ACC needs FSU and Miami 'back'

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Not one time this past spring or this summer has Miami coach Randy Shannon heard any of his players utter a word about last year's 5-7 finish that included just two wins in the ACC.

"It's a great sign because they don't look back to what happened," said Shannon, who is entering his second season as head coach. "When you build on, you just keep looking forward. There's a saying -- when you failed at something you're trying to do, get rid of it quick and don't let nobody else know."

Unfortunately for Shannon, it's hard to hide in Coral Gables.

While both Miami and Florida State are trying to forget their recent struggles -- which are reflected in a combined 26-25 record over the past two seasons -- they are at the same time clinging onto their storied reputations of the past. Fair or not, both programs bear the burden of reverting back to their status as national title contenders in order for the ACC to improve its reputation and overall strength in comparison to the BCS heavyweights.

"Sooner or later we'll get there," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "One of us. There are too many good teams in it now. There are going to be years where we do better, there are going to be years where (the SEC does) better, there will be years the Big 10 does better ... that all varies from year to year. You know the amazing thing -- Florida State right now is 7-6, 7-6 -- all it takes is one good year to year to erase it. All of a sudden you're back. Nothing lasts forever. Being down ain't gonna last forever."

Meanwhile, it's not like other schools in the conference haven't been pulling their weight. Wake Forest is winning. North Carolina is rising. Clemson is regarded as one of the top 10 teams in the country this season. But none of those programs can boast Miami's five national championships, or Florida State's two national titles and 12 ACC championships.

The ACC's 1-9 record in BCS games is one of the most referenced statistics when measuring how the league stacks up against the other conferences. Still, its weaknesses can't entirely be pinned on expansion. Boston College won the 2007 Atlantic Division title and finished in the Top 10 rankings for the first time since 1984. Virginia Tech has won two of the past four ACC titles and -- for the most part -- done its part.

"It hurt us losing in the Orange Bowl for reputation purposes," Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon said. "I think it's a common misperception that since Miami and Florida State are the class of the conference that it's a down year for the conference. ... Look at the NFL draft. I don't think it's a lack of talent, but I will say the SEC seems to be the strongest conference."

The NFL draft is evidence the league is loaded with talent, but the players who are being drafted are often usually offensive and defensive tackles, and defensive ends. With the exception of Matt Ryan, who was chosen third overall, the last highest ACC quarterback drafted was Virginia Tech's Michael Vick in 2001, who was taken first overall. Beyond that it would have been Vinny Testaverde in 1987.

Still, the ACC leads all conferences in the last three years in overall players drafted with 115, including 25 first round picks. The SEC, which has had 21 first-round draft selections and 112 players selected overall, is second, but is 6-1 in its BCS bowls over the past five seasons.

"Right now the SEC is on top of the pendulum," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "Back when Miami and Florida State were running college football and Florida State was the team in the decade of the 90s, where was the SEC? Those two teams owned college football for what, 10 years? The SEC was answering the same questions, but they responded pretty good. I would say the ACC will bounce back at some point."

When that happens depends mostly on Florida State and Miami.

Instead of forgetting the past, now is the time for both programs to embrace it.