It’s been more than 10 years since the ACC has fielded a team in the BCS national championship game, and because Virginia Tech has been the conference’s BCS representative three of the past four years, Coach Frank Beamer fielded several questions during Monday’s portion of the ACC kickoff about the overall strength of the league.
While Beamer conceded the Southeastern Conference is the dominant conference in the country right now, he emphasized that he believes these sorts of things go in cycles, and that a conference must be judged over a period of time. He pointed to how many ACC players have been selected in the NFL draft in recent years as proof that the league is improving.
In the process, though, Beamer also explained why he believes the Hokies have fallen short of the national championship game despite being the lone team in the country to have won 10 or more games for seven consecutive seasons.
“We’re in the mix, but what’s happened is we just haven’t quite fit together,” Beamer said. “When we were good defensively, we were a little too young offensively. And then when we were good offensively last year, we were a little too immature defensively. The year we played for the national championship [in 2000] we had Michael Vick as the quarterback, but we also had [defensive players like] Corey Moore, John Engelberger.
“That’s what you shoot for, and I think you understand it’s hard and things have to fall right and you’ve got to be good and a little bit lucky. We’re gonna keep working at it, though.”
Beamer, as you’ll remember in the aftermath of last season’s Orange Bowl loss, is just 1-19 all-time against top five opponents, and 7-30 facing top 10 foes, during his illustrious tenure at Virginia Tech.
But he’s not alone among ACC coaches when it comes to struggling against quality opponents. The conference is just 2-11 all-time in BCS bowl games (one of those victories is Florida State’s 2000 national championship victory over Virginia Tech, when the Hokies were still a member of the Big East). The ACC’s overall bowl game record during that time is an average 43-47.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford even acknowledged the league’s shortcomings against quality nonconference foes during his talk with reporters Sunday.
“Obviously we need to win more of our high profile games against non conference opponents,” Swofford said. “For us to gain the type of respect we want for ACC football, those are the kind of games that we’ll need to win going forward.”
Many national analysts are pointing to Sep. 17 as a referendum moment for ACC football. On that day, league favorite Florida State will face Oklahoma, Miami takes on Ohio State, defending national champion Auburn plays Clemson and West Virginia visits Maryland.
This year, for a change, the Hokies won’t deal with a high stakes nonconference game unless they make a big-time bowl game. The problem for the Hokies, though, is that they’ve been so successful in conference play since joining the ACC, they’ve now become the standard bearer for the entire league’s inability to win “the big one.”
But while Beamer was quick to point out this year’s team has several holes to address, the 64-year-old still has his sights set on that ever-elusive national championship.
“Us personally, we had a couple opportunities to do better, could’ve done better,” Beamer said. “Quite honestly, I don’t think we’ve had the great team overall. We just haven’t hit on all cylinders. I think we can get there. If you’re close, you’re knocking at the door, you can get there.”