Home for the Holidays: ACC Football
ACC Teams Who Won't Be Bowling in 2012
The college football season creeped closer to its end on Saturday when bowl season finally got underway. Two games down, 33 to go. But for some ACC teams - the ones that didn’t reach six wins as well as the ones banned from postseason play this year – the season has been over for a few weeks.
While some college football fans are overwhelmed by the sheer number of bowl games, playing in postseason games is generally beneficial to the programs.
While some of the lesser bowls played in distant stadiums might seem more trouble (and expense) than they’re worth for both the team and its fans, the extra month or so of practice is a big selling point for many coaches.
Some coaches may prefer a playoff format without so much time off between the end of the regular season and the postseason games, but the extra work often pays off in the long run, particularly for teams losing a significant number of players to graduation or the NFL.
When it comes to bowls, bigger is better. The more prestigious the game, the more money the school (and conference) is likely to bring in. Better bowl games also lead to greater exposure for the program – a huge factor in recruiting – and sweeter swag bags for players.
All those factors are reasons why college football’s bowl season has expanded to its current bloat, but you still have to win (fair and square) to get in, and there will always be some teams who just can’t get it done.
Here’s a look at the ACC’s teams who will be sitting out this bowl season.
North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina had the best record in the ACC Coastal Division but the team is banned from the postseason this year after an NCAA investigation uncovered nine major infractions involving "academic fraud." It's remarkable that first-year head coach Larry Fedora was able to keep the team focused as well as he did with nothing to play for, but it's unfortunate for the current players that their surprisingly strong season won't end with a bowl win.
Fedora might have had some rookie luck, but will he face a sophomore slump in 2013? It's certainly possible when the Tar Heels are losing key players to the NFL, including 2012 first-team All-Americans Jonathan Cooper (senior left guard) and Giovani Bernard (junior tailback). Bernard, the ACC's leading rusher this year, declared for the NFL after the Tar Heels season ended.
Like North Carolina, Miami had a good enough record to go to a bowl game, but the team self-imposed a postseason ban as the NCAA continues to investigate the program's recruiting. The Hurricanes finished 7-5, second in the Coastal Division behind UNC, and if head coach Al Golden sticks around, the team should continue to get better and better.
The NCAA has yet to rule on improper recruiting allegations involving boosters, which came to light shortly after Golden accepted the job, and even though several other coaches and administrators have high-tailed it out of town, the Hurricanes' head coach seems genuine in his intention to continue to turn "The U" back into a national power. If he wanted to leave before the NCAA hit the Hurricanes hard, he'd have plenty of opportunities, but he recently turned down an offer to take over at Wisconsin. Miami might stay home again next bowl season, but if so, it's more likely to be because of sanctions than because of their record.
Coming off a 2-10 season in 2011, few had high hopes for this year's Terps. Expectations got even lower when Maryland lost both its experienced quarterbacks before the season started: Danny O'Brien, who transferred to Wisconsin, and C.J. Brown, who tore his ACL in fall camp.
Still, the Terps were 4-2 midway through October, with an outside chance at finishing strong enough to sneak into a bowl. And then the injury bug bit. Maryland lost true freshman starting quarterback Perry Hills, WR-turned-backup-QB Devin Burns, and true freshman third-stringer Caleb Rowe to knee injuries in a two-week span. The team played its final few games with Shawn Petty, a true freshman linebacker who was expected to redshirt, under center. The Terps haven't gotten to a bowl game since Randy Edsall was hired as head coach, but on the bright side, they have plenty of experienced options at quarterback heading into 2013.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake Forest finished 5-7, just outside bowl eligibility, but it felt like they were even further from it. Five of their seven losses - including three straight to end the year - were by a margin of more than 29 points, and their only victory over a team that finished with a winning record was the 28-27 win they squeaked out over UNC in the second week of the year.
After their season ended, senior free safety Josh Strickland told the Wake Forest blog "Blogger So Dear" that things started to go downhill right around the Maryland game, when several players were suspended for marijuana use. Strickland told the website that too many players didn't respect the coaches, but since Wake hasn't yet jumped on the coaching carousel, it seems likely that Jim Grobe is safe for at least one more season. Thanks to this year's record, he has even more time to sit around and think about how to strike the Fear of Grobe into next year's squad and avoid a repeat of 2012.
Last year, head coach Mike London was the ACC Coach of the Year. In 2012, he spent all season trying to figure out who his quarterback was but could never quite get it right. Rising senior Michael Rocco made the coach's 2013 decision easier by announcing he was transferring after the Cavaliers' disappointing 4-8 year, citing the "unhealthy environment for any quarterback at UVA."
London made some changes of his own this offseason, firing four defensive coaches, presumably in the hope that a new combination next year will be a winning one for UVA. If that master plan doesn't work, look for London to be next up on the chopping block.
Boston College Eagles
After going to 12 straight bowl games from 1999-2010, the Eagles have missed the postseason for the second consecutive year. Injuries had a big impact on the team this year, but BC's 2-10 overall record was the worst in the conference, bad enough to get head coach Frank Spaziani canned at the end of the season.
Steve Addazio, who was the coach at Temple the last two years, replaces Spaziani (BC: "Hiring Coaches with Z's in Their Last Names Since 2007"); he has a 13-11 record in two seasons as head coach, and considering the Eagles' recent struggles, it shouldn't come as a surprise to fans if the team misses a third-straight bowl game next year.