It’s hard to believe a conference with Miami and Florida State could lose its swagger. The Hurricanes and Seminoles in their heydays practically invented the term.
But that’s what has happened to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Virginia Tech gave the league’s national reputation a boost with a much-needed BCS victory in January, the ACC’s first win in the Bowl Championship Series in nearly a decade. And putting 10 teams into bowl games also gave the ACC a reason to gloat. No conference had ever done that.
“We were fortunate enough to go to two (BCS) bowls (but) the first two, we lost, so that basically was a letdown to us and to the ACC,” Virginia Tech tight end Greg Boone said. “Last year, we redeemed ourselves.”
And the rest of the league, at least to some extent.
After Tech’s face-saving victory over Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl, there’s plenty for the league to like entering this season.
The loaded Hokies are favored to rule the ACC for the third straight year and are the closest thing the ACC has to a national championship contender.
Georgia Tech returns nearly every key member of its unique option offense that gave both the conference and rival Georgia fits. The Seminoles and Hurricanes, whose rivalry game has returned to Labor Day, insist they’ve taken steps toward returning their once-dominant programs to superiority. Wake Forest, North Carolina and N.C. State are primed to continue their recent upswings.
And if nothing else, the ACC’s offenses should benefit from some experienced stars.
The league’s rushing title could shape up as a two-man race between Clemson’s C.J. Spiller and Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer, the ACC’s reigning Player of the Year. And 11 of the 12 schools return a quarterback who has started at least one game under center, including N.C. State’s Russell Wilson, the first freshman signal-caller to be named to the All-ACC first team.
Despite that, not everybody is convinced offense will dominate the league.
“With the amount of talent that comes back on offense, there’s the same amount of talent that comes back on defense,” Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis said. “Somehow, it’s going to balance itself out.”