The ACC Bowl season was rough, but the conference did have some big football positives in 2014.


When you go 4-7 during bowl season like the ACC did, it’s hard to find positives. Same ole ACC from the critics who were ready to pounce. I’m not here say 4-7 was good. It certainly wasn’t. Performances by UNC, Miami, and the 4th quarter meltdown by Pittsburgh were especially ugly. Let’s not forget Boston College blew a 2nd half lead of their own. Bowl results do matter, but you still have to take the results in the context of a season’s worth of OOC games. There were some positives – big positives to the season.

As we’ve said in the past, the ACC’s football perception took a significant hit during the BCS  era. By far the results most damaging to ACC football were when the ACC went 2-13 from 1998-2011 in BCS games, but that was not all. The ACC/SEC  results only added to the poor perception. From 2006-2011, Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia Tech went 5-13 against their in-state rivals South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia. Through this year Clemson and Georgia Tech were on 5 game losing streaks to their SEC in-state rivals. The ACC hadn’t had a winning record against the SEC since 2003. Between the BCS results and record against the SEC, the ACC took (and deserved) a beating through the BCS era.

Nearly 2 years ago I wrote an article about the ACC’s top non-conference wins from 2008-2012. Do you know how many times the ACC had a win over an OOC top 10 team in those 5 years? – A mere three times.

To have the proper perspective of ACC football today, you must first understand just how bad it was. Since those dark ages of ACC football, the conference is now at a competitive level with the rest of the Power 5.

Want some positives from 2014 here you go…

  • ACC Teams had 5 wins over top 10 OOC teams. The Pac 12 was second with 3. Even if Oregon wins the National Title, ACC will finish first in this category.
  • Since Bowl season 2012, the ACC is 9-8 against top 10 OOC teams. The Pac 12 was 4-2. The only other conference with a winning record.
  •  For the first time since 2003, the ACC had a winning record against the SEC (5-3), including a 4-0 rivalry weekend.
  • The ACC went 3-0 against the Big 12
  • Including 2014, the ACC is 4-1 in their last 5 BCS/Big Bowls – 3 straight Orange Bowl wins
  • ACC went 12-13 against the Power 5, which will place it third – after the Pac 12 (13-4) and SEC (11-11).

David Hale from ESPN summed it up best in his ACC Season Ending By the Numbers articles. 

ACC: 46-21 overall, 12-13 vs. Power 5, 5-9 vs. ranked, 4-7 in bowls 
SEC: 55-12 overall, 11-11 vs. Power 5, 4-9 vs. ranked, 7-5 in bowls 
Pac-12: 37-8 overall, 13-4 vs. Power 5, 5-2 vs. ranked, 6-2 in bowls 
Big 12: 24-13 overall, 6-11 vs. Power 5, 1-7 vs. ranked, 2-5 in bowls 
Big Ten: 47-19 overall, 11-15 vs. Power 5, 5-6 vs. ranked, 5-5 in bowls 

Add all that up, and what’s clear is that while the Pac-12 was head-and-shoulders above the rest of the Power 5 in non-conference play, the ACC held its own compared with the Big Ten and SEC and was well ahead of the Big 12. That’s probably not the progress the league wanted, but it’s at least credence for the ACC to be taken a bit more seriously moving forward. 

The ACC will also have a first (or something very rare) this year. 2014 will mark the first time the ACC has had 2 top 10 teams (Florida State, Georgia Tech) and a third ranked in the top 20 in Clemson. I looked all way back to 1980 and couldn’t find one similar instance. Last year the ACC had 2 top 10 teams, and Duke was 23rd.  The ACC has a chance to have 4 ranked teams in the final poll for first time since 2009.

That’s progress…

Is the ACC still fighting for respect? Yes… Does the conference need to improve? Yes… There are still too many really bad teams in the middle of the pack of the ACC.

Is the conference better than what it was just a few years ago? Most definitely Yes.

Look the first step was for the ACC to have a couple of elite programs. Florida State is the flagship power, and Clemson has become nationally relevant now. Then the ACC needed to show it could compete with the rest of the Power 5. It has done that, through respectable head to head results, and big time wins.

No the ACC isn’t challenging the Pac 12 and SEC for the top football conferences anytime soon, but you have to crawl before you can walk. It was a bad bowl season, but that doesn’t diminish the improvements made in recent years.

Don’t worry we’ll address in a future post, where the ACC needs the most improvement.

ACCPerscription has a couple of great links that analyze ACC football this season. They are worth your time to read – The Last 3 years have been good and ACC Reality.

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