|After a down 2006, ACC looks to get swagger back|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 22 July 2007 13:04|
PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) -Calais Campbell and Miami have something to prove. So does the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference.|
A year after the super-sized league was ridiculed as weak when traditional powers Miami and Florida State struggled, those teams - and the ACC as a whole - are out this season to restore their reputations.
``You come here to win games. You come here to be a part of something great,'' Campbell said Sunday during the first day of the league's three-day media event.
``When people count us out and say that we're not a part of something like that, it hurts. It's like saying we're not good enough to do it,'' he added. ``Right now, it's motivation for us. ... We've got a chip on our shoulder.''
So does the entire league.
The ACC is hoping to return to prominence after a trying season in which two of its highest-profile programs - the Seminoles and Hurricanes - combined to lose 12 games. Miami took part in one of the lowlights of the season when it engaged Florida International in a vicious on-field brawl.
Three coaches were fired, and no team placed higher in the final rankings than No. 18 Wake Forest - a most unlikely conference champion after it was the preseason pick to finish last in its division.
``A lot of it is just the attitude,'' Florida State's Andre Fluellen said. ``When I first got there, we expected to win every game. Now, it's like, 'Well, we might win this game, squeak by this game.' It shouldn't be like that. We should be expected and looking like we're going to win every game, no matter what.''
That kind of swagger largely was missing a year ago in Tallahassee and Coral Gables. Both teams finished 7-6, far from their normal perches in the Top 25, and those struggles led many observers to the conclusion that when Miami and Florida State are down, so is the rest of the ACC.
Winning, and winning big, ``is what they're supposed to do. They're the names people think about when they think of the ACC,'' Georgia Tech's Tashard Choice said.
Said Campbell: ``When it's not like that, then the ACC must not be that good, because the powerhouses aren't really performing.''
Others suggest it's a result of the rest of the league finally catching up to the Hurricanes and Seminoles.
``The ACC is a really good conference, but it's beginning to level off,'' Wake Forest's Jeremy Thompson said. ``The talent at one school isn't necessarily that much better than another school.''
Miami has yet to match its first season in the expanded ACC when it finished No. 11 in 2004. Florida State hasn't had a top-10 finish since wrapping up 2000 at No. 5 after losing in its most recent appearance in the national championship game.
It has been a steady decline ever since Fluellen's redshirt season in 2003, when the Seminoles finished 11th. They slipped to No. 15 in 2004, fell to No. 23 the following season and tumbled from the rankings last year.
``I looked at Florida State as being in the hunt for the national championship every year,'' Fluellen said. ``My first year, we were kind of in the hunt, and every year after that, we went down a little bit. So we're trying to get this thing back up to where we're looking for the national championship every year.''
The only ACC team to finish in the top 10 in the post-expansion era is Virginia Tech, which accomplished it in 2004 and 2005. The Hokies, the popular pick by most preseason magazines as the ACC's team to beat, insist they don't feel any pressure to save the conference's face.
``It's not that much added pressure on us because we come in every year wanting to be ACC champions and then take that to the national championship,'' defensive tackle Carlton Powell said. ``It's the same amount of pressure we had before, the same amount of pressure every year.''
Perhaps the most effective way for the ACC to restore its reputation is to halt its Bowl Championship Series futility.
Since the BCS began in 1998, league teams are 1-8 in the major bowl games - easily the worst record of any conference with an automatic berth - and the ACC has lost seven straight in BCS.
``Winning. And then winning more games, winning the BCS games or winning bowl games,'' Choice said. ``That's the only way.''
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