Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Hope springs in the ACC

By Heather Dinich

As the season slooowwly creeps up on us and we enter what will be the final season in the current BCS system, ESPN.com is taking some time today to reflect on how each conference has overachieved and underachieved during the BCS era. History reminds us it's impossible to predict how the season will play out. Who will disappoint? Who will exceed our expectations?

Since 1998, when the BCS began, here’s a look at five things each the ACC has done to overachieve and underachieve during that span:

Five best overachieved

1. Wake Forest in the 2007 Orange Bowl. The 2006 Deacs were the Cinderella of the BCS that year, the smallest school in the BCS making big history under coach Jim Grobe. The unheralded team defeated Georgia Tech 9-6 to win the program’s second ACC football championship (and its first since 1970). The Demon Deacons' nine points were by far the fewest ever scored by a winning team in a Division 1-A title game. Wake Forest earned the program’s first trip to a BCS game.

Ralph Friedgen
Ralph Friedgen, who coached the Terrapins from 2001-2010, finished his career at Maryland with a 75-60 overall record.
2. Ralph Friedgen winning 31 games in his first three seasons. In 2001, Friedgen became the first coach in league history to win the ACC title in his first year as head coach, and he was a consensus choice for national coach of the year. With the players he inherited from Ron Vanderlinden, Friedgen had three straight seasons of at least 10 wins each -- unprecedented success in the program’s history.

3. ACC conning Notre Dame into affiliation. It was a major coup for commissioner John Swofford, who convinced the Irish to join the ACC in all sports but football, and to commit to an agreement to play five annual football games against the ACC, beginning in 2014. It was a critical step in stabilizing the future of the conference.

4. 2007 Boston College: The Eagles were ranked as high as No. 2 in the country that year after rallying to beat Virginia Tech in late October. Jeff Jagodzinski had one of the most successful first seasons in school history, as he guided the team to 11 wins, including a win against Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl. It was the first time BC had won 11 games since 1940.

5. Joe Hamilton Heisman runner-up. Georgia Tech’s quarterback finished second in the 1999 Heisman Trophy voting, an impressive accomplishment for a player listed at 5’10, 190 pounds. While many doubted his pro potential because of his size, there was no questioning his accomplishments with the Yellow Jackets. The ACC’s all-time leader in total offense with 10,640 yards led the Jackets to an 18-5 record over his last 23 games, including a share of the 1998 ACC championship.

Five worst underachieved

1. Florida State’s 2012 loss to NC State. The Seminoles’ 17-16 loss at NC State last year was unforgettable, and to some FSU fans, probably unforgivable. The Noles were ranked No. 3 in the country at the time and finally being taken seriously as a national-title contender again when it all slipped away in the fourth quarter in Raleigh. Despite the ACC title and Orange Bowl win, there will always be a sense of what could have been had FSU not squandered a 16-0 halftime lead.

2. The ACC’s 3-13 record in BCS bowls. Despite all of the NFL draft picks the conference has produced, despite all of the elite recruits the league lured in, the ACC spent the BCS era digging itself a gaping hole it could never climb out of in the current system. Florida State, Virginia Tech and Clemson combined for a 3-10 record in BCS bowls.

3. Miami’s mediocrity. Five national titles -- and yet not one Coastal Division crown. When Miami joined the ACC on July 1, 2004, league officials thought the perennial power would be an instant upgrade. Instead, Miami’s mediocrity has been its main storyline, and more recently, its saga involving the NCAA has overshadowed any success Al Golden has had on the field. Since joining the ACC, Miami has had three different head coaches and hasn’t been able to win more than nine games or finish better than second place in the division. When Miami is great again, the ACC will be, too.

4. Clemson’s collapse in 2008. The Tigers entered the season as the No. 9 team in the country and finished with a thud at 7-6. The downward spiral began in the opener against Alabama, when Clemson had zero yards rushing on 14 attempts. Despite the dynamic duo of James Davis and C.J. Spiller, and standout receiver Jacoby Ford, Clemson lost three straight to Maryland, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, and former coach Tommy Bowden resigned mid-season. It couldn’t have gone much worse for a team that began with such high expectations.

5. FSU vs. the best since its last BCS appearance. Since 2000, when Florida State last played for a national title, the Seminoles are 18-24 against opponents ranked in the Associated Press top 25, and that includes a win against Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl. Despite playing in two national championship games in the BCS era, Florida State was unable to translate that success into a winning record against ranked opponents.