Was it a wild decade in ACC football? Or a mild one?
Maybe a little bit of both.
Expansion changed the landscape, not always seemingly for the better. Instead of those years with multiple BCS berths that were envisioned when Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech gave John Swofford a geographic footprint larger than anyone could have predicted, there were 9-3 and 8-4 and 7-5 teams. Lots of 9-3 and 8-4 and 7-5 teams.
Oh, and Florida State and Miami regressed in the latter half of the decade.
On the flip side, there was a remarkable commitment to facilities throughout the conference. Maryland, N.C. State and Wake Forest all had major renovations of their stadiums. Even Duke is showing it is taking the sports seriously.
So the Teens could lead to just about anything. But the Aughts will always be a good comparison for where the league was when folks try to decipher where it is headed.
But where were the league's dozen teams. Miami won a national title (pre-expansion) and Florida State played for one (ditto). There wasn't much national buzz beyond that.
Fortunately, it's possible to craft random metrics to make comparisons between league members. Is this scoring system perfect? Obviously not. But beyond rewarding teams that landed in upper-middle tier bowls in large part because of strong fan bases (Clemson and Florida State are going to trump Boston College and Wake Forest in team selection), it's mostly fair.
So bump BC up and penalize Clemson if you wish. But before you do, here's the scoring system:
30 points: BCS title
20: BCS runner-up
12: Conference title (BCS appearance, non-title game)
7: Gator/Chick-Fil-A Bowl appearance
4: Mid-tier (Champs Sports/Music City) appearance
3: BCS bowl win
2: ACC title game loser
2: Lower tier bowl appearance
1: Non-BCS bowl win
-1: Season 1-2 games under .500
-2: Season 3-4 games under .500
-3: Season 5-6 games under .500
-3: Ousted coach
-4: Season 7+ games under .500
Complex? You betcha. So complex, that it isn't going to work as a chart.
Thorough? For the most part. Making sure the former Big East schools weren't penalized for not starting the decade in the ACC was a priority, but also trying to ensure an apples-to-apples comparison wasn't easy.
Some judgment calls? There are a couple. Do you count the departures of George Welsh and Bobby Bowden as coaching ousters? In many ways, they were. But they also weren't run-of-the-mill figures, either. I left both out of the calculations, but there's valid arguments the other way.
Sorting out the bowl picture? If anyone isn't going to like this, it's the folks at the Meineke Car Care Bowl (among others) being deemed a lower-tier bowl. I just chopped the tiers into an elite group (one team), two more tiers covering two teams each, and then everyone else. If you're the No. 6 team in any league, you're probably not in the middle tier of any discussion in that particular season. Well, unless you're Boston College and you're getting jobbed.
Anyway, here's the rundown, from top to bottom. Unsurprisingly, playing for a national title meant a whole lot.
1. Miami (100): 1 BCS title (30), 1 BCS runner-up (20), 2 other BCS appearances (24), 2 Gator/Chick-Fil-A appearances (14), 1 mid-tier bowl (4), 2 low-tier bowls (4), 3 BCS bowl victories (6), 2 other bowl wins (2), 1 season record 1-2 games below .500 (-1), 1 ousted coach (-3).
The conference split is not flattering for the Hurricanes, who earned 80 points while in the Big East and just 20 points in six seasons in the ACC. Still, it counts.
2. Florida State (92): 1 BCS runner-up (20), 3 other BCS appearances (36), 3 Gator/Chick-Fil-A appearances (21), 2 mid-tier bowls (8), 1 low-tier bowl (2), 5 bowl wins (5).
The Seminoles had 52 points in four pre-expansion seasons, and 40 points in the six years since. That runner-up in 2000 and the program's ability to beat back the improving Eight Dwarves in the first half of the decade secured this place on the list.
3. Virginia Tech (84): 3 BCS appearances (36), 5 Gator/Chick-Fil-A appearances (35), 2 low-tier bowls (4), 1 BCS bowl win (3), 4 other bowl wins (4), 1 ACC runner-up-2005 (2).
The Hokies rolled up 64 points in six ACC seasons --- or more than any of the pre-expansion members other than Florida State could collect in 10 seasons. In terms of efficiency while a member of the conference, the Hokies ruled the ACC roost.
T-4. Clemson (49): 4 Gator/Chick-Fil-A appearances (28), 4 mid-tier bowls (16), 1 low-tier bowl (2), 4 bowl wins (4), 1 ACC runner-up-2009 (2), 1 ousted coach (-3).
Who needs championships? As a reliable source of traveling fans, the Tigers finish about where you'd expect them to land. If they could have avoided that brawl with South Carolina in the 2004 season finale, they'd have fourth place to themselves thanks to an extra bowl trip somewhere.
T-4. Georgia Tech (49): 1 BCS appearance (12), 3 Gator/Chick-Fil-A appearances (21), 1 mid-tier bowl (4), 5 low-tier bowls (10), 3 bowl wins (3), 1 ACC runner-up-2006 (2), 1 ousted coach (-3).
The Yellow Jackets appeared in two bowls this decade that no longer exist, and also made the trek to Boise twice --- once after Chan Gailey was canned and Georgia Tech was branded bowl kryptonite for the year. It's been a very steady and mostly unspectacular 10 years in Atlanta, though it certainly ended well if you ignore the Orange Bowl flop.
6. Boston College (35): 3 mid-tier bowls (12), 7 low-tier bowls (14), 8 bowl wins (8), 2 ACC runners-up-2007 and 2008 (4), 1 ousted coach (-3).
The number of low-tier bowls and bowl wins is all the evidence needed to show that the first commandment of ACC bowl selection is "BC shalt get screwed." Of course, the Eagles could have done something about this problem by winning an ACC title game (or even the Big East title in 2004). Boston College was probably a little better than this ranking. With a scoring system, I'd probably place the Eagles ahead of Clemson and maybe Georgia Tech, though the Yellow Jackets' league title should mean something.
7. Maryland (27): 1 BCS appearance (12), 2 Gator/Chick-Fil-A appearances (14), 1 mid-tier bowl (4), 2 low-tier bowls (4), 4 bowl wins (4), 4 season record 1-2 games below .500 (-4), 1 ousted coach (-3), 1 season record 7+ games below .500 (-4).
Ralph Friedgen's first three seasons: 28 points. The rest of the decade: -1 point. To be fair, Ron Vanderlinden takes a minus-4 for the 2000 season. But a total of three points in the expansion era is utterly blah. Judging from the crowds at Byrd Stadium this past fall, fans have taken notice.
8. N.C. State (17): 1 Gator/Chick-Fil-A appearance (7), 3 mid-tier bowls (12), 2 low-tier bowls (4), 4 bowl wins (4), 4 season records 1-2 games below .500 (-4), 1 season record 5-6 games below .500 (-3), 1 ousted coach (-3).
With Philip Rivers: 22 points. Without Rivers: minus-5 points. That, friends, pretty much sums up the decade of N.C. State football, with an occasional highlight from Mario Williams, Russell Wilson or Tom O'Brien getting the best of Butch Davis thrown in for good measure.
9. Virginia (13): 1 Gator/Chick-Fil-A appearance (7), 1 mid-tier bowl (4), 4 low-tier bowls (8), 3 bowl wins (3), 3 season records 1-2 games below .500 (-3), 1 season record 5-6 games below .500 (-3), 1 ousted coach (-3).
Yes, Virginia didn't do all that much the final four years of Al Groh's tenure. But the Cavaliers only rolled up 12 points in this scoring system in Groh's first five seasons. In total, just a ho-hum 10 years in Charlottesville.
10. Wake Forest (8): 1 BCS appearance (12), 3 low-tier bowls (6), 3 bowl wins (3), 2 season records 1-2 games below .500 (-2), 2 season records 3-4 games below .500 (-4), 1 ousted coach (-3), 1 season record 7+ games below .500 (-4).
That's a nice minus-7 the Demon Deacons took in Jim Caldwell's last season. Which seemed a less likely occurrence by the conclusion of the decade when the 2000 season wrapped up: That Caldwell would be coaching the top seed in the AFC playoffs, or that Wake fans would be disgruntled about a 5-7 season after three straight bowl appearances?
In any case, Jim Grobe has 15 points for his trouble at Wake. He's rolled up 16 points in the last four seasons. Not bad.
11. North Carolina (-5): 1 Gator/Chick-Fil-A appearance (7), 3 low-tier bowls (6), 1 bowl win (1), 1 season record 1-2 games below .500 (-1), 1 season record 3-4 games below .500 (-2), 2 season records 5-6 games below .500 (-6), 2 ousted coaches (-6), 1 season record 7+ games below .500 (-4).
Broken down by coach:
2: Butch Davis
-3: Carl Torbush
-4: John Bunting
12. Duke (-39): 1 season record 1-2 games below .500 (-1), 2 season records 3-4 games below .500 (-4), 2 ousted coaches (-6), 7 season records 7+ games below .500 (-28).
If there's something for the Blue Devils to feel good about, it's that they were only minus-3 on this metric over David Cutcliffe's first two seasons. He certainly won't feel good about that, but at least there's improvement from a wretched eight-year stretch (10-82) to begin the decade.