10/23/09 — Opinion -- In-state ACC football not that great

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Opinion -- In-state ACC football not that great

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on October 23, 2009 1:46 PM

There was a time when college football in North Carolina registered on the scale of national relevance as more than a BCS afterthought.

I fondly remember as a kid waking up on Saturdays in the fall eagerly anticipating spending the day watching ACC football. That eagerness has since faded like Tom O'Brien's job security.

As the son of a native of South Bend, Ind., I now find myself looking forward to watching Notre Dame or a marquee SEC or Big 12 matchup on Saturday afternoons.

Guys like Phillip Rivers, Dre' Bly, Julius Peppers, Rusty LaRue and Torry Holt were heroes of mine as a kid. The state no longer has the type of player with a gripping personality and heroic on-field efforts fans can cling to. I now find myself being captivated by the performances of Jimmy Clausen, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy.

The ACC hasn't produced a Heisman Trophy winner since Florida State's Chris Weinke in 2000. Not since Rivers picked apart opposing defenses in Raleigh has the conference had a legitimate Heisman contender.

North Carolina's four ACC schools are currently a combined 14-13. A year ago, the "Big Four" finished a combined 26-25. Of those four schools, North Carolina earned the highest divisional finish at third in the Coastal.

Wake Forest was the state's last conference champion in 2006. Before that a North Carolina school hadn't won the league title since Duke shared the honor with Virginia in 1989.

Wake Forest, N.C. State and North Carolina also went 1-2 in bowl games at the end of the 2008 campaign. Of the 47 BCS bowl games played since the introduction of the Bowl Championship Series in 1998, just one has featured a school from North Carolina.

Wake Forest was defeated by Big East champion Louisville in the Orange Bowl at the conclusion of the 2006 season.

Only the Demon Deacons in 2006 and the Wolfpack in 2002 have finished the season ranked in the top 25 in the past seven years.

Factor in East Carolina's 4-3 record and Appalachian State's 4-2 mark and North Carolina's six teams of biggest prominence are currently just 22-18. The Pirates have quickly gone from starting last season as potential BCS busters to looking far removed from that national luster.

Appalachian's 4-2 record is disappointing by the Mountaineers' standards. ASU lost consecutive games this year for the first time since 2003. Not seeing the Mountaineers as the clear cut favorite to win the I-AA national championship at this time of year seems incredibly strange.

Now in my mid 20s, college football in the Tar Heel state has me feeling like Bruce Springsteen in his baseball-themed hit "Glory Days." Time slips away and leaves with you nothing mister, but boring stories of glory days.