- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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This isn’t the first time the ACC has set an NCAA record for bowl-eligible teams.
The conference also did it in 2008, sending 10 teams to the postseason. Problem was, the league finished 4-6 in its bowl games that season.
Having a plethora of bowl teams doesn’t amount to much respect if the ACC can’t win more than it loses.
In 2012, the ACC only had six bowl-eligible teams, but it finished with a 4-2 record, the first winning bowl record the ACC has had since 2005. It was definitely a step in the right direction, as Clemson earned the league’s marquee win with an upset of LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Florida State won the Discover Orange Bowl, and Georgia Tech finally snapped its seven-game losing streak in bowls with a win over USC in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
In 2013, The ACC has already improved upon that with two teams in BCS bowls for the second time in three years, including No. 1 Florida State’s appearance in the VIZIO BCS National Championship game against No. 2 Auburn, and No. 12 Clemson’s date with No. 7 Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. In order for the ACC to prove it’s more than just Florida State, though, the rest of the conference has to carry its weight, too.
And, of course, Clemson has to avoid giving up 70 points again.
Highlighted by Florida State’s shot at Auburn and a chance to snap the SEC’s seven-game national title streak, the ACC has three chances against the SEC (vs. Auburn, No. 21 Texas A&M and Ole Miss), two against the Big Ten (Ohio State and Minnesota), two against the Pac-12 (Arizona and No. 17 UCLA), two against the American Athletic (No. 18 Louisville and Cincinnati), one against Conference USA (Marshall), and one against the MAC (Bowling Green).
(Before you start checking off your W column, just remember Virginia Tech needed three overtimes to beat Marshall in September.)
Despite Florida State’s resurgence on the national stage, the ACC enters bowl season still considered the fifth-best conference in the nation behind the SEC, Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten. Much of that has to do with the drop-off after FSU -- and the on-field results. The ACC finished 4-9 this season against its nonconference opponents form the other four power conferences, including a 3-5 record against the SEC, and a combined 0-4 record against the Big Ten and Pac-12. The fourth win came from Maryland against West Virginia of the Big 12.
With five ranked opponents, including two in the top 10 of the final BCS standings, there are plenty of opportunities for the ACC to prove itself. While Florida State might be the league’s only great team, the conference is balanced by its good teams. That’s not necessarily the national perception right now, especially after Clemson turned it over six times in a fifth straight loss to South Carolina, Georgia Tech squandered a 20-point lead against rival Georgia, and Virginia Tech’s offense couldn’t get out of its own way in losses to Boston College, Maryland and Duke. Against the Blue Devils, the best team the Coastal Division had to offer this season, Florida State cruised to a 45-7 win.
And that’s not a knock on Duke; it’s a testament to the gap that exists between Florida State and the rest of the ACC.
Since becoming a 12-team league in 2005, the ACC has sent 64 teams to bowl games. Only the SEC has had more (70). But the SEC has won 213 of those games, while the ACC has won 162. With the additions of Pitt and Syracuse, ACC fans should expect the league’s number of bowl-eligible teams to be higher.
They should expect the winning percentage to be, too.