John Swofford isn't immune to criticism about the Atlantic Coast Conference.
As much as Swofford, the ACC commissioner, would like to, he hasn't been sticking his head in the sand while the rest of the world points out the fallings of his conference against major opponents and in BCS games. He knows that's the chink in his conference's armor and until it starts winning some of its big games more consistently, he conference will never be mentioned in the same breath as most of his "big six" brethren.
"Obviously, we need to win more of our high-profile games against non-conference opponents," Swofford said during his media session Sunday. "That's the one thing we haven't done enough of in recent years. We've had some of it, but not enough of it. For us to gain the kind of respect we want for Atlantic Coast Conference football, those are the kind of games we need to win going forward."
The last time an ACC team beat an opponent that finished the year ranked in the top 10 was when Virginia Tech defeated West Virginia in 2005. Since then, the conference has beaten just four teams during the regular season that finished the year in the Top 25.
When the ACC added Miami and Virginia Tech in 2004 and Boston College in 2005, many thought the conference would be in a better place than it is now. But the conference has mired in mediocrity. The only consistent team during that span has been Virginia Tech and even the Hokies have struggled against many of the big-name opponents. Virginia Tech has won at least 10 games each of the last seven seasons, but the Hokies haven't finished higher than seventh in the national polls.
"From a national perspective, we haven't achieved competitively at the level expected," Swofford told CBSSports.com. "We think we have more depth and are a better football conference than we have been in our history. Have we reached our potential football wise as a 12-member conference? No. I don't think we have. I think we will when our top couple of teams is in the national championship picture and hopefully winning and if and when we have a second team in [a] BCS bowl. In time that will come."
BCS bowls are another point of contention for the conference. The ACC is 2-11 in BCS games overall and 1-5 since expansion. Virginia Tech holds the conference's lone win -- a 20-7 Orange Bowl triumph over Cincinnati.
"If there was [a reason], I wish I knew what it was. It's been frustrating at times, quite honestly," Swofford said. "A lot of those games have been very close games. Obviously Stanford pulled away from Virginia Tech [in last year's Orange Bowl], but you look back at some of those games. You just shake your head starting with Florida State's triple overtime loss to Penn State [in the 2005 Orange Bowl]."
At least Swofford can acknowledge that his conference needs to get better if it wants to keep up with the rest of the "big six." The ACC has several opportunities to put itself on the national map this year with marquee games such as Oklahoma and Florida State on Sept. 17, Clemson at South Carolina on Nov. 26, and Georgia at Georgia Tech on Nov. 26 among others.
Also, if things work out as planned, the ACC could have a couple teams in the mix for a national title in Virginia Tech and Florida State. Both are expected to have superb seasons and Florida State has the nonconference schedule to make it a national championship contender.