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
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
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
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
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
”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
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Winston-Salem, N.C., and
Associated Press Writer George Henry in Atlanta contributed to this