- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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OK, so let me get this straight. The ACC became the butt of national jokes last week when 6-6 Georgia Tech made the league championship game. Then folks pointed and laughed when said Jackets nearly upset No. 13 Florida State.
But over in Indianapolis, a 7-5 Wisconsin team rolled up 70 points on the No. 12 team in the nation in the Big Ten title game and that was, well, cool! I mean Wisconsin racked up 70 on Nebraska! With so many fun tricks! With three running backs who ran for over 100 yards! Wow, look at the shiny offense!
Imagine if Georgia Tech had scored 70 on Florida State and headed to the Orange Bowl as the ACC rep. The Noles' FBS membership may have been revoked, and the ACC relegated to Sun Belt status.
The double-standard is just laughable, quite honestly.
Amid all this hand-wringing about Georgia Tech, then the mass hysteria that ensued after Northern Illinois qualified for the Orange Bowl -- by rules very clearly laid out years ago -- folks have conveniently forgotten that:
Georgia Tech qualified for the ACC title game IN THE SAME WAY Wisconsin did -- because two schools ahead of them in the standings are ineligible for the postseason.
The Jackets had a BETTER league record (5-3) than Wisconsin (4-4). And Wisconsin only won ONE more regular-season game.
In 15 years, Wisconsin is only the fourth unranked BCS team to earn a BCS bowl berth. You might guess the Big East has the others. WRONG. Three of the four have received automatic spots into the Rose Bowl (Stanford in 2000 and Purdue in 2001 join Wisconsin on that list).
The Badgers will be the first five-loss team ever to play in the Rose Bowl.
Wisconsin (8-5) also has the worst record of any team that has ever made the BCS. Worse than UConn back in 2010, a team that finished 8-4 and was ridiculed more than any team ever earning an automatic berth.
And yet, the popular theme this weekend focused squarely on the "terrible" matchup in the ACC title game, all the empty seats and a lackluster effort from the Noles. Over in Indianapolis, announced attendance for the Big Ten title game was just 41,260.
Then Sunday, those dastardly Northern Illinois Huskies took the brunt of the nation's ire for doing nothing but going 12-1, winning the MAC title and finishing No. 15 in the BCS standings -- higher than both Wisconsin and Louisville, who got in based on automatic qualifier status. Public sentiment can be summed up roughly this way: How dare Northern Illinois crash the elitist party! It's a joke! Who let them play football!
Not a peep on Wisconsin representing the Big Ten in the most prestigious bowl game of all.
While I realize this column may come off as Big Ten bashing, what happened with the Badgers this season helps me illustrate my main point. There are conferences like the Big Ten that get the benefit of the doubt. There are conferences like the ACC that do not.
The ire aimed at just a conference or a team is completely misguided. The system we have in place is flawed. Teams that are deserving get left out of the BCS every year. Teams that are not deserving get in every year. That is not going to change in the future playoff, either. An 8-5 Big Ten champion will get into the Rose Bowl; Northern Illinois would get into an elite-game in the future system, too.
Rather than go the lazy route and just repeat commonly held misperceptions, it would be mighty refreshing for folks to step back, take a deep breath and realize this has been a down year for multiple conferences. That's why Northern Illinois is in as the first ever one-loss team from a non-automatic qualifying conference into the BCS, moreso than its record this season.
Down year in the ACC.
Down year in the Big Ten.
Criticism is warranted for both leagues. It is convenient -- and wrong -- for only the ACC to take a hit.
5dAndrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna