Big weekend for ACC football

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 15, 2011

By Hank Kurz Jr.
Associated Press
This weekend the basketball-crazed Atlantic Coast Conference can make a BCS statement.
The ACC has historically struggled against schools from the five other major BCS conferences, but the conference has rarely had a better opportunity to show it belongs in the football debate.
Five ACC teams will play squads from the major BCS leagues this weekend ó all on their home turf.
Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington is well aware of the basketball tradition, but also knows whatís at stake on the field. So heís heard all he wants to hear about basketball.
ěI get really tired of it,î said Washington, whose Yellow Jackets will host Kansas out of the Big 12. ěI mean, weíre here to play football. … We look at it like this is an opportunity to come out, get better and show we can play football with any conference in America.î
The marquee pairing is No. 1 Oklahoma out of the Big 12 at No. 5 Florida State, the ACC. The other matchups are: Miami hosting No. 17 Ohio State (Big Ten), No. 21 Auburn (SEC) visiting Clemson, Maryland hosting No. 18 West Virginia (Big East).
Georgia Tech is the only school not hosting a ranked opponent. That makes no difference to Washington.
ěWeíre gonna try to represent for the whole ACC. Weíre gonna come out to play our best game, come out at 100 miles per hour and leave it all out there on field,î the quarterback said.
The ACC doesnít have much to show for its efforts against BCS opponents over the past five seasons. Even the first two weeks of this season havenít been stellar. ACC schools are 2-3 against power conference schools this year, with the victories coming at Indiana by Virginia and North Carolinaís victory at home against Rutgers last week.
The losses include Northwesternís victory at Boston College, Syracuseís comeback to beat Wake Forest in overtime, and No. 6 Stanfordís 44-14 thrashing of Duke in Durham.
Clemson right tackle Landon Walker embraces the opportunity this weekend presents.
ěYeah, itís huge. As far as the ACC is concerned, itís always big to win a game outside of conference, especially (against) the Southeastern Conference, to show what the ACC is capable of, especially Clemson,î he said. ěBut all we really want to concentrate on is what Clemson can control and what we can do as a team. No matter what the ACC does, we want to go outside the conference and beat really good teams, especially the defending national champions.î
Several coaches dismissed the importance of making a league-wide statement, choosing to focus on their own teamís need to win. But Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe said how the conference has fared when matched against the others has been a topic of discussion among the coaches.
ěI donít think weíre looking through rose-colored glasses when we feel like weíve got a very good conference,î he said. ěIíve mentioned before the numbers of the draft choices. Last year alone was phenomenal. I think we have outstanding head coaches, outstanding coordinators on both sides of the ball, special teams play.
ěWeíre just going to have to win some of those big, big games that are intersectional, interconference games. Weíve got to show up like that.î
And therein has been the problem.
In the last five seasons, the ACC has a winning record only against the Big Ten, at 5-4. The league is 19-21 against the Big East, 8-9 against the Big 12, 18-29 against the SEC and 3-8 against the Pac 12. In BCS bowl games, the ACC has won only one of its last 11 games, and that was Virginia Techís 20-7 victory in 2009 over a Cincinnati team many thought wasnít BCS quality.
Frank Beamerís Hokies account for three of the BSC losses, too. and they were on the losing end of the ACCís only other victory since 1999 when it lost to Florida State as a Big East member in 2000.
The coach said one weekend wonít tell the story on its own.
ěFor the reputation of the league, itís a big week, but I still think you just donít judge on a weekend, you judge it over a period of time, and I still think the ACC, with the quality programs and quality coaches, weíre going to win our share of those,î Beamer said.
Yellow Jackets running back Roddy Jones is looking for more than just a few wins.
ěIt would be nice to sweep the weekend,î Jones said. ěBut weíve got to take care of what we can take care of. Weíre focused on Kansas. Hopefully all the chips fall into place, but if we win and everybody else loses, Iíll still be happy.î