he streak began nine years ago, courtesy of the worst offense in Bowl Championship Series history.
It continued last January with a baffling performance by a team that the BCS computers ranked No. 1.
In between, there have been blowouts and overtimes.
The total carnage: ACC champions have lost eight consecutive BCS games, nine of 10 overall.
No other conference has endured such futility. Not even close.
And the annual failures need to change — in a hurry. Not only short-term, when
faces Cincinnati on Thursday in the
, but also long-term, as the ACC attempts to prove its national chops and assure its financial well-being with a lucrative television contract.
"We understand we have to win," Virginia Tech linebacker Cody Grimm said. "Coach (Frank) Beamer was mentioning the ACC's record in BCS games, stuff like that. We know what we need to do. You want to say you play in a good conference."
Measured by depth, the ACC this regular season was good, witness its matching a national record with 10 bowl teams — everyone except Virginia and Duke. Against the five other BCS conferences, the ACC was 13-8.
But against the elites, the ACC crashed and burned as usual.
and Miami could not hang with Florida. Nor could Clemson with Alabama, or Virginia with Southern California.
BCS competition is where elites are made, and again the ACC pales.
Aside from the ACC's 1-9, the worst BCS record for any league is the Big 12's 6-8. Ponder that for a moment. Every major conference has won at least six times as many games in the series as the ACC.
The Big East, the league the ACC pillaged during its recent expansion and allegedly left for the undertaker? Big East champs are 6-4 in the BCS and riding a three-year winning streak.
Even the Mountain West and Western Athletic conferences, leagues without automatic bids, have won as many BCS games as the ACC.
Not surprisingly, the conference's BCS blues mirror its long-standing problem: lack of offense.
Blame unimaginative schemes and/or recruiting failures, but ACC champions consistently struggle to score in postseason. During the eight-game BCS losing skid, only
managed to score more than 21 points — the Terps lost to Florida 56-23 in the Orange Bowl following the 2001 season.
Now don't dare trot out that hackneyed adage that championship-caliber games are more likely to be defensive affairs. In college football it just isn't so.
Last season's five BCS winners averaged 40 points, the season before 36.2. Six years ago, the average was 44.5.
A Virginia Tech scoring spree Thursday seems as unlikely as
returning to the
. Cincinnati ranks 26th nationally in total defense, the Hokies 107th in total offense.
Not to say Virginia Tech can't win. Of course it can. Efficient offense and stifling defense have carried the Hokies to four consecutive victories.
Beating the Bearcats would give Tech (9-4) a fifth straight 10-win season, a streak matched only by Texas and Southern California. Success also would snap a two-game bowl losing skid and improve Beamer's 6-9 postseason record, which ranks 15th among the 18 coaches who have taken teams to at least 15 bowls.
"Losing that last game, it almost ruins the whole season," Hokies offensive tackle Ed Wang said. "I think we need this one. Winning 10 games five seasons in a row, that's real big. … We take pride in that. We really do."
Program pride must be paramount. But conference pride needs to be part of the motivation, too, especially with the ACC poised to renegotiate television contracts that expire following the 2010 season.
The ACC's BCS slide began in January 2001, when Florida State lost the national championship game to Oklahoma 13-2. Every other BCS loser has managed at least nine points.
The streak continued last January when Virginia Tech, top-ranked by the BCS computers but third in the standings because of the human polls, fell behind Kansas 17-0 before losing 24-21.
In between, Maryland and Florida State were dusted by Florida and Georgia. Moreover, Florida State lost by two to Miami and in triple overtime to Penn State, and Virginia Tech fell by three to Auburn.
"There's no question it would be a great help if we won a BCS game for the ACC," Beamer said. "Our out-of-conference record this year is the best it's ever been. … Our record against the
and the Big 12 and so forth, we've made strides as far as the reputation of our conference, but we understand the responsibility of playing in a BCS game."