THE ACC IS NO. 2.
The beleaguered conference has had a better football season than everyone but the SEC. That doesn't sound like much, but given where the ACC was on the BCS totem pole, that's the difference between Gheorghe Muresan and George Strait.
The ACC could bolster its argument today with the three traditional games against the SEC and Miami's visit to the Big East's South Florida, but it already has a strong one.
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- The ACC has five teams in the top 25 in the BCS rankings, the most of any major conference.
- The ACC has six teams with at least seven wins. Only the SEC (seven) has more.
- The ACC (8-8) has eight victories against BCS teams, same as the Big East (8-6) and more than the other four conferences.
Maybe the biggest reason the ACC has had its best season since expanding in 2004 is the number of "good" wins outside the conference.
In 2006, the ACC went 4-12 against BCS foes, with Virginia Tech's home victory against an 8-5 Cincinnati team qualifying as the highlight.
The ACC's record against BCS teams improved to 11-11 in 2007 and 15-8 in 2008 during the regular season, but the conference lacked victories against name-brand BCS opponents. That's not the case this season.
Yes, there were pitfalls - a pair of losses by Virginia and Duke to FCS teams in Week 1 - but for the first time, the 12-team ACC scored significant wins outside the league.
The best among the nonconference wins include:
N.C. State 38, Pitt 31
The Panthers, No. 9 in the BCS rankings, are 9-1 and in position to spoil Cincinnati's perfect season and win the Big East. N.C. State is 4-7 and one of the three worst teams in the ACC. What does it say about the Big East when one of its top contenders can't beat one of the teams at the bottom of the ACC standings?
Wake Forest 24, Stanford 17
The Cardinal is the 2006 version of Wake - the feel-good season for the little football team at the big-brained school- sans the conference title. Stanford is 7-4, with victories against Pac-10 heavyweights Southern Cal and Oregon. What does that say for the Pac-10, which has been dominated by Southern Cal in the 2000s like Florida State dominated the ACC in the 1990s?
Miami 21, Oklahoma 20
Oklahoma is not the same team that played for the BCS title in January, but beating the Sooners still counts in conference bragging rights, even if Miami did not have to face Heisman quarterback Sam Bradford.
Virginia Tech 16, Nebraska 15
Well, this is piling on the Big 12, but the Hokies' last-minute comeback gave the ACC a victory against the Big 12's North Division champions.
Again, it doesn't sound like much, but in two weeks, Texas will use the same logic to argue it deserves to play for the national title.
ACC vs. BCS
The ACC's 8-8 against BCS opponents this season. That is down from 15-8 in 2008, but up in terms of the quality of wins.
Conference Record Pct.
SEC 7-4 .636
Big East 8-6 .571
ACC 8-8 .500
Pac-10 7-7 .500
Big Ten 5-8 .385
Big 12 4-7 .364