For years the message from ACC commissioner John Swofford was the conference needed to win big game against other top conferences on the field. Despite some good results in recent years, Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich says the conference will once again have to change the narrative circling its conference by winning big game son the field.
“I think the ACC is a very, very good league. In some ways, it’s underrated,” Radakovich said in an interview with ESPN.com. “But like everything else, you need to go out and do it on the field. You’ve got to win games.”
The ACC went 4-7 in bowl games last season, which included losing seasons in head-to-head bowl matchups against the Big Ten (0-2), Pac-12 (0-2, including Florida State’s College Football Playoff loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl) and the SEC (1-2). The ACC did win its only bowl match-up against the Big 12 with Clemson demolishing Oklahoma. The ACC also ended the regular season with four wins against SEC rivals, which should not be forgotten.
“We’re only [a year] from having a national champion, and Florida State obviously made the playoff last year. Our program has done well,” Radakovich explained. “Georgia Tech always seems to be in the mix and obviously did a great job last year in their bowl game. Virginia Tech traditionally has done very well. Louisville is a team that needs to be reckoned with. And Miami with all their history and tradition is one that everybody is waiting for them to get back to the Miami of old. So I think the league as a whole is still very, very good. But you have to prove it on the field.”
The importance on an entire conference winning big games in the regular season showed its value last season. The Big 12 had co-champions in Baylor and TCU with identical 11-1 records. One of the biggest criticisms of the Big 12 was the overall body of work, not just for Baylor but the conference as a whole. The Big 12 lacked key victories in non-conference games outside of TCU beating Minnesota and Oklahoma topping Tennessee. Not only is a school’s individual body of work important when assessing playoff contenders, but the conference’s overall reputation can help push a team into the playoff when push comes to shove. It is why you are already hearing some ask the question of whether or not a 2-loss SEC champion should still have a spot reserved in the postseason dance this fall. It is a question worth asking because the SEC has raised the bar and has a number of high-quality non-conference matchups lined up to fall back on.
But narratives are not part of the equation in the selection committee’s meeting rooms, says Radakovich.
“As a member of the playoff committee, people came in and had done their homework and had looked at the leagues they were first assigned to look at, and college football in general. They all came in prepared to talk about each team. There were no narratives brought into the room.”
What narratives won’t be discussed by the selection committee this season? We’re going to find out soon enough.