The Demise of ACC Football

Inane utterances from the local media, gross inaccuracies perpetrated by the national media, and glaring inadequacies of State’s athletic department frequently provide topics to address here. But every so often, someone in one of the organizations that we often ridicule will absolutely nail an issue. Such is the case with an article today by Pete Fiutak at

I liked his entire commentary, but he “stole” my idea that I was saving for next summer at the onset of pre-season football hype. Since Pete started the ball rolling, we might as well finish it off. Let’s look at the last point from his article:

ACC disappointed when it counted most:

On the flip side, it’s disaster time for the ACC. Its star, Virginia Tech, lost, making the league zero for its last six in the Orange Bowl

Boston College struggled to get by an average Michigan State in the Champs Sports, Florida State fought well considering the circumstances, but lost to Kentucky in the Music City, Maryland lost to Oregon State in the Emerald, Georgia Tech got pantsed by Fresno State in the Humanitarian, Clemson lost to Auburn n the Chick-fil-A, and Virginia lost late to Texas Tech in the Gator.

Only Wake Forest really came through with a good win over Connecticut in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, but that’ll be little solace for a league that now has to be considered fifth, at best, among the BCS leagues. Yes, when it comes to national perception, and respect in the polls the following season, these things do matter.

It wasn’t that long ago that I summarized the ACC’s successes in bowl games. (Warning, SFN’s recent transition has messed with the tables in my old entry.) I would hate to go back and update those numbers to include the last two years.

At the first of November, I highlighted the woeful state of the ACC offenses. The offensive numbers are so bad that they bear updating:

– 10 of 12 ACC offenses rank in the lower half of Div 1 FB
– 8 of 12 ACC offenses rank in the lower 25% of Div 1 FB

I decided to compare the national ranking of the ACC offenses with the Sagarin ranking of the conferences to see what I could find. See if you detect any correlations:

2003 (9 teams)
ACC Sagarin Ranking – #1
Total Offense – Median rank: 43
Scoring Offense – Median rank: 48

2004 (11 teams)
ACC Sagarin Ranking – #1
Total Offense – Median rank: 76
Scoring Offense – Median rank: 73

2005 (12 teams)
ACC Sagarin Ranking – #2
Total Offense – Median rank: 66
Scoring Offense – Median rank: 66.5

ACC Sagarin Ranking – #4
Total Offense – Median rank: 92
Scoring Offense – Median rank: 76

2007 (Not final)
ACC Sagarin Ranking – #5
Total Offense – Median rank: 95
Scoring Offense – Median rank: 85

While not a perfect correlation, it’s pretty clear that the demise in ACC FB on a national level has happened as the ACC offensive production has dropped out of sight low. In 2004 and 2005, you can build an argument that the ACC defenses were so good that the offensive numbers are misleading. However over the last two years, that line of reasoning breaks down.

The Sagarin rankings and the bowl results show that the ACC teams just don’t measure up on a national level over the last two years. Last year the ACC was 4-4 in bowl games, losing the three biggest bowl games (Orange, Peach, and Gator)…and this year was even worse.

The total scope of off-season issues will vary from team to team…but it’s clear to me that offensive improvement needs to be near the top of the list for nearly every ACC team.

About VaWolf82

Engineer living in Central Va. and senior curmudgeon amongst SFN authors One wife, two kids, one dog, four vehicles on insurance, and four phones on cell plan...looking forward to empty nest status. Graduated 1982

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29 Responses to The Demise of ACC Football

  1. packbackr04 01/04/2008 at 3:15 PM #

    spot. on. we need to put up alot of pts next yr. the o line TOB is building will help. a competent qb(which it sounds like Glennon is) will help, our studs at RB will help. we might still be 1 yr away, but we are getting there.

  2. Wulfpack 01/04/2008 at 3:18 PM #

    This is as bad as it gets. Terrible on the field. Dwindling fan support. We’re bringing it up the rear in comparison to the other major conferences. No where to go but up.

  3. RAWFS 01/04/2008 at 3:32 PM #

    We’ll see Wilson before Glennon. I would be shocked if Glennon didn’t ‘shirt next season. The Bible/O’Brien MO has also been to bring QB’s along slowly. They won’t have that luxury next year, unless Dan Evans gets his act together in a major way over the spring and summer.

  4. Dr. BadgerPack 01/04/2008 at 3:40 PM #

    Speaking of offense… what are Hill’s prospects? I haven’t seen anything about him since the knee injury.

  5. Sam92 01/04/2008 at 4:13 PM #

    although the entire conference has been weak, not least of all us, the ACC’s poor performance is really most attributable to the demise of FSU and Miami’s programs from the heights of the 90’s. Both of them are putting together, from all appearances, outstanding recruiting classes – in the top 5 in’s view, If they can keep to that talent level, their chances are good to returning to prominence. that may be what it takes for the ACC to have what everyone hoped for when miami joined the league — two BCS bowl teams in a given year. hopefully, of course, NCSU can get to a position of BCS bowls itself, but that’s undoubtedly a few years away.

  6. vtpackfan 01/04/2008 at 4:23 PM #

    I don’t think recruiting at FSU and Miami have been an issue for a very long time.

  7. packof81 01/04/2008 at 4:38 PM #

    So much for the ACC expansion.

  8. RAWFS 01/04/2008 at 4:42 PM #

    One thing equally concerning is the attendance to the ACC bowls: we only sold out two of the eight bowls we go to. You can guess which team did the worst and the best, just based on conventional wisdom.

    Why didn’t you include the appropriate link? It’s a good article and at least someone has tables figure out.

    Final: Only Two of Eight ACC Bowl Games Sold Out

  9. CaptainCraptacular 01/04/2008 at 4:49 PM #

    I knew it couldn’t be long before the first expansion demonizer would post.

    Its really time to embrace the present and stop living in the past. There’s no going back. Expansion was the right decision at the time and it remains the right decision, as the financial numbers have remained solid despite the ACCs football woes. Those numbers can only improve when (not if) the league puts 2 into the BCS.

    I hope the pack can capitalize on the relatively weak league while the window of opportunity is open.

  10. Wulfpack 01/04/2008 at 4:54 PM #

    “relatively weak league”

    Understatement of the day.

    Give me one program, save Wake, that is headed in the right direction today. Is there one that you can legitamately say will contend for the national championship next year?

    Didn’t think so. Nobody is even close.

  11. EverettBeez 01/04/2008 at 5:13 PM #

    I’ll admit, the first thing I thought of was expansion. It may make money, but that doesn’t necessarily make it right. To Cap’n Craptacular, as they say around here in Alabama, “forget? hell!” Count me among the Irreconcilables on this account.

    It seems like every year for a decade, or there abouts, we’ve heard how the conference is down. VaWolf’s chart sure shows how that’s true for the last few years. what is frustrating is our inability to take advantage of these down years. We haven’t needed to be great to win the conference, just good, and we haven’t managed to pull that out.

    Lets hope the trend continues till we can take advantage of it. I think we are in real danger of missing the window. I don’t want to see Miami and FSU get really darn good just as we do.

    We may be the worse of the Big Conferences, but what the heck – better still then being the best of the mid-majors.

  12. CaptainCraptacular 01/04/2008 at 5:13 PM #

    Every single bowl game the ACC schools lost were very close games. Only the GT game was decided by more than a touchdown and GT was within 6 until the last 3 minutes of the 4th quarter.

    Based on that, I don’t the ACC is terribly far away from being pretty good. There just isn’t a really dominant team or 2, which seems to be required to push into the top 2 or 3 conferences. So in my opinion ‘relatively weak’ is pretty accurate, and not really that much of an understatement. If those close games went the other way, the ACC would be ‘relatively strong’ and if there were a dominant team or 2 in addition to the rest being able to win most OOC games it would be ‘very strong’. Thats how I categorize it.

    Just because no team may contend for the national championship doesn’t mean the league is a train wreck disaster, like you seem to be implying.

  13. PAPacker 01/04/2008 at 5:17 PM #

    Before the addition of Florida State, national championship contenders were very rare in the league also. I hated expansion and still don’t like it. But is it not true that Florida State was largely responsible for the stature of the league in football before expansion? We were FSU and the 8 dwarfs for a long time.

  14. tobaccordshow 01/04/2008 at 5:31 PM #

    What’s really sad is given the demise of ACC football over the past few years, NC State has really been noncompetitive during the conference’s down years.

    Asleep at the wheel?

  15. Master 01/04/2008 at 5:45 PM #

    So, if you think expansion was bad, take out the new additions and see where we stand. Un huh – looks worse. The triangle teams are dragging the whole league down the tubes in terms of overall stats – not Va. Tech or BC. Miami has not helped as much as FSU has hurt. MD is back to there pre Fridge status. Va and Ga Tech are about the same. Clemson is the only stable team in the bunch – just not a great team. Don’t blame this on expansion. Our biggest competition is the SEC and to some extent the Big East. They are eating our lunch and stealing our girlfriends.

  16. VaWolf82 01/04/2008 at 5:47 PM #

    So much for the ACC expansion.

    Without expansion, the results would have been worse and the TV contract would have been much smaller. Expansion is not the problem.

  17. redfred2 01/04/2008 at 6:10 PM #

    Following Wake’s lead, every ACC program is now feeling like maybe they can play with all of the other former upper echelon FB members and they’re all scratching and scrapping to really improve now. I’m afraid that Amato was probably here during THE perfect time to make a quantum leap within the conference. No doubt that it was the best time to make strides against the 3 other NC programs and the rest of the “old” ACC members anyway.

  18. Clarksa 01/04/2008 at 7:49 PM #

    It may be too simple, but I think the offensive and overall problems with the ACC (and NC State) has been the play at QB. I’m currently watching the Under Armour High School All Star something or other that’s going on down in Orlando and out of the 6 invited QB’s, there are 4 going to ACC schools. Clemson (Parker), UNC (Hanson), Manuel (FSU) and of course Glennon (NC State). Maybe these kids will be able to help, maybe they won’t…but i do know we’ll have to face them all since two are in our division, and the other is going to UNC.

  19. Astral Rain2 01/04/2008 at 8:12 PM #

    If I was the ACC, I’d start activately trying to screw BC to the point they quit the conference. Hell, even ECU would be an improvement over BC at the current rate, and we probably could snag Pitt or West Virginia instead.

  20. jwrenn29 01/04/2008 at 9:49 PM #

    I call this the “Herb Effect”. It started with our basketball team not being able score for at least one or two 4-5 minute stretches during every game (sometimes longer). Apparently this effect is infectious and has now moved from our basketball team, to our football team (where it stayed for 3 years), and now the rest of the league has contracted it as well. Very sad.

  21. Dr. BadgerPack 01/05/2008 at 8:18 AM #

    Since I saw comments about paying athletes… Ramifications of paying players would be felt in numerous ways. For one prime example, I would vociferously argue that should college athletes be paid, they should not be entitled to free tutoring services (paid for currently by athletic departments). I can use a Big Ten school as an example of a benefit athletes currently receive. I was a highly demanded private tutor, usually netting 35-50 an hour for my services (I had 2 of over 100 students in five years NOT earn an A in their organic chemistry class). Athletes at this school had their tutoring paid for by the athletic department and they paid a flat, non-negotiable rate of 11.83 per hour.

    If athletes are being paid, shouldn’t they then be able to afford private tutors? If only revenue athletes are being paid, why should they pay a different rate than non-paid athletes with subsidized tutoring? Why should tutors be paid less than they are “worth” simply for working with athletes? I know many tutors who would not work with athletes simply because of the crap pay. I “took one for the team” so to speak, since I enjoy teaching ever so slightly more than I enjoy getting paid.

    The point is, if you open the door to paying athletes, you raise many issues regarding their subsidized services and revenue versus non revenue sport athletes. As litigious as todays society is, if some athletes (NR) are getting free tutoring ans other (R) are paying private rates, a “reverse” title IX might rear it’s head.

  22. Dr. BadgerPack 01/05/2008 at 8:26 AM #

    I wonder how much the offensive woes have to do with the “sexier” football offenses sprouting up in other conferences, attracting better QBs, skill position players, pass blocking linemen, etc. Of course, this doesn’t explain away the lack of offense completely, as there are plenty of run oriented offenses in the ACC that should attract quality players (hmm, come to think of it Clemson, VT, etc. do attract plenty of players that fit this bill).

  23. CStanley 01/05/2008 at 9:16 AM #

    When Wake Forest is one of the best teams in the league, that should tell you right there that something’s amiss in the ACC. I realize Jim Grobe is a great coach, but for them to have made it to the Orange Bowl and basically be our best Bowl representative the past two years indicates a big issue with the rest of the league.

    Quite simply:

    Florida State, Miami, and VT aren’t living up to their hype.
    Clemson has never really lived up to their potential, sans the year they beat UT in the Peach Bowl.
    The Coastal Division in general has been AWFUL.
    State and UNC have shown no indications of becoming a big time football program, and have slipped so far that Wake Forest is now CLEARLY the best PROGRAM in the State of NC.
    Maryland has not sustained any of the early success Fridge had.
    Wake Forest is one of the best, most consistent teams in the league…and they aren’t world beaters.

    The sad part is, well disciplined, decent football will get you pretty good success in the ACC nowadays (see Wake the past two years, UVA this past season, VT pretty much every year), but most of the teams can’t even get that now.

  24. Dr. BadgerPack 01/05/2008 at 9:24 AM #

    ^ I’d have to beg to differ with some of that commentary. FSU and Miami aren’t living up to their reputations/history. Neither are Nebraska, Michigan (hello ASU), Notre Dame, Florida, Auburn, and many others. Some have better records than others, but reputations aren’t being lived up to at all schools– in an era of parity brought along by probably nothing more than a booming population (bigger sample size, more quality athletes) dominance will be harder and harder to achieve over a sustained period.

    I agree with the commentary about well-disciplined football. Question for the masses: if athletes are paid (and the ACC leads the way) how will discipline fair?

    Let’s save this for another thread. I wish that I had deleted the original comment sooner.

    There are great comments in this thread- it is fun to read/comment upon. SFN, I don’t mention it enough but keep up the fantastic work!

  25. Octavian 01/05/2008 at 10:36 AM #

    No doubt, the ACC has has taken it on the chin the past few years, choking some big games (although UMd, Clemson, FSU, UVa AND VaTech were hardly emabarassing blow outs) and certainly the BCS record is self evident. I believe this is mostly attributed to atrocious QB play and a spotty coaching carrousel. But things like this are cyclical and the ACC will be back (lest we forget recent history and the league the ACC dominated the NFL draft in 2006 and was #1 in the unbiased Sagarin rankings in ’05 and ’04). The coaching has stabilized and there’s too much talent and allure at these fine schools. The NFL has always been a great barometer of league prowess and to date the SEC had 263 players on the 2007 National Football League opening day active rosters, which led all conferences. The ACC was second with 238 players, followed by the Big Ten with 234 players, Pac-10 with 183 players, Big 12 with 176 players and the Big East with 84 players.

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