CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When the Atlantic Coast Conference raided the Big East to form a 12-team league, it had grand visions of turning the basketball-dominated conference into a football powerhouse that would regularly be in the national championship picture.
Saturday night's title game between No. 12 Virginia Tech and 20th-ranked Florida State will mark the sixth time in as many years it will have no say in the BCS title picture.
At least this time the stands will be full -- as long as fans brave a potential cold rain.
The move to Bank of America Stadium will make for a chilly night, but produce far warmer fan support after five years of mostly dismal crowds and little buzz in Florida. It's perhaps the first step to make this stagnant game not only more lucrative, but also decide more than which team goes to the Orange Bowl.
Saturday's loser will play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.
"We have a number of very good football teams in our league. What we haven't had is a team that's remained in the national championship picture in recent years," ACC commissioner John Swofford said Friday. "We're a lot closer to that than a lot of people realize."
Virginia Tech was supposed to carry the ACC's banner this year. Those hopes were dashed in a five-day flurry that included a competitive loss to Boise State and a stunning home upset to lower-tier James Madison.
Left for dead by many, the Hokies (10-2) responded with 10 straight wins as their young defense matured to become the first ACC team since 2000 to finish undefeated in league play in their seventh straight 10-win season.
"Something that we wanted to do after those two losses was win out, win 12 games, and it would be the most wins for a senior class," said quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the ACC's player of the year. "We want to be remembered as one of the best teams in Tech history."
Virginia Tech will face a team on its own upswing. After taking over for Bobby Bowden, coach Jimbo Fisher got off to his own rocky start with a blowout defeat at Oklahoma and consecutive close losses to North Carolina State and North Carolina.
The Seminoles (9-3) rebounded to get within reach of their first BCS bowl since 2005.
"You don't ever want those things to happen," Fisher said of the slow start, "but I think it's critical our kids learned to deal with those kind of situations."
His players will likely deal with a hostile crowd. With Blacksburg less than a 3-hour drive, Hokies fans have snapped up thousands of tickets and made the game a sellout in the 73,000-seat home to the Carolina Panthers. It's produced something foreign for the ACC, a tough ticket.
"We forget sometimes the ACC basketball tournament took a few years to evolve into what it became," Swofford said.
After a strong crowd for the first football title game in Jacksonville, Fla., in 2005, the crowd dropped off a year later before the ACC tried Tampa, Fla. Attendance never reached 60,000 in three years there, with the turnstile count in 2008 less than half that.
Charlotte is more central, with eight of the league's 12 schools within 300 miles.
"I just think the location of Charlotte and what you have here is the perfect place," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. "The only thing that is iffy is the weather."
And for these parts, it will be cold and perhaps wet, with the temperature dropping into the 30s in what promises to be a fun quarterback matchup.
Taylor has thrown 20 touchdown passes and completed better than 60 percent of his passes. Also a threat to run, Beamer wasn't afraid Friday to compare him to former star Michael Vick.
"I feel the same way over on the sideline when Michael Vick is out there and Tyrod Taylor is out there, that this next play might be something real good," Beamer said. "Both of them give you a chance to win."
Christian Ponder is enjoying his winning senior season at Florida State, too. He's overcome a sore elbow to throw a career-high 20 TD passes.
While Virginia Tech has won three ACC title since joining the league in 2004, Florida State has had knack for winning the big game in this series. The Seminoles won the national title in 2000 with a victory over the Hokies, then upset Virginia Tech to win the ACC crown in 2005.
"It's a great stepping stone for them to go to where we want to go," Fisher said. "Hopefully, we can make the most of this experience and learn from it."
And the ACC hopes it's the start of something else: national relevance.
"With the makeup we know have in our league, we have more potential in every respect in the sport of football than we've ever had before," Swofford said. "Do I think we've fully reached that potential? No, I don't. But I'm confident that we're getting there."
ACC commish: Ruling on Newton 'surprising'
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- ACC Commissioner John Swofford called the NCAA's decision to keep Auburn quarterback Cam Newton eligible "surprising" and claims it puts college athletics on a "slippery slope."
Swofford said Friday he'll express his concerns with NCAA officials and hopes the governing body takes a hard look at the issue.
The NCAA ruled Wednesday that Newton was unaware his father had concocted a pay-for-play scheme during his recruiting and allowed Newton to play for No. 2 Auburn against South Carolina on Saturday in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
Swofford is concerned about the precedent that could set in future eligibility cases and expects the NCAA to take up the issue soon.