl eligible in the event of a loss.
The Yellow Jackets shouldn’t have even been in the championship game. North Carolina and Miami both finished with better records, but due to NCAA sanctions, neither team was available to play in the conference title game or postseason, so anyone not watching Wisconsin demolish Nebraska in the Big 10 title game got to watch a primetime ACC game between one of the conference’s best teams, and a team that was nowhere near second-best.
It started out as the ‘Noles-dominated game everyone expected; Florida State was up, 20-6, at the half.
The staunch FSU defense allowed Georgia Tech to mount a comeback after halftime, while the Yellow Jackets, better known for their offense, held the Seminoles scoreless in the second half.
The Yellow Jackets’ late game surge made the contest more watchable (except, perhaps, for Florida State fans hoping they weren’t watching their Orange Bowl berth slip away) but the ‘Noles’ struggles made another very public case that ACC football just can’t hold up with the other top football conferences in the country.
ACC teams have an unfortunate history of flopping in bowls and other marquee non-conference games, and the conference’s best nearly losing out on a BCS berth to a team with a 6-6 record just adds to the ACC’s lackluster football reputation.
If Florida State was still almost as good as everyone initially thought, they should’ve beaten Georgia Tech like Wisconsin beat Nebraska, or like Oregon beat 6-6 UCLA in last year’s Pac-12 title game.
The ACC will face many changes over the next few seasons as some teams depart and others join the conference, but their football prospects won’t improve until ACC teams start performing better in big games.