Should the ACC stop going to bowls?

One game remains in this year’s bowl season, and Clemson will attempt to give the ACC its second national champion in three years. Despite success at the highest levels, the ACC’s bowl performance in recent years has been woeful, leading to the question: Should the conference begin turning down bids to avoid the embarrassment?

Sound extreme? Consider the evidence.

At the end of the 2008 season, the ACC had an all-time winning record in bowls (84-83-2). Since then, ACC teams have gone 26-34. It’s been seven years since the ACC was over .500 all-time in bowl games, after having a cumulative winning record for the previous 18 seasons.

The ACC currently stands at 110-117-2 in bowl games. Seven games below .500 is its worst bowl record ever (it was 9-16-1 for a few days in 1977 before winning its next bowl).

The conference is 4-5 this year, and it’s counting on a Clemson win over Alabama to avoid its third straight losing season in bowl games.

You may argue, “Three years isn’t a significant trend,” which is true. The conference’s 4-2 record in 2012 was its first winning season since 2005. The ACC also split its eight games in 2006. Since then, the conference has had a losing bowl season eight times in nine years.

ACC teams have a 32-46 record in bowls since then. And, while nine years isn’t a lifetime, the rapid expansion of the conference and number of bowl bids available that span accounts for more than one third of the conference’s bowl history (78 of its 226 games).

The ACC also appeared in 78 bowl games in its first 41 years of existence, from 1953 to 1993. The conference’s .500 record over those 78 games was significantly better than the .410 mark its posted over the last 78.

Not only is the ACC losing bowl games, it’s losing them by a large margin. Conference teams have appeared in at least 10 bowl games each of the last three years (the only 10-bowl seasons in ACC history). While the .419 winning percentage over those seasons is bad enough, the scores are even worse.

ACC teams have been outscored 333-295 this year, an average of a 4.2-point loss in each bowl game. That’s actually the BEST scoring margin the conference has managed in a 10-bowl season. ACC teams lost by 6.2 points in FSU’s national championship season of 2013 and by 4.5 points last year. As long as Clemson stays within seven points of Alabama, this year will remain the conference’s high-water mark in margin of defeat. If the Tigers lose by 24, this will be the ACC’s worst scoring margin.

There’s also the question of who the ACC is beating in bowl games. Of the conference’s 13 wins in the last three years, five have been over non Power Five teams (Tulsa, UCF, Bowling Green and Cincinnati twice).

But it’s not like the ACC has been a bully in bowl games. The conference actually has a .500 record against non Power Fives over the last three years, losing to Navy, Marshall, pre-ACC Louisville and Houston twice.

The ACC is 8-13 against Power Fives in bowl games, including an 0-5 mark against the Pac 12 and 3-5 against the SEC.

More is clearly not better, so perhaps this is the best recommendation for the ACC: Send letters of apology to Shreveport, Charlotte, El Paso and Annapolis, informing those cities that the conference will no longer be sending sacrificial teams to those cities for bowl losses. Pass a new conference rule limiting the ACC’s bowl exposure to a max of two teams, in New Year’s Six games.

It may not turn around the conference’s slump, but it will at least stop the bleeding.