The matchup wasn’t sexy, with BCS buster Northern Illinois the opponent, but Florida State’s 31-10 win over the Huskies late Tuesday night counted nonetheless, and with it ended the ACC’s most successful bowl stretch in recent memory.
The league, which has taken its hits for its sub-par BCS record, lack of national championship contenders and, just recently, rising vulnerability in realignment, finished off the 2012-13 bowl season solidly, going 4-2 in its matchups.
That includes a 4-0 mark in the league’s top four bowl tie-ins. The last time that happened? Never.
Florida State took care of business against Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. Clemson rallied late to shock LSU on a last-second field goal in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Virginia Tech survived a brutal offensive overtime contest against Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl. And Georgia Tech ended its postseason drought with a thorough handling of Southern California in the Sun Bowl.
The league’s two losses — Duke to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl and N.C. State to Vanderbilt in the Music City — were on the lower end of the bowl spectrum.
(Want to count the newcomers, too? Syracuse beat West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl. Pittsburgh hasn’t yet played Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Louisville plays Florida in the Sugar Bowl tonight. Whatever Notre Dame does, I guess, only counts for 5/12 of the result.)
The ACC’s 4-2 record was its best in terms of winning percentage since the league expanded in 2004. It hasn’t gone 3-0 in its top three bowl tie-ins in the 15 years the Bowl Championship Series has been around.
It’s an especially satisfying ending for the league after a dismal 2-6 showing last year. That included losses in three of the top four bowls, with Clemson losing to West Virginia (Orange), Virginia Tech to Michigan (Sugar) and Virginia to Auburn (Chick-fil-A). Only Florida State’s win against Notre Dame in the since-renamed Champs Sports Bowl allowed the league to save face.
This year, the league held its own. As Newport News columnist David Teel noted, FSU’s win over No. 15 Northern Illinois and Clemson’s win over No. 8 LSU gave the ACC two bowl wins over top-15 opponents for only the second time ever. The first was in 2001, when Georgia Tech beat No. 11 Stanford and Florida State beat No. 15 Virginia Tech, then a member of the Big East.
Perhaps more importantly from a perception standpoint, Florida State gave the league only its third BCS win and its first since Virginia Tech beat Cincinnati in the 2009 Orange Bowl. The ACC’s record in BCS games is still an ugly 3-13, however.
It’s not enough to put the ACC on par with college football’s big boys (only national championships and a better TV contract could do that) and will understandably be pooh-poohed for the lack of a BCS win against a marquee program, but for a league that needed to prove itself more often on the big stage against non-conference competition, this bowl season was at least a step in the right direction.
Here’s the ACC’s bowl record since the BCS was formed in the 1998-99 season. Its record in the top three bowl tie-ins (or in the case of last year, top four, because of the at-large berth by the Hokies) is listed in parentheses:
- 2012-13: 4-2 (Top 3: 3-0)
- 2011-12: 2-6 (Top 4: 1-3)
- 2010-11: 4-5 (Top 3: 2-1)
- 2009-10: 3-4 (Top 3: 1-2)
- 2008-09: 4-6 (Top 3: 1-2)
- 2007-08: 2-6 (Top 3: 0-3)
- 2006-07: 4-4 (Top 3: 0-3)
- 2005-06: 5-3 (Top 3: 1-2)
- 2004-05: 3-3 (Top 3: 2-1)
- 2003-04: 5-1 (Top 3: 2-1)
- 2002-03: 4-3 (Top 3: (2-1)
- 2001-02: 4-2 (Top 3: 2-1)
- 2000-01: 1-4 (Top 3: 0-3)
- 1999-2000: 2-3 (Top 3: 1-2)
- 1998-99: 2-3 (Top 3: 1-2)