Yeah, being 7-5 or 8-4 in the current state of things just isn't going to cut it for programs like Clemson, GA Tech, BC, N.C. State, etc.
The Big 12 has respect because it has Texas and Oklahoma, and even when one of those schools has a down year, you still have teams like Nebraska, Missouri, Okie State doing well to pick up the slack. The Pac-10 even though they lost USC, Oregon and Stanford are keeping that conference in the title hunt. Penn State, Ohio State, Iowa keep the Big 10 fat, and when teams like Michigan State and Wisconsin are good, it's even more respectable.
At this point, Tech is really no better off than Boise State or TCU, except for the fact that it would be possible for Tech to lose a game and still be in the hunt at the end of the year. But that's basically what it boils down to, with the ACC being in its current state, Tech would have to go 12-1 to get any real national respect.
This year, in order for the ACC to garner that level of respect, you probably need BC to beat Northwestern opening weekend, then have FSU upset Oklahoma in Week 3. Miami vs. Ohio State, Clemson vs. Auburn, these need to be wins. Even though OSU and Auburn are proabbly going to be middling teams this year, they are recognizable Ws. By and large, all those ACC schools need to win their non-conference games, so that later in the year if/when Tech beats them it's going to move in the polls.
The Big East suffers from similar issues, except they don't even have a TEch or FSU going for them. Which is one of the reasons why I'm so disappointed with Pitt, they had ample opportunity over the past 3 years to really run away with that conference, and they failed to deliver every year. It was just not that long ago that teams like Rutgers, Louisville, Cincy, USF were all programs on the rise, but they all fell by the wayside, and Pitt was unable to fill that void.
That's why it can only help the Big East with TCU now in the conference. If they can be the Tech, it gives PItt a chance to rise up and be the Florida State.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.