With the conclusion of the college football season last night, and the release of the final rankings today, it’s time to take a look at the future landscape. There are a lot of moving parts right now, particularly in conference realignment and Syracuse’s move to the ACC.
It’s been assumed the move was an upgrade in football conferences for the Orange, but a closer look reveals that surprisingly, the ACC wasn’t much, if any more successful than the Big East this season. In bowl games, SU’s current conference was significantly more successful than its future one. When the league’s champions met in the the Orange Bowl, West Virginia obliterated Clemson 70-33.
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For all the heat the Big East takes as a football conference, it accomplished two goals the ACC did not. It won a BCS game, and finished with a winning record overall. The Big East was 3-2, with wins from Rutgers, Cincinnati, and WVU. Those wins also came against the Big 12, SEC, and ACC respectively.
On the other side, the ACC had by far the worst bowl season of any major conference, going 2-6 and seeing its champion embarrassed in Miami. One of the ACC’s wins did come against the Big East, with N.C. State beating Louisville.
Even more interesting is to look at what the records of the post-realignment conferences would be. Shockingly, the margin grows even more in favor of the Big East when you factor in new additions Boise State, Houston, SMU, and San Diego State. Those squads went a combined 3-1, which would make the Big East’s record a very solid 5-3 (subtracting the West Virginia and Pitt results).
Bowl games alone aren’t the ultimate judge of a conference’s strength of course, but the final AP poll shows similar results. Here, the two conferences stack up pretty evenly, with the ACC placing three teams in the top 25 to the Big East’s two. The highest ranked team in either conference is West Virginia at #17, a few spots higher than top the top ACC team, #21 Virginia Tech. Here, once again the numbers swing even stronger towards post-realignment Big East when you factor in #8 Boise and #18 Houston.
The ACC still does hold a significant edge in recruiting, and has more big name programs with the Seminoles, Hurricanes, and Hokies, plus a rising Clemson team. But at least this season, these storied programs were outplayed by the overlooked Big East.
You would have to expect programs like Florida State can sustain more long term success than one like Houston. Going forward, especially with the recruiting edge, the ACC is still the better conference, and the more stable one for Syracuse to be a part of. But, in the short term, that “step up” in competition appears to be a much smaller one once you take a closer look.
Posted: Steve Neikam