NC State’s 28-24 win over then-No. 16 Florida State was the biggest of coach Tom O’Brien’s career in Raleigh. It was one of the most meaningful wins the program has seen since the Philip Rivers era. And it immediately enhanced the entertainment value of the Atlantic Division race.
But it was bad, bad, bad for the ACC.
Florida State was the best the league had to offer in the BCS standings. Now the best the ACC has to offer is a two-loss team. Again.
The ACC needs its highest-ranked team to stay there for more than five minutes. It needs one team -- any team -- to represent nationally on a consistent basis. While the parity in the league makes for an exciting, unpredictable conference race, the lack of separation leaves the ACC without a representative among college football’s elite.
So what has to happen in order for a team to separate from the rest of the pack and maintain that spot? I asked Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, whose Hokies currently have a two-game lead on the rest of the Coastal Division despite their 0-2 start.
"Generally speaking, it's just a very competitive league," he said. "Coaching-wise, there's a lot of good coaches in this league. There's a lot of good teams. Right now there's probably not been a team that's separated itself from the others. We haven't got the great, great team so far, but that can happen, too. There's a lot of football yet to be played. I think it speaks more to how competitive the league is than anything else."
A look at the top 15 teams in this week’s BCS standings shows that every other automatic-qualifying conference except the Big East has at least three teams remaining that are either undefeated or have just one loss. Once again, the ACC championship game will feature two teams with at least two overall losses. And if one of those teams happens to be Virginia Tech, then the ACC’s best team will also be one that lost to an FCS program.
No winner of the ACC championship game has ever finished with fewer than two overall losses. In fact, two losses is reason to celebrate. Since the inaugural title game in 2005, only the Hokies -- who have played in the game three times -- have finished the season with as few as two losses. That’s probably why no ACC championship game winner has ever played for anything more than the Orange Bowl.
Nor will it ever if upsets remain the only predictable thing about this conference.