Losing to Clemson/Florida State–Good for Your School?
An interesting thought crossed the Confidential’s mind yesterday. Suppose your team is not a football factory. There are several in the ACC–Syracuse, Wake Forest, Boston College, Pitt, NC State, Virginia, and Duke come to mind. Some of those schools have done a great job upsetting Clemson and Florida State in recent years. In the small picture, that is a great win for your team. In the big picture, is it bad for your school? Think about it.
The ACC is 5th in conference prestige right now. We have the Orange Bowl, with a lower payout than what the other 5 conferences are taking in with their bowl tie-ins. Our overall revenue is #5. The basketball may be #1, but the football lags behind everyone. There have been awful BCS performances (looking at you Clemson) and overall win-loss record in those games (looking at you Virginia Tech). There have been disappointing non-conference performances. But, more than anything else, it has been the absence of teams in the hunt for national championships. Sure, Miami won a national championship–as a member of the Big East. Sure, Virginia Tech lost in a national championship game– as a member of the Big East. In fact, Virginia Tech lost to Florida State in that game. And the 2000 loss by Florida State to Oklahoma was the last ACC appearance in a national title game. The year 2000. Bill Clinton was still President when that game took place. Think about THAT for a moment.
The theme here is that the ACC needs to start competing for national championships to help the conference prestige. This year we know that Clemson can compete for a national championship. One game in, it looks like Florida State may be able to also.
But look at what has happened in recent years to those two schools. Last year, Florida State lost to North Carolina State. In 2008, Wake Forest beat Florida State 12-3, despite that Florida State team averaging about 40 points per game on the year. In fact, Wake Forest is 4-4 against Florida State since the ACC expansion to 12 teams. The problem for Wake Forest is that if the ACC’s prestige gap drops and the ACC implodes, Wake Forest is going to be playing football in Conference USA or the American. Beating Florida State in a 7 or 8 win season is nice in the small picture… but the big picture could cost the school. Even in the absence of conference realignment armageddon, a Florida State competing for a national championship means higher ratings, which also means more TV money down the road. But with conference realignment threatening to make schools like Wake Forest irrelevant, beating Florida State can be winning the battle, but losing the war.
Other schools have stumbled. In 2011, Clemson lost to 8-5 Georgia Tech and two weeks later lost to North Carolina State. In 2004, Miami was rolling until it lost to 6-6 North Carolina. In 2005, it was a 7-5 Georgia Tech team. In 2004, Virginia Tech lost in Game 4 to North Carolina State–a 5-6 North Carolina State. But part of the reason that Virginia Tech has represented the ACC in so many BCS games is because Virginia Tech has avoided the losses to teams that are not football factory schools.
The Confidential is not saying that you should ROOT for your team to lose to Florida State or Clemson this year. That would be absurd. If North Carolina or Pittsburgh go 14-0, that is great for the conference. Win the whole thing, non-football factory school. But that is very unlikely. The Confidential is merely saying, however, that it may be good for your school if it already has a few losses and then loses to an undefeated Florida State or Clemson. Beating Clemson in a 7-5 season is nice–but largely meaningless. Recruits are not going to use one game to choose your school. Conversely, the longer those two teams can stay nationally relevant in any given year, the more prestige the ACC earns. As the ACC’s football prestige surges, the better it is for your school. Higher ratings, more interest, more money, more conference stability.
Further, it is good to see Miami and Virginia Tech 2-0. If those teams can work their way into the rankings… and up the rankings… that is also good for the ACC. And then you have Louisville and Notre Dame ready to add to the ACC prestige in future years. The SEC has been dominant because its best teams are always good enough to avoid losing in upsets. The ones in the top 5 are the ones that successfully beat the other ranked SEC schools. The potential is there for the ACC to have several teams ranked every year. Having 3 or 4 teams in the top 10 can get that ball rolling. So, at the very least, be rooting for other ACC schools when they are playing out-of-conference games. And maybe think twice about rooting against the best ACC football schools when they are at risk of an upset.
In this world of conference realignment–the best thing for all ACC schools–especially the ones not desired by other conferences– is a very strong ACC. Just something to think about if/when Clemson/Florida State add to your loss total this year and/or avoid upsets.
What do you think?