Will 2012 FINALLY be the ACC's year?
The ACC has won only one BCS Championship, in its first 15 years of existence.
It would be prudent to caveat that there is no plan, nor indication from any blogger, columnist, beat writer, color commentator, game announcer, coach or equipment manager—that the ACC is glaring at the prospect of its best potential season. It may not even be one of its "better" seasons, once all is said and done.
But many devout College Football fans following from their livingroom lexicon—will agree that the sum of any conference's parts can best be evaluated by looking at the top of the conference, and what the best teams can hope to accomplish to make a name for the namesake that they represent.
It is no secret that the SEC has been the most dominant, demanding, and complete conference over the last six seasons. With eight BCS Championships in nine appearances over a 15-year period, it would seemingly be impossible to question the fate of the dynastic conference that has become a mainstay among the nation's elite year-in and year-out.
Many ACC fans (if there is such a thing) would likely assert that their brand—has become relegated to a second-tier conference status, where the de-facto bowl game, the Orange Bowl, has become a sort of cruel joke where references to West Virginia scoring again, or Virginia Tech getting smacked around by Andrew Luck, or Iowa have become common fodder in ACC-centric forums and news articles alike.
"But this year is going to be different." Or will it? Assuming this isn't just coach-speak, and the ACC may finally have something cooking within its conference affiliation that will turn heads, odds are, it will have to start with Florida State.
With all eyes focused on another 'summer of hype,' it's fair to say that injuries (especially to the offensive line, early on) kept the Seminoles from competing to their full potential in early contests last season. Losing your starting Quarterback in a very tough outing to Oklahoma early in the year, will lend itself to the notion that the 'Noles simply caught the injury bug. It happens. It's part of the game.
But even with FSU seemingly out of a National conversation early going, Clemson's electric offense anchored by Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd seemed to be the darlings of the media. Add to the fold, a very deceptive Virginia Tech Hokies team who managed to slide into the top three heading into the ACC Championship Game against the same Clemson team who gave them fits (and then handed them a loss) in October. Clemson would go on to claim its first ACC Championship in 20 years, and the Hokies would accept a surprising at-large invite to the Sugar Bowl against Michigan. (They would go on to lose the contest in overtime.)
Fast forward to 2012. Many experts have FSU pegged as 'back' to being a Championship-level contender. Many would argue Clemson is worthy of the same designation, (although defensively, the Tigers leave a lot to be desired, oops—West Virginia just scored again!) The Hokies lose eight starters offensively, including receivers Jarret Boykin, Danny Coale, and Tight-End Josh Oglesby, but return Logan Thomas under Center. The offensive line is an area of concern as the depth in Blacksburg is very thin with so many linemen departures.
All of these concerns, while legitimate, and real—still offer a glimpse into the possibility that the ACC should have at least three mainstay names in the top 25 throughout the season. Add to the fold the potential addition of NC State, who is a dark horse contender in the Atlantic, and Georgia Tech in the Coastal, and the ACC has a moderately promising upper-tier of teams. Miami is largely a question mark with looming sanctions, in its second-year under Head Coach Al Golden. North Carolina could be every bit as good as it has been rumored for seasons it may be as well. But all-in-all, it boils down to 3-4 teams, and how well they compete this season.
The question: If Florida State, Clemson, and Virginia Tech can all find themselves at no worse than two losses apiece, come season's end, what sort of Bowl outlook can the ACC look forward to? Rules will suggest that one team will not make a BCS game, based on available slots.
I Imagine a scenario where FSU runs the table, Clemson loses to FSU, and the Hokies lose to Clemson and FSU. Virginia Tech at 10-2 would play 12-0 FSU for the ACC crown, and Clemson at 11-1 would likely be an at-large for a bowl bid in the BCS as well. Could it happen? Not if we look at history. But then again, that's why the games are played.
What type of projections would you make about the ACC?
Who would you include in them?
What would be the outcomes of these bowl slots?
It could be one of those years for the ACC. The question then becomes, what happens to the ACC—if it finally succeeds?