Today's ACC is a cut above the nine-team version

September 7, 2009 

I want you to think of ACC football in terms of Kevin Pollak.

You remember Pollak, a successful comedian who landed plum roles in "A Few Good Men" and "The Usual Suspects" in the early '90s. The problem with setting the bar so high, so fast, is there's only one way to go. Pollak has been reduced to slumming for parts in movies like "Juwanna Mann."

See, the ACC doesn't have a Kevin Pollak Complex. Since the league added Virginia Tech and Miami in 2004, and grew to 12 teams when Boston College joined in 2005, it has progressively gotten better. Slow and steady definitely wins the race.

Now, the ACC's not rubbing shoulders with Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise -- none of its teams has played for the national title since 2000 -- but, this weekend's results not withstanding, it's a significant step ahead of where it was. The ACC sent 10 teams to bowls last season, a first for any conference. Football is about coaching. Just in the Triangle, the quality of coaching has dramatically improved.

In 2008, Butch Davis led UNC to its first winning season since 2001; Tom O'Brien has NCSU in its best position to win the ACC in 30 years, and David Cutcliffe won more games in his first year than the previous three Duke teams combined.

Virginia Tech gives the ACC a legitimate national presence. Southern California (59 wins) and Texas (56) are the only major programs that have more wins than Tech (52) since the Hokies joined the ACC in 2004.

Sure, Miami and Florida State have both taken a step back, but the league, top to bottom, is a mile better than when it was FSU and the eight dwarfs -- or this decade before the creation of the 12-team super league.

Improvement is a relative concept, but even without a curve, the ACC is better.

Joe Giglio is the college football writer for The News & Observer.

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