The Atlantic Coast Conference ended its football season with North Carolina as champion, Maryland as runner-up and those two teams as its postseason bowl representatives.

It has not been a good year for the ACC.

Still struggling to gain credibility as a football conference, the league had hoped before the season that North Carolina, seemingly, the strongest team in the ACC since Maryland's 1976 Cotton Bowl team, could beat Oklahoma. It also had hoped that Maryland, ranked as high as 12th nationally in preseason polls, could upset Pittsburgh or Penn State.

Carolina, undefeated and ranked sixth at the time, was destroyed, 41-7, by Oklahoma.Maryland was embarrassed, 38-9, by Pitt and beaten soundly by Penn State.

Carolina and Maryland dominated the other conference teams with UNC's 17-3 victory over the Terps deciding the conference title -- the first in three seasons in Chapel Hill for Dick Crum. Even if Carolina (10-1) beats Texas in the Bluebonnet Bowl or Maryland beats Florida in the Tangerine Bowl, the conference won't gain much prestige. Neither opponent is outstanding.

Still, give credit where credit is due. After its three straight losses, it would have been easy for Jerry Claiborne's Maryland team to fold. Instead, the Terps got better each week and now are playing excellent football.

But, the bottom line remains the same when ACC schools go outside the conference. The rest of the country still says, "Show me." The ACC hasn't, yet.