If you look at the ACC over the past two seasons, it was one of the most competitive, unpredictable conferences in the country. If you study the larger snapshot of the past decade, though, it’s clear that Virginia Tech, Florida State and Boston College have been the teams to beat. After that, it’s a hodgepodge of mediocrity. Which 5-7 or 6-6 program do you like best?
In order to make this list less subjective, the first thing I did was calculate each program’s winning percentage over the past decade. That made it easy to place Duke and North Carolina at the bottom, as neither has won at least 50 percent of its games. Another factor considered was the number of finishes in The Associated Press Top 25 poll. Florida State leads the way with seven, followed by Virginia Tech with six and BC with three in the past five years. I also considered what each program’s record was against Top 25 opponents. Virginia Tech and Boston College are the only two programs with winning records against Top 25 competition the past decade.
As for everybody else? That winning percentage came in mighty handy, but so did other factors like conference titles, staff stability, head-to-head results and award winners. Here’s a look at how the programs in the ACC have ranked over the past decade:
1. Virginia Tech – The Hokies lead the way with a 77.5 winning percentage, three ACC titles and four first-place finishes. They’ve also had a two-time ACC Coach of the Year in Frank Beamer, and are 16-9 against Top 25 competition since joining the league.
2. Florida State – The Seminoles have faded lately, but they still lead the way with four ACC titles and seven Top 25 finishes over the past 10 years. The Noles had two seasons of at least 10 wins, an appearance in the national title game and a 65.8 winning percentage. During the first six seasons of the decade, FSU didn’t finish worse than second place.
3. Boston College – After just five seasons in the conference, BC has appeared in the ACC championship game twice and finished no worse than second place in the Atlantic Division. The Eagles earned a winning percentage of 77.0 and have gone 9-6 against ranked opponents.
4. Georgia Tech – Seven-win seasons were the norm in Atlanta until Paul Johnson arrived, but the program has won 62.7 percent of its games and earned four Top-25 finishes and one ACC title. The Jackets have finished first in the Coastal Division or tied for first in three of the past four seasons.
5. Clemson – The Tigers haven’t been able to win the championship, but they’ve mastered the art of the second-place finish. Clemson reached its ceiling over the past decade at nine wins, but won more than it lost (62.6 percent). One problem has been its 13-23 record against Top 25 competition.
6. Maryland – The Terps can thank E.J. Henderson and their 2001 ACC title for a boost in the ranking, despite their 57.7 winning percentage over the past decade. In 2001, Maryland cleaned house with awards, as Ralph Friedgen was Coach of the Year, Bruce Perry was the Offensive Player of the Year, and Henderson was the Player of the Year. You can’t ignore three seasons of at least 10 wins.
7. Miami – The Hurricanes have dropped to average by Miami’s standards, and that’s right where they fit in on this list. The Canes have had only one losing season since joining the ACC, and Randy Shannon has boosted the program back to the nine-win mark. With Larry Coker’s help, Miami has won 61.3 percent of its games since joining the conference, but has struggled to remain a contender for the division through November.
8. Wake Forest – The 2006 season was a magical one for the Deacs, and the ACC title and Jim Grobe’s staff stability give the program something that’s lacking in others. Despite the 50.4 winning percentage, it’s important to remember Grobe inherited a 2-9 team and has now had just one losing season in the past four.
9. Virginia – The nine-win seasons in 2002 and 2007 were the highlights under Al Groh, who replaced George Welsh for the 2001 season. Together they compiled a 52.4 winning percentage, and in 2007 Groh led the Cavs to the Gator Bowl. Groh was a two-time ACC Coach of the Year, had two Top-25 finishes and had two six-win seasons in conference play.
10. NC State – The difference between NC State and Virginia over the past decade is minimal. They were 3-3 against each other during that span, and neither has had much to brag about when it comes to the Top 25. NC State has a slightly better winning percentage overall (52.8) and against Top-25 competition (10-18 for 35 percent), but the Cavs fared better in conference play.
11. North Carolina – The Tar Heels have made strides under Butch Davis with back-to-back bowl wins and eight-win seasons, but overall this is a program that has had only four winning seasons in the past decade. And only twice has UNC reached the five-win mark in conference play.
12. Duke – Forget one decade. The past three have been brutal in Durham, and that’s something that David Cutcliffe can’t change in just two seasons, though he's started to reverse the losing trend. Duke went winless in conference play in six of the past 10 seasons. Cutcliffe snapped a streak of three straight 0-8 ACC records. Three ACC wins were reason to celebrate in 2009, as Duke hadn’t won that many conference games since 1999.