ESPN’s Stats & Info group released its final conference power rankings for the 2010 season, and if you’ve been following along all year, this should come as no surprise: The ACC ranked seventh behind two non-AQ conferences, the WAC and the Mountain West.
This is exactly where the ACC deserves to be.
Forget the numbers, the polls, the formulas. The ACC lost this argument on the field this year. Virginia Tech lost to Boise State. Boston College lost to Nevada. Georgia Tech lost to Air Force. The highlight? Florida State’s 34-10 win over a 7-6 BYU team that got creamed by the same Air Force team the Jackets lost to. Both the Mountain West and WAC had teams ranked in the top 10 of the final polls, while the ACC’s highest ranked team was No. 16 Virginia Tech, which was clobbered by Stanford in the second half of the Discover Orange Bowl.
Not only have the non-AQs caught up, they’ve surged ahead.
If the ACC -- and Big East for that matter -- want to maintain their positions among college football’s BCS big boys, they have to earn it. (Or do what the Big East did, and steal one of the non-AQ’s national title contenders.)
The only way to change the perception of the ACC is for the conference to win those matchups -- or at least a majority of them. The Virginia Tech-Boise State game was a thriller, nothing to be ashamed of. BC’s loss to Nevada wasn’t entirely a surprise considering the varying level of experience between the two quarterbacks. Georgia Tech’s loss to Air Force was inexplicable.
All of them, though, added up to the ACC’s final place in college football’s hierarchy for 2010 -- a notch above the Big East, Conference-USA, the MAC and the Sun Belt.
Much has been made of the ACC’s 2-11 record in BCS bowls and struggles against elite nonconference competition. Air Force doesn’t quite fall into that category. Before the conference can beat the Alabamas and the Ohio States of the world, it has to be able to handle the non-AQs. If Boise State and Nevada aren’t the “big boys” of college football, the ACC sure did a good job of making them look like it in 2010.