The ACC wanted to be the SEC. It wanted the money, the clout, the conference championship game, the TV contracts and pollsters to give mid-level ACC teams the benefit of the doubt because, well, they were in the ACC.
But once again, the ACC looks like a souffle that keeps collapsing.
Georgia Tech lost to Georgia Saturday. Clemson lost to South Carolina. So both halves of next week’s ACC championship game in Tampa lost to mid-level SEC teams that are headed to third-tier bowl games. That’s not how a conference gets money or clout or a big TV contract or the benefit of the doubt.
Meanwhile, the SEC title game matches No. 1 Florida vs. No. 2 Alabama.
While Tech coach Paul Johnson tries to figure out how to motivate his players after Saturday’s lost to the Dogs, ACC commissioner John Swofford needs to figure out how to spin this almost annual disaster into a positive. Good luck with that.
The conference has never received the marquee Miami-Florida State match-up it was hoping for when it expanded and split into two strangely divided geographic divisions (Atlantic and Coastal). Here’s the ACC’s brief championship game history:
♦ 2005: The first game has been the high point. It was a good game (FSU beat Virginia Tech, 27-22), was well attended in Jacksonville (72,749) and TV ratings that exceeded the SEC and Big 12 title games.
♦ 2006: Tech and Wake Forest were the surprise finalists and played a dreadful, touchdown-less game (won by Wake, 9-6). That year, just as this year, the Jackets were coming off a season-ending loss to Georgia. Announced attendance on Jacksonville dropped 10,000 (62,850).
♦ 2007: Two teams from the distant north (Boston College and Virginia Tech) caused attendance to continue to plummet. The No. 5 Hokies won, 30-16, so at least it gave the conference a highly ranked team going into the bowls. But then Virginia Tech was upset by Kansas in the Orange Bowl.
♦ 2008: The game was moved to Tampa. But it was the repeat matchup the ACC couldn’t afford. This time, B.C. and VaTech drew only 27,360 — which means half of the tickets distributed/sold weren’t even used. The Hokies won, 30-12. Not that anybody noticed.
♦ 2009: This week’s losses and the economy likely will hurt attendance. Regardless, the game would’ve garnered a lot more attention if Tech and Clemson were coming off victories.