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7/16 Roundtable - 5 Thoughts On The ACC
Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer
Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer
Posted Jul 16, 2009

7/16 Roundtable - Five thoughts on the upcoming ACC season. It's the Thursday topic in the CFN Daily Roundtable Discussion.

CFN Daily Roundtables

July 16

5 Thoughts on the ACC.

Over the next several weeks, as part of the CFN 2009 Preview, we'll examine some of the key questions going into the year with a daily discussion of the big topics.

Past Roundtables
7/15 5 Thoughts on the WAC
7/14 5 Thoughts on the Sun Belt

7/13 5 Thoughts on the Big 12
7/10 M-West & the BCS
7/9 Guilty Pleasures
7/8 OU or OSU - Biggest BCS Bust
7/7 5th BCS Game
7/4 Should the SEC get a BCS break?
7/3 There should be a playoff
7/2 There shouldn't be a playoff
7/1 The unbreakable record
6/30 BCS on ESPN
6/29 Best non-BCS program
6/26 Rule changes
6/25 Why does the Big 10 stink?
6/24 Top 3 non-conference games
6/23 Coach on the hot seat
6/22 The No. 5 team is ...
6/19 Most underrated teams
6/18 Most overrated teams
6/17 BCS title sleeper
6/16 Do 40 times matter?
6/15 Is a Rooney Rule needed?
6/12 Should Bama vacate wins?
6/11 Should players be paid?
6/10 Recruiting hype
6/9 Your No. 1 draft pick
6/8 Where would you coach?
6/5 Who does the least with the most?
6/4 Who does the most with the least?
6/3 Sept. star players
6/2 Who'll generate early buzz?
6/1 The one coach you'd want
5/29 Tebow, McCoy, or Bradford?
5/28 Should the Big Ten expand?
5/27 Should the Pac 10 expand?
5/26 Chizik, Kiffin, or Mullen?
5/24 Heisman sleepers
5/22 Most interesting teams
5/21 Is Tebow the best ever?
5/20 When should polls come out?
5/19 The M-West & the BCS, Part 1
5/18 BCS or bust for Weis

Pete Fiutak, CFN

Yes, I'm part of the problem. You can check me out at and find out future roundtable topics and other random musings.

Q: 5 Thoughts on the ACC.

Why is there this perception that ACC football is in a second-tier compared to some of the other BCS leagues? Why does everyone just assume that the grand experiment of creating a mega-conference to rival the SEC hasn't exactly worked out as planned? It's simple: there needs to be more star power and there needs to be more time for everyone to get used to the conference being good.

It didn't help the cause when the league got blasted in two high profile games against the SEC, with Clemson losing the opener to Alabama and Georgia Tech getting erased by LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and it also didn't help that approximately 19 people showed up for the ACC Championship.

The master plan was for Miami and Florida State to be the anchors of the league, but they each got average in a big way while the conference superstars have been Virginia Tech and Boston College. Tech and BC might have great programs, but they tend to generate little more than a yawn on a national scale.

Alright, so the ACC isn't quite as glitzy and flashy as the Big 12 and it doesn't have the mega-watt star power of the SEC, but it's time to stop assuming that the league hasn't arrived. Last year, the ACC went 16-14 against other BCS schools (with Notre Dame thrown in there). The SEC went 11-11 (including the Bama loss to Utah in the Sugar Bowl), and that was with Florida doing most of the heavy lifting. In head-to-head play, the ACC went 6-6 against the SEC with Florida accounting for two of those defeats.

However, while the competitiveness of the conference has improved, with a loaded league from top to Duke (who came up with a nice win over Vanderbilt last year), it's hard for many to take the league too seriously because, again, the lack of star power. It's not just with the programs, it's with the coaches and players.

The SEC has Tim Tebow, Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier, Les Miles, and mega-watt star power among the rest of the coaches and several great players over the years like Matt Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden, and on and on. The Big 12 has Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Bob Stoops, Mack Brown, Mike Leach, and interesting teams from the North like Missouri and Nebraska that are on the weekly college football radar.

The ACC has Bobby Bowden and Frank Beamer, but the household names are few and far between (no, Butch Davis, Paul Johnson, Jim Grobe and Tom O'Brien don't really count, even though they should). Quick, name the player who deserved the All-ACC quarterback slot last year (Russell Wilson of NC State ... maybe). Quick, name the best player in the ACC last season (it was BC LB Mark Herzlich). But that doesn't mean the ACC can go on being ignored; star power shouldn't be everything. Just ask the NBA, who lives on stars, but has a lousy product. The ACC is still rising with programs like North Carolina, NC State, and Miami improving, but the league has already arrived, even if you haven't noticed.

Richard Cirminiello, CFN

Q: 5 Thoughts on the ACC.

The Atlantic Coast Conference will not have a serious contender in the national championship race … again.

Listen, I’m a big fan of this conference. I enjoy the programs, the next-level talent, and the rivalries. In many regards, I think the league gets a bad rap because it’s not the SEC. However, it’s never going to get the national respect it craves until it produces at least one school that belongs in the same discussion with some of the perennial heavyweights, like USC, Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida. And, sorry Hokie fans, but that is not going to happen in 2009.

There’s not much to dislike about Virginia Tech. It’s had rare stability within the coaching staff, plays with a throwback mentality, has a rabid fan base, and has written the playbook on how to turn decent talent into back-to-back titles. Within the ACC, the Hokies are fantastic. Outside the borders, it’s going to labor to carry the conference banner. That’s code for a national title run that doesn’t have a life span beyond the opener with Alabama.

If the ACC is truly going to elevate in football, it desperately needs Florida State and Miami to be Florida State and Miami again. Yeah, Wake Forest has been a great story and North Carolina is clearly on the right path, but only the ‘Noles and the ‘Canes are going to perennially attract enough blue-chip talent to compete with the Trojans, Sooners, Longhorns, and Gators. Until that time, the ACC will be a fun and competitive league that keeps struggling to find an identity outside of the right coast.

Matthew Zemek, CFN

Q: 5 Thoughts on the ACC.

Last year, the ACC certainly provided a fascinating and unpredictable race for the league’s brass ring, but the chase for a championship was defined by mediocrity. All credit to Virginia Tech for once again affirming itself as the elite school in the conference, but as much as the Hokies covered themselves in glory, it has to be acknowledged that the 2008 campaign did not evoke excellence on the nation’s Atlantic seaboard. From Clemson’s serial underachieving to Wake Forest’s impotent offense to the schizophrenia of the entire Coastal Division, the ACC’s brand of ball prevented any one team from getting out of its own way for very long. The ACC race therefore proved to be close and exciting in the same way that a 1999 NBA Playoff series between the New York Knicks and Miami Heat was close and exciting. Close contests were not the product of elevated performances, but shared struggles.

In 2009, the equation should be different.

Formerly a one-trick (Florida State) pony and recently mastered by Frank Beamer’s boys from Blacksburg, the ACC—thin on elite teams and needing more ballast--appears ready to become a real-deal football conference for once. With studs like Jonathan Dwyer at Georgia Tech and Russell Wilson at North Carolina State, the league owns stars who have a little seasoning. The fragility and inconsistency of 2008 should give way to superior sort of Saturday showcase in 2009. The ACC will be ever competitive, but this time, a hard-fought conference race will be due more to quality depth than widely-distributed deficiencies.

Hunter Ansley, Publisher,

Q: 5 Thoughts on the ACC.

A: It’s not nice to call the ACC the SEC’s little brother.  And after last year, it may be incorrect as well.  Perhaps they’re more like a step-brother. 

Looking back on the 2008 season, you’d be hard pressed to find a league with a better head-to-head record against the baddest boys around.  The ACC however, split their 12 interconference contests finishing 6-6.  Sure, three of those wins came against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, but there were some impressive totals as well.  Both Georgia Tech (wins over Georgia and Mississippi State) and Wake Forest (wins over Ole Miss and Vandy) notched two wins.  They were a combined 4-1 against the SEC.  And the only really bad defeats came at the hands of LSU and Alabama.

Well, the conference will get a dynamite chance at revenge when Virginia Tech opens the fall against that very same group of Nick Sabanites.  They’ll be playing for pride after the Tide let the air out of Clemson’s season in last year’s 34-10 woodshedding.  And if the past is any indication, they’ll have to do it on the ground.

The ACC boasts some of the best running backs around, and this year should be no different.  Darren Evans enters his sophomore season for the Hokies after racking up 1235 yards and 11 TDs as a rookie.  Jonathan Dwyer and Roddy Jones were a heck of a pair in Atlanta, combining for over 2000 yards and 16 TDs in Paul Johnson’s option system.  CJ Spiller finally has the backfield all to himself in Clemson, and the Tigers will need to lean on him early as they break in a new quarterback.  And Wake Forest, Maryland, and Miami all have underrated backs looking for a big year.

If the ACC can come close to duplicating last year’s impressive numbers against the top dogs of the sport, we might be forced to view them as something other than the “league that could have been” after the additions of Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College.  The Hokies have a great shot at leading the ACC to it’s second consecutive BCS win, but you can bet they’re more concerned with that first game against the Tide.  Revenge doesn’t come easy or often against the SEC.

Jon Miller, Publisher,

Q: 5 Thoughts on the ACC.

A: When this league came together in a big way a few years ago, it signed a really competitive TV contract with ESPN, which at the time was better than any such deal the SEC had.  That has changed now, and the league has not delivered on the promising future it showed when it came together.  That's because Florida State and Miami have not been on par with the dominant level of play they put forth in the previous decade to 15 years before the league came together.  Big East traitors Virginia Tech and Boston College have had success, and Wake Forest has also risen to nab some of the spotlight.  Georgia Tech has a unique style of play that is hard to prepare for in week to week gameplanning.  But FSU and Miami appear to be on the rise, Clemson always has talent, NC State should be salty, so this league is going to be better this year than it has been in recent years, with a legit National Title contender in VT.  The league might start to pay dividends this year.