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Jan
13
2016

ACC Football isn’t where it wants to be, but more progress was made in 2015.

ACC-F

The ACC’s football perception is always a sensitive subject. Is it improving? Does it trail the other 4 power 5 conferences? Are it’s best teams at a SOS disadvantage? and on and on. Another season is in the books, did the ACC continue its steady progression that’s been going on since 2012?

Overall you have to say yes – with a big thanks to the Clemson Tigers. You have to go all the way back to 1990 and Georgia Tech to find the last ACC program not named Florida State to make a legitimate run at a national title.

In 2015 Clemson got all the way the national championship game, and went shot for shot with the eventual winner Alabama. The Tigers finished the year ranked #2 in the country. The conference now possess two teams Clemson and Florida State that without question on a given can play with and beat anyone in the country. Nobody questions those two teams credibility nationally. They have the resumes and wins to prove it. Clemson had been very good, but this year they took another step and that’s good for the conference.

In addition for the first time ever in ACC History, the ACC went back to back years with 3 top 15 teams as noted by esteemed ACC David Teel. 

Clemson and Florida State, in concert with Georgia Tech last season and North Carolina this, have led the ACC’s desperately needed football resurgence. From 2001-12, no conference team finished among the AP’s top five — now that’s a drought, Phyllis — a void the Seminoles filled in ’13 and ’14, the Tigers in ’15.

Additional evidence of depth: Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson last season, followed by Clemson, FSU and North Carolina this season, give the ACC three top-15 teams in back-to-back years for the first time. Had the Seminoles and Tar Heels not come up small in their bowls, Florida State against Houston, and Carolina versus Baylor, the ACC would have had three top-10 teams for the first time.

Even ESPN said Clemson’S performance gave the ACC more respect. 

Now it is safe to say that the perception many have about this program, and in turn the ACC, has changed. It has taken years to shake off misperceptions and stigmas that became deeply ingrained after so many years filled with disappointment and yes, flops.

Clemson already has its spot at No. 1 in Mark Schlabach’s Way-too-Early Preseason Top 25,

FoxSports lists Clemson and Florida 1 and 2 in their early pre-season poll for 2016. 

Clemson, Florida State, UNC, and Louisville are in the majority of early season pre-season polls, and Miami have even garnered some top 25 wins.

No longer do we hear the endless cry the ACC needs to prove they can compete with the rest of the country, or that it’s champions aren’t legitimate playoff contenders. It’s hard believe less than 4 years ago the ACC was coming off a 2-13 run in BCS games, and Clemson’s Orange Bowl debacle of a loss to West Virginia. The conference has now 2 National Champion Game participants in 3 years, and 4 straight Orange Bowl wins. Add in the fact, the new coaching hires at Miami, Syracuse, Virginia, and Virginia Tech were universally praised and there is a lot positive momentum for the ACC. That’s the good news.

That’s doesn’t mean the ACC has arrived. The conference went 4-6 during bowl season, and still isn’t as deep as it needs to be. Clemson and Florida State have more than established themselves as top 15 fixtures, but there is little consistency behind them.

Louisville has won 17 games the last 2 years, and appears the closest to being a perennial top 25 team. Duke is making a 8+ wins a season commonplace, and is another possibility. There is potential with UNC after a fine 2015. The teams we mentioned with new coaches have potential, and Georgia Tech is still just a year removed from winning 11 games despite a nightmare 2015.

That’s what we have behind Florida State and Clemson – a lot of potential, and that’s still something.

I feel confident Louisville is on the cusp of being really solid, and if another team or two  can add depth, then the ACC can finally be the football conference we’ve been waiting for.

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