On Saturday evening, UNC failed to convert a 4th and 1 and with it, Texas A&M won the Orange Bowl. But that wasn't ramification from this game. With the loss the ACC lost ever single bowl game they were part of, finishing Bowl Season 0-6. With this mark of futility, the Atlantic Coast Conference joined Conference USA as one of two conferences without a win. On the other hand the Big 12 went undefeated during these postseason games.
There were many disappointing moments during the bowl season for the ACC. First and foremost was the lack luster play by the ACC's "elite" teams Clemson and Notre Dame. After the Alabama Crimson Tide summarily dispatched the Irish, who will be heading back to football independence after the season, Clemson was dominated by the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl. Future NFL first pick Trevor Lawrence did his part, but was overshadowed by the gutsy play of injured Buckeye Justin Fields who heroically played through what looked like a very painful injury.
Neither game was competitive, as both opponents bullied their ACC counterparts for a combined 80 points in the college football playoffs. For a conference looking to stake it's claim as one of the premier in the country, these two games were disappointing and showcased how far off the ACC in terms of their premier programs.
But it wasn't just the playoffs, the ACC struggled in every other bowl game they competed in. Miami's defense couldn't stop Oklahoma State's passing attack, allowing four touchdowns. It was a matchup that might have had a different outcome if D'Eriq King didn't tear his ACL in the middle of the game. While Bailey Hockman and the NC State offense threw three interceptions, and allowed 281 yards on the ground to Kentucky in the Gator Bowl. Wisconsin took care of Wake Forest, and the aforementioned Texas A&M and UNC game was close, but in the end the ACC couldn't pull off a victory.
Does this bowl season futility actually say anything about the conference as a whole? With COVID-19 basically turning this entire season on it's head its hard to get an accurate gauge on the health of the conference. Four ACC teams opted out of the bowl season (Boston College, UVA, VT and Pitt) while teams like WF and NC State had key players opt out of the bowl games. But the same issues could be said for almost any other conference.
However you want to slice the mid-bottom tier bowls, there is no way to excuse away losing both playoff games. The ACC had an opportunity to showcase two programs that had captivated audiences all year, and both teams fell flat. With ND leaving, it will be a challenge to get two ACC teams into the playoffs again, but with UNC on the rise and other programs developing, it's not out of the realm of possibility.
But for the rest of this off season, be prepared to hear from writers and fans from other conferences about how inadequate the ACC is. And really, after the play we saw on the field over the past two weeks, there is nothing to retort.