ACC Football Pre-Bowl Game Power Rankings
ACC Football Pre-Bowl Game Power Rankings
The college football regular season is over as well as all of the conference championship games, and all that’s left are the hundreds (at least it feels that way) of bowl games. The ACC season ended the way we expected it to end for quite some time with the Florida State Seminoles winning the conference championship and advancing to the BCS Title Game, but the fact that they ultimately ended up playing the Duke Blue Devils in the conference championship game was quite a surprise.
Despite the national perception that the ACC is one of the weaker power conferences in the country, especially compared to their brethren in the SEC, it was a good year for the Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC moved into a new era in 2013 adding two new schools to the league to give them 14 members. While many will claim that the conference is rather mediocre on the football field and adding two more teams only added to that mediocrity, the ACC did end up with 11 bowl eligible teams, all of whom received bowl invitations. That is more than any other conference and an accomplishment the league should be proud of.
As I deliver a set of power rankings in the ACC prior to bowl season, both the top and bottom of the conference is fairly self-explanatory. However, the middle of the conference has been incredibly difficult to figure out all season long, and the same is likely true at the end of the season. That being said, I have come up with power rankings in the ACC heading into the bowl season.
Virginia was easily the worst team in the ACC this year, and it has put Mike London squarely on the hot seat. They had a promising start to the season with a win over BYU, but it was all downhill from there for the Cavaliers who finished with an abysmal 2-10 record.
13. North Carolina State
Dave Doeren will get a pass for a rough first year at NC State that was hampered by key injuries at important positions, but with eight straight losses to finish the season and no wins against conference opponents, the pressure will be on Doeren to deliver some wins next season.
12. Wake Forest
Unfortunately, this was the end of the line for Jim Grobe. The Demon Deacons were 4-8, but with a two-point loss to Louisiana-Monroe, a three-point loss to Miami, and a two-point loss to Vanderbilt, things could have ended differently. With a senior quarterback in Tanner Price Wake Forest should have had a better season, but with the way it turned out there’s no debating they were one of the conference's worst teams.
The Terrapins have had quite an up and down season in their final year in the ACC. They got off to a 5-1 start with all five wins coming against teams that are not playing in bowls, and then their season spiraled out of control until Maryland managed to salvage it with an upset of Virginia Tech. They are not as good as their 7-5 record would indicate, and a bowl game in their own backyard against a Marshall team that went to the Conference USA Championship Game is far from a guaranteed win.
The Panthers had an up and down season in their first year in the ACC, but they have wins over Duke and Notre Dame that look impressive on their resume. Three of their wins came against bowl-eligible teams which is more than you can say for half of the conference. Pittsburgh will hope to secure a winning record by beating MAC champion Bowling Green in the Little Caesar’s Bowl.
9. Boston College
What an incredible turnaround made by new head coach Steve Addazio, who took a two-win team and turned them into a seven-win team in his first year at Boston College. It should be noted that of those seven wins only two came against teams playing in a bowl game, but Boston College did have a rather impressive season and has an intriguing bowl matchup against Arizona.
Syracuse was far from the prettiest team in the country, and they certainly took their lumps against some of the ACC’s top teams. But they deserve a lot of credit for overachieving and reaching a bowl game with a rookie head coach and a young offense that last lost several key starters from last year. At the end of the day, they beat everyone in the Atlantic Division except Florida State and Clemson, and that deserves some recognition. The reward for the Orange is a bowl game against Minnesota, the third Big 10 team they’ll face this season.
7. North Carolina
It was a tale of two halves this season for the Tar Heels, who looked left for dead after a 1-5 start to the season. But they were able to turn things around with five straight wins before finishing the season with a two point loss to Duke in a game that could have put them in a tie atop the Coastal Division. North Carolina needs a win over a tough Cincinnati team in the Belk Bowl to ensure a winning record this season.
6. Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets had a rough finish to the regular season with a loss to Clemson and a double-overtime loss to instate rival Georgia. But they do have an early-season win over division-champion Duke to hang their hat on, and they should have an exciting bowl matchup against Ole Miss in one of three bowl games between the ACC and SEC.
5. Virginia Tech
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Hokies had a good season. Outside of the season opener against Alabama all of Virginia Tech’s losses were in close games, and they also have wins over six bowl teams, including East Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Miami. The Hokies didn’t always win pretty, but eight wins is a solid season that can get even better if they make it nine wins with an upset over UCLA in the Sun Bowl.
They’re still not the Hurricanes of the past, but Al Golden has this program on the right track. Despite a three-game losing streak in November, Miami took some big steps forward this season and was certainly among the best teams in the conference. They have a great opportunity to end the season on a high note and make a statement against future ACC team Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
The Blue Devils not only won a mediocre yet competitive ACC Coastal Division, but they won 10 games this season, including an eight-game winning streak. Part of the attention Duke gets is due to their low expectations, but their season would be considered a great success even if they didn’t have a historically bad football program. However, a good season means a quality bowl game, and the Blue Devils may have a hard time in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. Still, that shouldn’t take away from the season they’ve had.
Some are calling Clemson undeserving of a BCS bowl game, but they’re 10-2 and their only two losses have come against Florida State and South Carolina. The Tigers have beaten everybody else on their schedule, and at times their offense has been as dynamic as any other in the country. That should make for a high scoring and entertaining Orange Bowl against Ohio State.
1. Florida State
We’ve known the Seminoles were the best team in the ACC for quite a while. They weren’t challenged much all season, not even in the conference championship game. But they should receive a stiff challenge in the BCS Title Game against the Auburn Tigers as they look to prove themselves worthy of being the No. 1 team in the country.