|ESPN.com: NCF Nation||[Print without images]|
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The ACC took two steps forward this bowl season, winning two more games than it did a year ago, including the one that mattered most -- the FedEx Orange Bowl.
Virginia Tech represented as well as it possibly could with its 20-7 win over Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl, giving the ACC its first BCS bowl win since 1999. The ACC finished with a 4-6 bowl record, an NCAA-record 10 bowl-eligible teams, and a foundation to build upon.
Considering the ACC won less than half of its bowl games, there is still room for improvement (especially against the Big East), but it was definitely a postseason of progress.
What has to be frustrating for ACC fans is how painfully close the league was to being 9-1. With the exception of Georgia Tech's embarrassing 38-3 loss to LSU, nobody lost by more than a touchdown, and the average margin ACC teams lost by was a measly 4.2 points.
The problem with evaluating bowl performances is the intangibles each team brings. Boston College should have beaten Vanderbilt like Wake Forest and Duke did during the regular season, but the Eagles were disappointed they weren't in the Orange Bowl, and Vandy was just excited to be in its first bowl game since 1982. Who knows what would have happened in the Papajohns.com Bowl had NC State quarterback Russell Wilson not been injured.
While the ACC took care of business on the BCS stage, its reputation among the national pundits probably improved only marginally, considering it won just two bowl games against teams from BCS conferences (Wake's win came over Navy, and Maryland beat Nevada of the WAC).
You don't erase an eight-game losing streak with one win, but you can start an eight-game winning streak with one.