The White Flag is Out
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It isn't being flown just yet, but the ACC has its surrender flag out on deck. I have been a fan of this conference for many, many years, but never before has it been this hard to support the ACC publicly. This past weekend, four of the top teams in the league were defeated in out-of-conference play, and it is catching heat like never before. I still believe there is good football in the ACC, but that statement is getting tougher and tougher to explain to outsiders - and rightfully so.
To be honest, my own school - Clemson - is as much to blame as any team for the black eye the ACC has earned the last few seasons. In 2008, in a super high-profile game to start off the season, my Tigers were steamrolled by Alabama, 34-10. That was Clemson's very next game following a bowl loss to Auburn. Clemson then finished that 2008 season by losing another bowl game, this time to Nebraska. That made three losses on national TV for the Tigers in a span of 14 games. Not good.
In 2009, the Tigers then lost at home to TCU and on the road at South Carolina.
Clemson's troubles OOC aside, this past weekend was the big blow that the ACC just couldn't afford. After Boise State beat Virginia Tech, and LSU beat North Carolina, the ACC needed a strong showing in four big OOC games. The result? 0-4.
Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech - arguably the top four teams in the league - all went down to teams from other leagues. VT lost to a team that doesn't even compete at the major college level.
This did not go unnoticed in the press. Nationwide, the ACC is currently the butt of many jokes, and a long, steep, uphill climb now awaits. So much for the "power conference" the league was supposed to become when VT and Miami arrived. Instead of having one or two teams be a national title factor on a yearly basis, the ACC has not had a member compete for a national crown since FSU won it all in 1999.
Now, with the nation taking jabs at the ACC right and left, can the conference answer the call and fight back to respectability? Or should it stick to basketball and give up on the gridiron?
This weekend, the ACC has five more OOC games, with one a guaranteed loss before the teams even step on the field (yes, Alabama might put 100 on Duke). Wake Forest travels to Stanford, Maryland battles West Virginia, NC State tangles with Cincinnati, and Clemson hits the road for another game with Auburn. Like never before, this conference needs a few big wins.
Regardless of what happens, I know this league plays fun-to-watch football with teams full of future NFLers. And that is where the mystery lies. In the 2010 NFL Draft, only the SEC and Big Ten had more players drafted than the ACC (SEC 49, Big Ten 34, ACC 31) And in 2008, the ACC was second among major conferences with 254 NFL players coming from the league (the SEC was first with 271).
So with so many good players playing football in the ACC, why the problems in the OOC win-loss department? To be completely honest, I don't know. And that is what is frustrating.
Maybe, just maybe, the league has forgotten the taste of victory. Maybe it is a head game. Maybe the coaching is weak. I don't know, I really don't.
What I do know is that it sucks and is hard to digest. You see, college football is a big part of my life, and it is really not cool to hear people tell me as an ACC fan that I "don't know what big time football is all about." Bull crap. But how do I prove that when the conference constantly lays an egg in big games? I can't.
This is the last chance for three months for the ACC to gain some respect. Nothing but conference games take place utnil the last weekend of the season when the ole UGA-GT, FSU-UF, Clemson-USC games go down. Then the bowls. From Saturday until then, it is three months of conferences beating up on each other internally - and it's looking to be a long three months!
So, come on Clemson! Come on Maryland! Come on Wake! Come on NC State! Hell, even come on Duke!
The league needs some wins - somebody deliver!
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