So it’s come to this in the ACC: If Georgia Tech doesn’t beat No. 13 Florida State in the Dr Pepper ACC championship game on Saturday, it will drop to 6-7 and have to apply to the NCAA for a waiver just to play in a bowl game.
It’s BCS or bust for the Yellow Jackets.
That in itself is an indictment of just how lousy this season has been in the ACC.
The conference hit arguably its lowest point in the post-expansion era -- if not in decades -- this season, and in a way, it was only fitting that a miserable season came to an end with a miserable "Weak" 13. Not only did the ACC go 0-4 against its SEC rivals on Saturday (17 points, Clemson, really? Five turnovers, FSU??), the conference saw two head coaches get fired on Sunday and lost a front-runner for the league’s defensive player of the year award to a torn ACL. Surprisingly, former NC State coach Tom O’Brien was fired. Not surprisingly, former Boston College coach Frank Spaziani was fired. FSU defensive end Tank Carradine tore his ACL. Clemson lost to South Carolina for a fourth straight time. Two teams in the Coastal Division are ineligible.
Oh, and Maryland is leaving for the Big Ten after next season.
Let’s wrap this one up with a big, dingy bow and shelve it for a long, long time.
If the ACC title game this year feels like a consolation prize, that’s because it is. Miami was the best 5-3 team in the Coastal Division, but the Canes self-imposed a postseason ban that punished the entire conference and its fans by preventing the true matchup. No offense to Georgia Tech, but the Jackets are playing in Charlotte this weekend by default.
On Sunday’s teleconference for the winning division coaches, Paul Johnson was asked about “backing into” the title game. His response?
“Say whatever you want,” about it.
“So we beat North Carolina head to head, so I'm not concerned about them,” Johnson said. “You know, that's something that Miami decided to do. We have no control over it. The only thing we had control over is we were 5-3 in our division. That's not the first time a team 5-3 in the division has gone to the championship game. You know, we were 5-3 and tied for it in '08 and didn't get to play. I think Virginia Tech won the thing. We tied with them. It is what it is.”
It’s irrelevant on the national level, considering the ACC’s fantastic flop this year in the eyes of many outside the conference. The two division champs will now enter the ACC title game after disappointing losses to their in-state SEC rivals, much like Clemson and Georgia Tech did the last time the Jackets played for it all.
It didn't have to be like this.
Entering the final week of the regular season, there was still hope. Florida State was still a top-10 team, Clemson seemed in position to finally end its three-game losing streak to Steve Spurrier, and Spaziani appeared to be the only head coach in the conference whose job was in serious jeopardy.
It’s not just that Florida State lost to Florida, it was how the Noles lost -- in mistake-laden fashion. It’s one thing to play well and lose a close one. It’s an entirely different story to lose while turning the ball over five times and playing one of the worst defensive games of the season. FSU and Clemson were both beaten up front by their SEC rivals. The Noles couldn’t stop Florida’s running game and Clemson couldn’t protect quarterback Tajh Boyd.
There were plenty of missed opportunities for both teams. If ever the ACC was in need of a do-over, Week 13 would be it.
Isn't there a waiver for that?