ACC needs big wins from Clemson, FSU

January, 1, 2014
Jan 1
11:00
AM ET
Paging Clemson and Florida State. Pick up the white courtesy phone.

The ACC would like a word.

Because more than ever, the league needs both to stop the league bowl slide and win their respective BCS games. That would at least bring some much needed credibility to the league. Because right now, its rep remains in shambles.

A record 11 teams made bowl games, wonderful news for the newly expanded league. However, winning those games has been a different story. The ACC stands to finish with a losing record this bowl season, the same way it did back in 2008, when its record 10 bowl teams went a collective 4-6.

After a miserable New Year's Eve, in which the ACC went 0-3, the bowl record for 2013 stands at 3-6. What's worse is the way everybody lost, most especially the teams in the biggest games:
  • Miami got blown out by Louisville 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl in what qualifies as the most disappointing showing among ACC teams so far. The Canes were inept on offense, completely dominated physically and exposed once again on defense -- by a roster filled with players from the South Florida area. It is inexplicable for a team coming off a two-year postseason ban to show such a complete lack of intensity or urgency. Headed into the contest, this was billed as one of the best non-BCS bowl matchups. Only one team came to play.
  • Virginia Tech thought it might have a chance to contain Brett Hundley and the UCLA offense with its top-notch defense in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. But after Logan Thomas got hurt, the Hokies seemed to go in a shell. That still does not explain a horrendous fourth quarter in which UCLA turned a close game into a rout. It was Virginia Tech's most lopsided bowl loss since falling to North Carolina 42-3 in the 1998 Gator Bowl.
  • Georgia Tech had one chance after another to beat Ole Miss in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, but once again the Jackets could not take advantage. The dagger came late in the fourth quarter, when a fumble in the end zone led to a safety and the end of any shot to win. Georgia Tech has lost eight of its last nine bowls.
  • Then the heartbreaker on Tuesday night. Nobody gave Coastal champ Duke a chance to beat Texas A&M in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. But the Blue Devils looked like they would save the day for the ACC, jumping all over the Aggies from the start en route to a 38-17 lead headed into the fourth quarter. But Johnny Manziel saved his Manziel Magic for the end, and Anthony Boone threw two interceptions to turn the tide. Duke lost 52-48 in a thrilling game that nearly gave the ACC the upset of bowl season. Duke had an unbelievable season, but that loss will not be easily forgotten.
Four of the six losses so far have been by double digits. Of the three wins, only one came against a power 5 conference team -- kudos to Syracuse for beating Minnesota in the Texas Bowl.

So that brings us to the two BCS games. No. 12 Clemson takes on No. 7 Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl on Friday night; No. 1 Florida State plays No. 2 Auburn in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.

If both win, they will go a long way toward erasing the nightmare that has been the 2013 bowl season. The truth is, these two teams have been the highest ranked ACC teams all season, the two that people across the country associate with ACC success. Two big wins over two big programs -- and most especially a national championship -- will show the ACC does have an elite upper class.

Does the middle of the league have work to do? Absolutely. What was already known headed into bowl season has been made even clearer. But the ACC ultimately will not be judged by what happened between Boston College and Arizona in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl. It will be judged by what happens on the biggest stage.

That's why the ACC needs Clemson and Florida State to come through.

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