ATLANTA - To college football fans at large, it's now official: The Atlantic Coast Conference is a lesser football league.
The ACC's traditional powerhouses all turned in poor performances over the weekend.
- Louisiana State treated preseason ACC favorite Virginia Tech like a Division I-AA cupcake Saturday, trouncing the Hokies 48-7.
- Miami lost to Oklahoma on Saturday by 31 points and was out-gained 413 yards to 135.
- Florida State defeated Alabama-Birmingham but trailed by two touchdowns in the second quarter, matching a similar awful first half in the opening game loss to Clemson.
The pollsters reacted in kind: The ACC is the only Bowl Championship Series league without a team in the top 10. The ACC's highest-ranked team, Georgia Tech, is No. 15.
Look beyond the conference powers, though, and Joe Fan might gain a different perspective.
"I just think the teams everybody associates with the ACC aren't there," Georgia Tech tailback Tashard Choice said. "So last year, having Wake Forest, a team that was really good and won the championship without the spotlight, people thought it was a down year. That wasn't the case."
A power shift is on in the ACC. Five teams won nine or more games last season, and Virginia Tech was the only member of the ACC's "Big Three" in that group. Wake, Boston College, Georgia Tech and Maryland were the other four.
The early 2007 returns reveal the Yellow Jackets and Boston College could again be among the league's best. Both are 2-0, have looked impressive in their wins and have experienced talent on both offense and defense.
The two teams meet at 8 p.m. Saturday in Bobby Dodd Stadium in what some believe could be an ACC championship game preview.
Yellow Jackets coach Chan Gailey isn't ready to claim ACC supremacy yet, nor is he discounting the high-profile programs already.
"I say let's get to the end of the season and see how it shakes out," he said. "We've played two ballgames this year. Everybody wants to try to read things into what's happened so far. I don't.
"There's only been a handful of conference games played thus far. We've got too far to go to talk about that."
Georgia Tech entered the season unranked despite returning 17 starters from a nine-win team in 2006.
Boston College was absent from the polls, too, even though the Eagles returned 18 starters from a 10-win team.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech, with 16 starters back from a team blown out by both Georgia Tech and Boston College last season, ranked ninth in the preseason polls.
Florida State, coming off a 7-6 season with a 3-5 ACC mark, made the preseason top-25s, too.
Unfair? Not really, Georgia Tech's Choice said.
"Folks want to put the big-name teams at the top - that's just how it is," he said. "They've won championships or been to championship games. That's what the rest of us have to do to get the national spotlight."
The Yellow Jackets understand that well. They drew national attention last season with a 9-2 start and Calvin Johnson at wide receiver. But they lost two huge games early - Notre Dame an Clemson - and stumbled with three consecutive losses to finish the season. Then Johnson departed for the NFL in January, leaving the Jackets a national afterthought this preseason.
"Winning the Coastal Division helped get our name out there a little bit last year, but we didn't win the ACC Championship or get into a BCS bowl," fullback Mike Cox said. "When people hear ACC champ, they still think of the Miamis, the Florida States. We want people when they hear ACC in the future, they think Georgia Tech."
Choice, who played two seasons at Oklahoma, sees as much talent in the ACC as he did in the Big 12. "They always hype up the SEC and the other conferences and that's fine, but I think the ACC has tremendous athletes up and down," he said. "We compete."
But to earn national respect, an ACC team must dominate. Two games in, both the Yellow Jackets and Boston College have done that.
Saturday's winner could jump into the top 10. To stay there, they must continue to win. To move up, they must win convincingly. To make Joe Fan overlook Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech's struggles, they must contend for a national title.
"What we haven't had is a team in the national championship game," ACC commissioner John Swofford said. "That helps perception more than anything else."
ON TV SATURDAY
- Western Carolina at Georgia, 1 p.m. (CSS pay-per-view)
- S.C. State at South Carolina, 7 p.m. (Pay-per-view)
- Georgia Southern at Coastal Carolina, 7 p.m. (SportSouth)
- Boston College at Georgia Tech, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)