Parity hurting ACC’s hunt for bowl-worthy teams

Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech have losing records with three

regular-season games remaining, leaving two of the nation’s

five-longest bowl streaks in jeopardy.

The Hokies and Yellow Jackets are not the only Atlantic Coast

Conference teams with precarious postseason hopes.

The ACC may struggle to fill its eight bowl slots.

Saturday’s North Carolina State-Wake Forest winner becomes only

the fourth team to qualify, joining Florida State, Clemson and

Duke.

North Carolina has a winning record but is ineligible due to

NCAA sanctions. Miami, under NCAA investigation, could self-impose

its second-straight bowl ban. Miami (5-4), which plays at Virginia

on Saturday, needs one more win before it must make that

decision.

No. 8 Florida State and No. 10 Clemson are the league’s only

ranked teams and Duke (6-4) has also qualified for a bowl for the

first time since 1994.

Coaches say parity has made it difficult for more teams to

emerge as bowl-worthy. It also could be there’s just not a lot of

good football teams in the ACC.

It doesn’t say much for the league when Duke, third in line for

bowl consideration, lost to Florida State and Clemson by a combined

margin of 77 points the last two weeks. The Blue Devils also have

an ugly 50-13 loss to Stanford. Duke’s least lopsided loss was by

21 points to Virginia Tech.

ACC coaches talk about parity in the league behind the two

powers, but the perception is the league simply lacks depth.

”Clearly the bottom line is that I think conferences are

evaluated on how your top teams play and where they are,” said

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson. ”Florida State has the one loss.

Clemson has the one loss. They’re clearly the marquee teams of the

conference this year.

”I think for the perception to get better, you’re going to have

to have stronger teams in the front, have somebody up there in the

top five or six. Until that happens, the perception is not going to

be as good.”

Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe is one of those who believes it’s a

parity issue, not a talent issue.

”I’ve always said that anybody can beat anybody, but Clemson

and Florida State are the two teams that are leading the pack,”

Grobe said. ”The rest of us are just good football teams that play

good football teams every week. Just look at our schedule. We’re

playing pretty good teams week in and week out. It’s one of those

deals where anybody can beat anybody, and that’s typically

happening.”

Virginia Tech has appeared in bowls 19 straight seasons, the

nation’s third-longest streak, followed by Georgia Tech’s string of

15. Each team is 4-5 and must win two of its last three games to

extend its season.

Virginia Tech’s streak of bowl seasons began in 1993. Only

Florida State (30) and Florida (21) have longer active streaks.

The Hokies play No. 8 Florida State on Thursday night before

closing their regular season against Boston College and

Virginia.

Georgia Tech has games remaining against three teams with

winning records, including Saturday’s game at North Carolina (6-3).

The Yellow Jackets play Duke (6-4) next week and are at No. 5

Georgia to close their regular season.

The Yellow Jackets need a win against the Tar Heels to bolster

their shaky bowl hopes.

”It’s been a topic,” Johnson said. ”It’s been one of the

goals for the season, to go to a bowl game and win a bowl game.

That’s one of the goals the team set, so it’s an important game in

that matter as well.”

Virginia Tech’s final two opponents, Boston College and

Virginia, have combined for only two conference wins. Virginia

snapped a six-game losing streak with its surprising 33-6 win at

N.C. State last week, leaving the Wolfpack (5-4) one win shy of

qualifying for a bid.

The Virginia win provided more evidence of the league’s

parity.

”The league has kind of beat each other up,” said Clemson

coach Dabo Swinney. ”For whatever reason, there has been a lot of

back and forth in this league. Look what happened last week with

N.C. State. Virginia goes in there having lost six in a row and

goes into Raleigh and hangs (33) points on them. It’s crazy.”

Six teams in the league have four or five wins.

”I think our conference is probably more balanced than most,”

Johnson said, before adding Florida State and Clemson are the

obvious exceptions. ”You could make a case – if you take those two

teams out – that everybody’s kind of beating everybody.”

Wake Forest (5-4) had lost three of four before last week’s

28-14 win over Boston College.

”We were in a tough spot with four good teams left to play, and

they knew that we had to win two games to have a chance to play in

a bowl game, so we’ve got one out of the way,” Grobe said. ”Our

guys know what’s at stake. They know that we’ve got to win another

game to get bowl eligible. … They know how important this game

is, but I think if you focus too much on being bowl-eligible and

you look at all that pie-in-the-sky stuff, what might happen, you

don’t play very good football.”

A decision by Miami to remove itself from postseason

consideration would weaken the ACC’s pool.

At 4-2 in ACC games, Miami leads the Coastal Division. The

Hurricanes could clinch their spot in the ACC championship game

with wins over Virginia Saturday and Duke on Nov. 24.

The winner of the Dec. 1 ACC championship game in Charlotte goes

to the Orange Bowl. The BCS could take a second ACC team if it is

ranked in the top 14 of the final BCS standings.

The ACC normally is well-represented in the postseason. Since

2005, the conference has sent 58 teams to bowls, the second-highest

total behind the SEC’s 61.

It’s crunch time for the ACC’s bowl-hopeful teams.

”The teams that can bring their best these final (three) weeks

are the teams that are going to be playing in bowl games,” Grobe

said.

AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Winston-Salem, N.C., and

Associated Press Writer George Henry in Atlanta contributed to this

report.