ACC Roundtable: Bowl Season Edition
It’s ACC Roundtable time again! Football season is winding down so this post centers primarily on end-of-season activities–the ACC Title Game and bowl season.
This time, the fellas from BCInterruption are hosting. They’ll have a roundup of everyone’s answers over at their site sometime tomorrow.
On with the questions and my answers:
1. Virginia Tech and Florida State seemed to acquit the ACC Championship Game well this year, turning in an entertaining 44-33 game in front of a crowd of 72,379 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Assess the success of the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte in year one. How much of the success can be attributed to the host city, and how much can be attributed to the matchup? A little of A, a little of B?
I think it was a smashing success, and would’ve been even more so had a team from North Carolina (cough cough, NC State) been one of the two representatives. If Greensboro is the heart of the ACC, Charlotte is probably the next best thing, and its central location put it within easy driving distance of both Blacksburg and Tallahassee.
Certainly having two recent football powers with large alumni bases playing the game versus, say, Georgia Tech versus Boston College (no offense, guys) made for a very appealing matchup even if you weren’t a fan of either team.
2. Would you like to see Charlotte become the permanent home of the ACC Football Championship? Or would you be in favor of some alternate Championship Game format? (continuing to rotate the location, move to campus a la the Pac 12, etc.) Explain.
I think Charlotte should definitely be the host city, permanently. It’s nearly equidistant to Boston and Miami and within easy driving distance of nearly every other school, and that’s just too much of a factor to ignore when it comes to putting butts in the seats. Further, since Charlotte doesn’t host a bowl game that would pick from either of the two title game participants, you avoid the prospect of playing the title game and bowl game in the same venue.
Sure, an outdoor venue in late fall may keep some less hardy souls away, but the purist in me feels like the cold weather only enhances the experience. As they say, that’s “football weather.”
I think moving it from place to place only highlights the shakiness of the ACC’s already weak position as a BCS conference. If it’s a traveling roadshow that you just expect people to show up to because it’s “The ACC Championship,” forget it. ACC Football doesn’t have enough cache to draw in spectators from the local populations of Tampa, Jacksonville or Inset-Florida-Location-Here like it might in Charlotte.
And notice I used the word might. I doubt, even in the heart of ACC country, you could bring in thousands of locals with no affiliation to either team. The VAST majority of your spectators will still be fans of either school. Having it in “the middle” makes that easier for everyone (not located in Florida).
The ACC should look to the Gold Standard of conference title games for a guide on how to operate, the SEC Title Game. And how do they do it? It’s hosted by the same venue, in the same, centrally-located city, each and every year. If you put the ACC Title Game in Charlotte each and every year, it will start to build some familiarity with the local population and I think they, like the folks of Atlanta, will embrace hosting it over time.
The only thing I might change about the process is waiting to make tickets available for purchase until both teams are determined. Since the Atlantic participant wasn’t decided until the final week, Virginia Tech fans had a head start on ticket sales and a lot of State fans bought tickets before the Maryland game simply to avoid being shut out had we made the title game. That left a lot of Wolfpack fans scrambling to unload their tickets after the game against the Terps and no doubt a lot of those tickets went to Virginia Tech fans. So my guess is the attendance numbers, by fanbase, were greatly in favor of the Hokies. I think waiting to make tickets available until both teams are locked in would lead to more equitable distribution of each team’s fanbases.
3. On to the ACC’s 2010 slate of bowl games. How happy are you with your program’s bowl placement? Did your team’s bowl destination exceed or fall short of preseason expectations? (No, I didn’t forget about you, Wake and Virginia. You can speak to general season results relative to preseason expectations here).
State might be the only fanbase among the BCS conference somewhat disappointed with finding itself in the #3 bowl tie-in after preseason predictions largely had us missing a bowl game altogether. Why? When you look at what might’ve been, you ache at knowing how close State was to playing in a much more significant bowl with higher stakes.
Logically, yes, the Champs Bowl is a great bowl. It’s in the top tier of the ACC’s bowl tie-ins. And yes, given State was predicted to fall flat on its face in 2010 and get Tom O’Brien fired makes finishing the year 8-4 somewhat satisfying.
But look back at what got away from us, in reverse order:
- State knew they had to beat Maryland to go to the title game, yet blew it.
- They had every opportunity to beat a down Clemson team and blew it (win that game and the Maryland game is a non-issue).
- The loss to East Carolina stung, from a rivalry standpoint if not from a conference standpoint, and–again–we played poorly and blew it.
- And in the Virginia Tech game, we let a 17-0 first half lead slowly evaporate over the next three quarters.
So all four losses were not only winable games, but you could argue three of the four (VT was just better than us that day) SHOULD have been won. And thinking about an 11-1 NC State team (likely ranked in or just outside the Top 10) playing for a chance to go to the Orange Bowl makes your heart sink at would could have been.
But, you know…if, buts, candy, nuts, etc. etc. etc. yada yada yada, we’re still excited about the Champs Bowl.
4. Looking at the conference’s bowl schedule as a whole, how many games do you have the conference winning? Is this the year the conference has a breakout year come bowl season?
In chronological order, and with nary an ounce of research into the matchups:
- Independence Bowl, GT v Air Force. — The “Whoa, That Was Fast; It’s Already Over?” Bowl. Hope you like the option, and lots of it. This could be possibly the shortest bowl game in history. I set the over/under at 2 hours, 15 mins. I think Paul Johnson’s still a hell of a coach, and since Tech’s defense sees the option so often at practice, I think they’ll perform better than they have on the whole this year. I’ll say Tech over Air Force, 28-24.
- Champs Sports Bowl, State v West Virginia — The “Dammit We’re Better Than This” Bowl. This has the chance to be a very good game, actually. West Virginia is ranked #22 heading into the matchup, stinging at not winning the Big East. State is better than its (non) ranking suggests and let a great season get away (see: above). If Russell Wilson performs well, I think State wins this game in a close one. I’ll say 24-21.
- Military Bowl, Maryland v ECU — The “Oh My God I Can’t Believe We Fell This Far” Bowl. The Terps finished with an 8-4 record and have a great young quarterback in Danny O’Brien and a tremendous receiver in Torrey Smith. But something tells me ECU will find a way because they want to be there more than Maryland. If the Pirates don’t go braindead like State’s coaches did and leave Smith open in single-coverage, I think they win this one to put the ACC at 2-1 through the first three games. Pirates 38, Terps 21.
- Music City Bowl, Tennessee v UNC — The “Oh Hell No You Didn’t Try To Duck Us” Bowl. The Tar Heels have fought through (self-inflicted) adversity to a 7-5 record and now get to face a Tennessee team that dropped the Tar Heels from their schedule because they felt it made for too difficult a non-conference slate for new coach Derek Dooley (we ARE talking about the Tar Heels, right?). The Heels will be out to make a statement, but the Vols will have a partisan crowd on hand and will make this one interesting. I think the Heels pull it out on the final drive, 21-17.
- Meineke Car Care Bowl, Clemson v South Florida — The “Hey, Are These Brake Pads In My Free Gifts Bag?” Bowl. Clemson will be looking to put a nice spin on a disappointing season and rekindle a little love for Ol’ Dabo, but Skip Holtz will do what Skip Holtz does: win at the end of the year. He won back-to-back conference titles at ECU and I think he’ll win his first bowl game as coach of The Bulls. I see South Florida winning an ugly one, 14-10.
- Hyundai Sun Bowl, Miami v Notre Dame — The “Oh Crap I Forgot To Include This In My Original Post” Bowl. So yeah, I missed this bowl prediction the first go-round…that’s why I have such astute readers to keep me on my toes. Ok, so, we have Miami–minus their head coach–facing Notre Dame in another battle of two disappointed teams (you may be noticing a theme here of disappointed teams in bowls. Such is the way of life when you have to find 70 teams to fill these things.). Since I imagine the players at Miami probably feel like Shannon got a raw deal (versus players who can see the writing on the wall when a coach goes 0-12) and the Irish have a better and more stable coaching situation, I’m going with Notre Dame in this one. How about 24-13? Sound good?
- Chic Fil A Bowl, South Carolina v Florida State — The “I Said ‘Cocks’ And That’s A Naughty Word!” Bowl. The Cocks (tee hee) are having their best year ever under Steve Spurrier and Florida State is looking like the ‘Noles of old under Jimbo Fisher. The Cocks (tee hee) are probably still stinging from the butt-whoopin’ Auburn put on them in the SEC Title Game, but I don’t think it was enough to shame the Cocks (tee hee) into giving up on winning this game. In a year or two I think Jimbo wins this game, but I think the Cocks (tee hee) pull out (tee hee) a victory and receive the golden shower of confetti (ok, I’ll stop now) celebrating on the victory podium, 27-24. The ACC concludes the December slate of bowl games 3-3.
- Orange Bowl, Virginia Tech v Stanford — The “Damn I Hope The ACC Wins This One” Bowl. The ACC could sure use the salve of beating one of the hottest teams in the country in Stanford, certainly after the way the season–and VT’s season in particular–started. They would be beating Heisman hopeful Andrew Luck and a team whose only loss came at the hands of Oregon. I know everyone thinks Stanford’s a lock…which is why I’m going Hokies in the shocker in a low-scoring affair, 14-10. Tyrod Taylor caps off his great career with a signature win.
- Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, BC v Nevada — The “BC Faces Off Against The Wolf SPACE Pack” Bowl. The Wolf…..Pack are 12-1 this season and bested Boise St. in overtime for their signature win. Though I’m rooting for BC and the Spaz Stache to get the job done (especially after college football lost a great ‘stache with the “resigning” of the Wannstache this week), I think the Pack (no apostrophe, see because Wolf and Pack are two words and Pack stands alone, and… alright I’ll let it go) will take care of The Eagles easily, I’m afraid. Pack in a rout, 31-10. The ACC finishes the bowl season with an appropriate middle-of-the-road, average 4-5 record.
5. Clearly, there are many factors other than on-field performance that go into bowl selections (travel rep, ticket sales, travel distances). Pretend for a moment that the ACC placed teams in our conference’s bowl games 1-9 based solely on their on-field performance this season (you can rank 1-9 anyway you see fit). Holding our bowl opponents fixed, how does your answer to question 4 change? Does the ACC then win more or less bowl games this year?
Dammit, this is hard. Where are all the softball questions I signed up for, Brian?
Well, obviously the big mover up the ladder would be Maryland. It’s debatable whether Maryland would deserve to be in the #3 slot (they beat State head-to-head but finished with an identical conference record against weaker conference opponents and trail State in nearly every ranking system), but let’s assume the Terps face WVU and State slides to #4 and faces Tennessee in the Music City. I think Maryland loses to West Virginia and State probably beats Tennessee.
That would drop the ACC’s record overall to 3-5 if I assume all other schools win or lose like I predicted earlier. If the Tar Heels wound up in the Meineke Car Care Bowl AGAIN, they would lose it AGAIN (that’s just what Butch does) to drop the league to 2-6.
6. Last one. The home of the ACC Champion has been the redheaded step child of BCS bowls the past few seasons. The Orange Bowl has been awarded either the Big East champ or a BCS at-large leftover the past few seasons and the casual fan has responded with some of the lowest TV ratings in BCS bowl history. Did the Hokies/ACC dodge a bullet not drawing an 8-4 Big East champ UConn in the Orange Bowl? Or would you have rather have had the Hokies face an easier opponent to improve on the ACC’s 2-10 record in BCS bowls?
Well, since I have the Hokies shocking the college football world with an upset win over Stanford, it’s the best possible scenario for the ACC. But let’s say the Hokies lose. I think it’s a good thing they played a real top-tier opponent in Standford versus getting a patsy from the Big East. We definitely need to improve that woeful record in BCS bowls, but I’d hate to do it at the expense of less-than-quality wins and subpar ratings. The league needs a champion worthy of being called a BCS Bowl champion…beating up on the Big East’s participant or a random AQ school doesn’t accomplish that.