Crossroads: ACC seeks national contender

As the only person to have served two terms as BCS coordinator, ACC commissioner John Swofford knows the value and importance of having a team contend for the BCS national title.

“You want to be in that conversation,” Swofford said. “ … I’m not sure that as a conference you get the full measure of respect and attention unless you have a team or two that are serious possibilities through a good part of the season for a national championship, be that right or wrong.”

The ACC enters the 2010 season with some of its highest hopes since expansion. Virginia Tech is expected to be a preseason Top-10 team, Miami and Florida State appear to be on the road back to relevance, and the conference has what should be five ranked teams.

Depth, though, only makes winning a national title more difficult.

“This conference is a tough conference,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “It’s getting tougher to win, but eventually somebody is going to come out and take the next step. … Is this a conference where one day we can have two teams go to the BCS? Maybe, but it’s going to be difficult.”

At the ACC’s recent media days in Greensboro, N.C., Swofford paralleled the ACC’s success with that of Florida State and Miami. The Seminoles haven’t played for the national title since 2000, and Miami hasn’t been to the championship game since losing to Ohio State in 2002. The Hurricanes haven’t even been able to win the Coastal Division since joining the league.

“When you’re talking about two programs that have the tradition and history of success at the national level as Miami and Florida State, and consequently the brands they enjoy in college football, there’s no question that when they’re strong, our league is perceived as being stronger as a whole,” Swofford said. “So the stronger those two programs become, the better perceived the Atlantic Coast Conference will be from a football standpoint.”

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said the problem has been a lack of separation in the league.

“I think we’ve had a lot of good teams and I think we have a lot of teams getting better,” Beamer said. “I don’t know that we’ve had a great, great team the last couple of years, but I think we’re working our way there. I think we’ll back in that conversation, hopefully soon.”

Virginia Tech has finished as close as third in the BCS Standings in 2007 and played for the national title in 1999, but not one of Beamer’s 11 10-win seasons have ended with a national championship. Virginia Tech has an opportunity to change that, first by beating Boise State in the Labor Day opener.

“That’s our goal,” Beamer said. “If you’re in the hunt enough times, one of these days it’s going to work out. That’s our plan. There’s no denying that’s our goal at Virginia Tech.”

The ACC has an abundance of nonconference games that can help boost the league’s reputation this fall, including Miami at Ohio State and Florida State at Oklahoma.

“I think it can open eyes,” said Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. “I think it can set a standard of where we are and what we’re doing. There’s no doubt about that. People love watching interleague play. But also you have to remember it’s one game and early in the season. A lot of teams don’t have their identity yet.”

The ACC does, though, and until proven otherwise, it’s a league without a national title contender.