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Monday, December 28, 2009
ACC's margin for error shrinks

By Heather Dinich

It could have been worse.

Clemson helped the ACC avoid an embarrassing 0-3 start to bowl season with its 21-13 win over Kentucky on Sunday night, and the conference heads into this week with a 1-2 bowl record and clinging to a chance to finish the postseason with a winning bowl record.

It’s up to Miami, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Georgia Tech to represent.

Three of those teams have to win their respective bowl games in order for the ACC to come out ahead, which it wasn’t able to do last year, despite producing an NCAA-record 10 bowl-eligible teams. It’s possible -- I’ve already gone on record predicting a 5-2 record (gulp) -- but none of these games are a given. Bowl season is as unpredictable as Urban Meyer.

All of the remaining games should be entertaining, and it’s too early to judge the conference based on its start.

Neither Boston College nor North Carolina was embarrassed in its bowl game, but fans of both teams were probably left feeling as if they were games that could have been won. Both teams made costly mistakes though. For BC, it was Dave Shinskie’s interception early in the fourth quarter, which led to a USC score. For Carolina, it was the offsides call on Cam Thomas on Pitt’s fourth-and-2 with 1:30 left. The Tar Heels thought they could have been in a better bowl game, but they’ve got to win the one they’ve earned, first.

Nobody is going to play a flawless game, but when they’re so close, minimizing the foolish mistakes and winning the turnover battle are what make the difference. Just ask Clemson. There was only one turnover in the Music City Bowl, and Clemson used the fumble recovery to lead to what would be the game-winning score.

With the ACC playing on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday this week, we’ll have a better idea of where the conference stands heading into the FedEx Orange Bowl. The only thing we know after the 1-2 start is that there’s little margin for error now.