The dream of an all-powerful ACC seemed so close to reality when the league played its first 12-team football season five years ago. Top-quality basketball would merge with top-quality football, and teams in each sport would compete for national titles every year.
Basketball held up its end of the bargain, but football has not. Even the football league's divisions, chosen with no regard for geography to match marquee teams in the title game, haven't worked out. That's because with the exception of Virginia Tech, the programs that were supposed to dominate have turned out to be mediocre, or, at best, slightly above average.
Ideally, the league would prefer a championship game featuring Florida State or Clemson coming out of the Atlantic Division and Miami or Virginia Tech coming out of the Coastal Division -- with the winner heading to the BCS title game, of course. That was the hope when the ACC poached Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech from the Big East. FSU beat Virginia Tech in the inaugural title game, but the league hasn't gotten a dream matchup since, and no ACC team has even sniffed the BCS title game.
That's bad, considering the league started negotiations this month for its next set of television contracts. Obviously, ACC basketball remains a valuable commodity, but the expanded league hasn't produced football teams the nation wants to watch. In 2005, Florida State and Miami were marquee draws, but the Seminoles' and Hurricanes' Q ratings have plummeted.
What's the ACC's biggest football perception problem? Here's a list of the teams that have the best chance to win the 2010 ACC title: Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. While it's great that so many programs are above-average, that's too many title contenders. A league needs a few elite teams to contend for national titles. So far, no ACC program has separated itself from the pack. The result: three- and four-loss teams playing for the conference title in a half-empty stadium.
That's not what ACC officials had in mind when they expanded. But hope springs eternal every March. Maybe this is the year an ACC team finally makes the leap.
It's impossible to pick one, but five of the six teams I mentioned as conference title contenders have the personnel to compete on the national stage and a major early out-of-conference game to prove that point. They are:
Indeed, but the defending ACC champ lacks an early marquee out-of-conference game to prove its worth on a national stage. Georgia Tech plays at Kansas on Sept. 11, but the Jayhawks don't have the cachet of Ohio State, LSU and Boise State.
We probably shouldn't doubt
The Jackets have quite a bit to replace on defense, most notably defensive end
So is this the year the rest of the ACC defenses figure out Johnson's option? Probably not. With so few teams running it, it's still going to perplex defenses with only a few days to prepare. Unfortunately for the Yellow Jackets, North Carolina and Virginia Tech will face them after open dates.
It might be Virginia Tech tailback
Or it might be NC State linebacker
Or maybe it'll be Boston College linebacker
The circumstances of
No pressure, though.
Fisher has done all the right things so far. He has recruited well, beating out conference and in-state rivals for linebacker
Yes, because London understands his state is loaded with great players. And while Virginia Tech is going to get some of those players, the rest shouldn't be leaving the state to play at Penn State or Florida or Tennessee.
"I am a product of -- and I'll use it as the kids say -- the 757," London said at his introductory press conference, referring to the area code in the state's Tidewater region. How committed is London to reconnecting to the region that produces the state's best players? On March 27, the Cavaliers will hold their final open-to-the-public practice of the spring on the Old Dominion campus in Norfolk.
Groh recruited some great players to Charlottesville -- just look at the last few NFL drafts -- but he didn't get enough. The correct coach can win huge at Virginia, a fine academic institution in a beautiful town smack in the middle of a recruiting hotbed state. London gets that, and it shouldn't take him long to lift Virginia into the upper half of the conference.