Before we completely close the door on the 2016 football season, let’s hand out some grades for the ACC coaching efforts for the 2016 season. I have a feeling given the ACC’s fine football season, there’s going to be a lot of good grades handed out. Sometimes most of the class does well.
Clemson – Dabo Swinney : A+++
Dabo Swinney coached Clemson to their first national championship since 1981, and beat the two best coaches of this generation Nick Saban and Urban Meyer in the process. There is nothing else that needs to be said.
Florida State – Jimbo Fisher : A-
Jimbo Fisher’s grade after 5 games this year was probably a C or C-. There was a ugly blowout loss to Louisville, and then an inexplicable home defeat at the hands of UNC. Then over the next 8 games, the Seminoles gradually turned into one of the best teams in the country. They ended the season smashing SEC East Champion Florida for the umpteenth time, and then beating a Michigan team many felt was playoff caliber in the Orange Bowl. If you thought the Noles were starting to show signs of slipping, you’d be wrong. They’ll start 2017 on the short list of national title contenders.
Wake Forest – Dave Clawson : B+
I can’t say enough about the job Dave Clawson did at Wake Forest this year. In arguably the best division in college football, Clawson coaxed his Wake Forest team into a bowl game and bowl game win for a 7-6 year. Wake Forest had 7 straight losing seasons, and had 2 combined ACC wins the previous 2 years. In 2016, Wake Forest won 3 ACC games, and were competitive in several of their losses. This was quietly one of the best coaching jobs in the ACC this past season.
Louisville – Bobby Petrino : B
Before the season Louisville fans would have been satisfied with a 9-4 season top 25 finish and going 7-1 in the ACC. When you’re 9-1 ranked in the top 5, and literally collapse down the stretch it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. I don’t know how else to say it, but Petrino lost his team late in the season. He couldn’t find a way to overcome the offensive line issues, and the Cardinals lost in blowout fashion to Houston, took a home loss to a mediocre Kentucky team, and barely showed up in a discouraging 29-9 defeat to LSU. You have to take the season as a whole. In September, Louisville may have been the best team in college football. The win over FSU was historical, but the end of the season hurt Petrino’s grade. I would say this wasn’t a strong B.
North Carolina State – Dave Doeren : C+
What a weird season for NC State. They had wins over Notre Dame, UNC, and won their bowl game over Vanderbilt for a 7-6 year. They came within an eyelash of beating FSU and Clemson too. Doeren just can’t get NC State over the hump, and went 3-5 in the ACC for the 3rd straight year. That said it was acceptable year at NC State and bought Doeren another year. Doeren was looking at a C- until the Wolfpack won 3 of their final 4 games. Doeren kept his team from quitting on the season, and he deserves credit for that.
Boston College – Steve Addiazo : C+
When Boston College faced the ACC heavyweights like Clemson, Florida State, and Louisville the results were very ugly. BC took advantage of the weaker teams on their schedule, got to a bowl game where they beat Maryland and went 7-6. The season ended with 3 straight wins. Following a 3-9 year, that was a 4 game improvement for the Eagles. Addiazo did a decent if not spectacular job in 2016.
Sryacuse – Dino Babers : C
We knew Dino Babers had a major rebuild on his hands at Syracuse. The Orange went 4-8 (2-6) in his first year, but there were some highlights. There was the signature win over a very good Virginia Tech team, and also a win over bowl team Boston College. At 4-4 at one point in the season, it looked like Syracuse might make a bowl game, but ended the season giving up a whopping 210 points in their final 4 games. The high octane offense had some good moments in 2016, but the defense was just dreadful by the end of the year.