The bowl season is always revealing, hence your final edition of “What we learned” for this season:
1. The ACC is still searching for respect. With its 3-4 record in bowl games and 2-10 record in BCS bowls, the conference didn’t do much this year to improve its status in the BCS pecking order. (Hey, it was one more win than the Pac-10 got.) Georgia Tech, the best the ACC had to offer, had only 155 yards of total offense in the Orange Bowl. Instead of having at least two teams enter 2010 in the preseason top 10, the Hokies will likely be the only ones representing the conference there.
2. North Carolina and Miami remain status quo. Instead of taking a step forward to 2010 with a bowl win, both programs looked much like they did a year ago. This year, both teams were playing in their home states, and were in the third seasons under Butch Davis and Randy Shannon. Both teams had chances to win in the fourth quarter, but turnovers, mistakes and penalties did them in. Both defenses allowed a 100-yard rusher and both offenses were held under 100 rushing yards. More should be expected in Year 4.
3. Virginia Tech is the team to beat in 2010. For the first time in school history, Virginia Tech won back-to-back bowls. And much like the Orange Bowl gave the Hokies a boost heading into winter conditioning and summer camp, the win over Tennessee should do the same. The Chick-fil-A Bowl also solidified the fact that the Hokies made significant offensive strides this year under quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
4. FSU has two capable quarterbacks. When the MVP of the Gator Bowl is your backup quarterback, it’s a pretty good sign for the offense. Rookie E.J. Manuel proved capable of leading the Noles’ offense in the win over West Virginia, but FSU will be pushing starter Christian Ponder for Heisman in 2010. The question now is how much Manuel will be pushing Ponder. Both of them, though, should only make each other better.
5. Georgia Tech needs a passing game. It doesn’t have to be a so-called “balanced offense.” The passing game just has to be more efficient when it is used. If an opposing defense like Iowa is disciplined enough to take away Georgia Tech’s running game, the Jackets need an alternative, and two completions for 12 yards and an interception isn’t going to cut it. If the program is going to take the next step, a respectable passing game has to be part of it.