Thursday, January 13, 2011
Blog debate: Big East, ACC bowl woes
By Brian Bennett and Heather Dinich
Virginia Tech and UConn were both blown out in their respective BCS games this season.
The SEC won another BCS national title, while the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big 12 won BCS games. The ACC and Big East, meanwhile, continued their quests for respect during bowl season, with mixed results. ACC blogger Heather Dinich and Big East blogger Brian Bennett square off to see if either conference got off the mat during the postseason, and whether either can expect to succeed in the BCS again anytime soon.
Brian Bennett: I don't know about you, Heather, but I enjoyed watching the BCS title game from my couch Monday night. I'd sure like to cover one of those someday, but it doesn't look like either of our leagues is close to getting there soon. Baby steps. Anyway, small picture first. The Big East went 4-2 in bowls, compared to 4-5 for the ACC. Does John Swofford have to kiss John Marinatto's ring at the next commissioners' gathering?
Heather Dinich: Wait, are you talking about the thriller over a Kansas State team that won all of three Big 12 games this year? Or the blowout of a 6-7 Kentucky team? Connecticut’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl was nice, but it forgot its defense, and the one ranked team the Big East had to offer in its bowls -- West Virginia -- lost pretty convincingly. To an ACC team! I’m not sure the Big East escaped the bowl season with much to brag about, but I’ll give you South Florida’s 2-0 record against the ACC this year. I think both of these conferences are struggling, and both have seen some coaching turnover this offseason. (Which reminds me … Is Randy Edsall good enough to make Maryland a consistent Top-25 team?) I don’t think the ACC took any significant steps forward this bowl season, either. Do you really think the Big East earned any respect with its 4-2 bowl record?
Brian Bennett: Well, the league's bowl record looks great as long as you don't examine it too closely. But at least the Big East didn't have a team lose to Air Force (hello, Georgia Tech) or look completely disinterested in being at a game (cough, Miami). And Virginia Tech lost by the same margin -- 28 points -- as Connecticut did to Oklahoma, though the Huskies at least showed a pulse at some point in the second half of their BCS calamity.
I know Florida State and NC State had nice bowl showings, but let's face it: Neither of our leagues are going to earn respect until they start winning BCS games. It doesn't seem like the ACC can win one unless it's matched up against the Big East. Meanwhile, the Big East has lost three straight, with the margins getting worse each time. Should our two leagues just be forced to play each other in the Orange Bowl until somebody proves it can compete nationally? (And as for Edsall, yes. Though maybe not much better than No. 25).
HD: Ugh, a permanent Big East/ACC Challenge Orange Bowl?! And you think ticket sales are struggling now? It’s a Catch 22, because the only way these conferences can prove they can compete nationally is to play the elite competition -- not each other. Unfortunately for the ACC, it’s 2-11 in its BCS bowl appearances, and one of those wins came against Cincinnati. Sorry, Bearcats, but I’d rather see the Hokies face a top-five team like Stanford than even a No. 12-ranked Cincy team. I bet most college football fans would. If the Hokies beat a team like Stanford, it’s a marquee win and a huge upset. If they lose, it’s the same tired storyline, but it wouldn’t be perceived as bad as a loss to a Big East team. In the end, there’s more for both the Big East and ACC to gain by playing one of the big boys and a lot more to lose by playing each other. The question is how much longer until either conference starts to make some national noise?
BB: Maybe a simpler solution would just be for Virginia Tech to take a mandatory five-year BCS breather. Seriously, how many times are the Hokies going to lay an egg in the BCS in a half-empty stadium?
The Big East had been doing fine in BCS games until this recent lull, and I think the league will be back strong soon. There are a lot of young quarterbacks in the conference who will be maturing, and some new coaching blood -- including Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia, Todd Graham at Pitt, Charlie Strong at Louisville and Skip Holtz at South Florida -- should greatly increase the competition level. And of course, TCU comes on board in 2012. I'm already counting this year's Rose Bowl win in the Big East column, if that's OK with you.
How about the ACC? Doesn't Florida State or Miami -- which really hasn't been good since leaving the Big East, I might point out -- have to get to the next level before that league does the same?
HD: Ha … you can have the Rose Bowl win, as long as you concede the ACC Miami’s five national titles. Yes, Florida State and Miami both bear a lot of the burden for the ACC’s reputation, and right now, the Noles are three steps ahead of the Canes. Florida State is headed in the right direction under Jimbo Fisher. Their No. 17 ranking in the final AP poll was the program’s highest since 2004, they won 10 games for the first time in seven years, and they played in the ACC title game for the first time since 2005. Not bad for Year 1. Miami will be in a transition under Al Golden, but there is talent there and he will bring in more. Honestly, I don’t think it matters as much at this point WHO the ACC’s national title contender is, as long as somebody -- anybody -- represents. I don’t see it happening in 2011 because there is too much turnover at quarterback and among the coaching ranks. Until the quarterbacks mature, and there is some stability at the top, the ACC is just going to have to settle for ... well, beating the Big East, my friend.