ACC football desperately needed something good to happen, and Clemson answered the call.


Even ACC fans have to admit, the conference has been a no show on the national stage this year. Every opportunity the ACC had to get a signature win fell flat on it’s face. You could argue that the conference’s best performances were in a 10 point loss to LSU by Syracuse, and a 9 point home loss by Duke to Northwestern. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are trainwrecks. NC State and Miami couldn’t sustain solid starts to the season. Florida State is hovering around the top 10, but hasn’t looked impressive. The ACC has had good run of football since the end of 2012, but things were looking more like the mid to late 2000s that recent years this season.

There sat Clemson with the ACC’s last chance to make some noise before the end of the season as Notre Dame came into Death Valley with a top 10 ranking and a team that looked better than their 2012 National Title game team.

Did the Tigers ever answer the call? They dominated Notre Dame physically in the trenches on both sides of the ball for 3 quarters. That was something most people didn’t think was possible. Notre Dame to their credit, and they are a good team, made a furious 4th quarter rally. It wasn’t enough though and Clemson rose to the occasion and prevailed 24-22 in front of a prime-time TV audience.

How quickly can a narrative chance based on one monster win. If Clemson loses the ACC is no where to found in the playoff discussion until at least November, and that is only if FSU runs the table until their game with Clemson. Now Clemson is right there in the playoff hunt provided they keep taking care of business. The ACC now has its 10th win over a top 10 OOC teams since 2012 – Boston College (1), Virginia Tech (1), Georgia Tech (2), Florida State (2), and Clemson with (4), which leads all Power 5 conferences.

This year though a lot of those positive results were starting to get forgotten, until Clemson put stood tall and made themselves a playoff contender. The turnaround from the Tommy Bowden era is remarkable from Clemson. They are now of the very best college football programs in the land. Florida State is still the mountain top in the ACC, but Clemson is a worthy challenger.

They scary thing for Clemson opponents the rest of the year is that I don’t think offensively they are close to what they are capable of. Dabo Swinney and his staff don’t seem quite ready to ride QB Deshaun Watson’s arm, and a talented receiving core even without Mike Williams hasn’t yet established itself. Notre Dame fans may not like it, but the Tigers beat the Irish with their C+ offensive game, to go along with some rather conservative 2nd half play calling.

The Tigers proved their worth against Notre Dame, they beat them without their truly best game and the ACC really needed it.

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