Adam Gold

Greatest ACC football season ever

Posted October 25, 2013

Cart. Horse.

Now that we have the proverbial saying out of the way, let's get down to talking about the best football season in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference – at least so far.

Yes, Florida State has won a pair of national championships with the ACC logo on the back of their helmet but largely, the Seminoles were flying solo in those seasons. In truth, apart from a brief stretch, FSU spent the first decade of their ACC existence laying waste to our cute little basketball league. There was a time when you could count the 'Noles conference losses on one hand. In fact, Florida State didn't lose its first ACC football game until its 30th league contest – at Virginia – in the middle of the 1995 season.

So to say that the 2013 season is the greatest in league history isn't necessarily like hyping Abbey Road as the greatest Album in the Beatles' anthology. In other words, considering the less-than-spectacular football legacy of the conference, it's a fairly low bar to navigate. However, that doesn't make it any less true – again, to date.

It's just too bad for those of us along Tobacco Road that we have to enjoy the current riches vicariously through the eyes and cheers of those in Tallahasee, Clemson, Miami and Blacksburg. While the ACC has three teams in the AP top 10 for the first time in history and is poised for a season in which four different schools crack the 10-win barrier, we're left wondering how many – if any – of our Triangle schools might squeak out enough victories to climb into the college bowl picture.

It's sobering in a way that must be the case during March among ACC basketball fans from Florida, or South Carolina or Boston. There have been many basketball seasons when the epicenter of the ACC, if not the whole of the country, has been the 919 area code, and I'm sure it gets tiring for most of the other (now) 13 schools to stomach at times. Unfortunately, during the football season, we've grown all too accustomed to being left out of the national picture.

Consider that since the conference expanded to Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College in the middle of the last decade, the ACC has placed a total of 31 teams in the final Associated Press top 25 poll. Only once was one of them a team from the Triangle. Only North Carolina State's nine-win season in 2010 was good enough to sneak into the final rankings, and even then it was 25th. The last time a team from the Triangle finished in the top 10 of the AP poll was when North Carolina ended the season 6th after an 11-1 year.

Then Mack Brown escaped to Texas…and, well, you know the rest of that story.

Saturday night, Florida State stamped itself back in the national championship business with a thorough, dominating and surprisingly easy 51-14 win at then-unbeaten Clemson. And while the Seminoles still have half of their schedule in front of them, it would border on mystifying should they even be challenged by any team other than Miami or Florida the rest of the way. With that said, FSU appears to be significantly better than even both of those teams and will probably be a double-digit favorite in all of their remaining games with the lone exception being the trip into the Gainesville in the annual season finale.

Even though the Tigers were humiliated by the Seminoles on national television, Clemson is much better than just about all of the five remaining clubs left on their slate. The game this week in College Park against Maryland won't be easy, but it's one Dabo Swinney's team should handle, leaving the Tigers with only the challenge at South Carolina between them and 11 wins. Miami is still unbeaten, with a top-10 ranking and a non-conference win over Florida, and as long as they don't fall apart at the seams, the Hurricanes will host Virginia Tech the second Saturday in November for a spot in the ACC championship game – one that they proactively took themselves out of a year ago to avoid continuing NCAA sanctions.

Then there's the curious case of the Hokies. Since joining the ACC in 2004, Frank Beamer's team has won the title four times and finished with double-digit wins and a national ranking every single season except the last one. Remember, too, that Virginia Tech was not supposed to be part of that round of expansion. The original plan was Syracuse, along with Miami and Boston College, until Virginia politics intervened, and thank Bear Bryant they did. Beamer Ball, for all it's warts, has carried the flag of this conference over the last nine years the same way Duke or North Carolina have carried it in basketball.

Until last year.

2012 was about as forgettable a season as you could have ever imagined in Blacksburg. At one point Tech was 4-6, staring at a losing season, the end of a 20-year post season bowl streak and – amazingly enough – a head coach on the hot seat. Frank Beamer IS Virginia Tech football. He played there and he has created, at the very least, a regional powerhouse with a national reputation for it's electric nighttime atmosphere. But even an alum has to prove it every year, and coming off a 7-6 finish Beamer's team needed a bounce back.

In spite of an ugly-looking loss to Alabama to open the year, things appear to be back to normal for the Hokies. Virginia Tech is playing great defense, arguably the best in the country. They have finally figured out a formula that works enough on offense. And as long as special teams doesn't let them down – the ultimate irony, isn't it? – it would appear that Tech will, once again, close out the year with 10-plus wins, a major bowl bid and maybe even take a swing at the big, bad Seminoles in the ACC Championship game.

It's been a rarity for the Atlantic Coast Conference to have the national spotlight that comes along with a top-10 match up in conference play. Last week's meeting between Florida State and Clemson, each in the top six at the time, drew a national television audience. Next week, the Seminoles and Hurricanes will renew their storied rivalry, also before the entire college football world thanks to each being in the top 10. Then, the following weekend, the Canes will host the Hokies with a Coastal Division championship on the line.

This was undoubtedly John Swofford's dream scenario for ACC football once all the pieces were in place. The four schools where football was king playing like football royalty, with exciting, high-scoring offenses and tough, physical, aggressive defenses, and contending nationally into the final month of the season. It took a long time for us to finally get here. Florida State and Miami haven't been true national contenders for more than a decade. Clemson's been mostly a tease, batting their eyelashes at you and making you think you have a chance, only to find out she has a case of halitosis that would make a gorilla cringe.

These types of seasons happen in other conferences. The Southeastern Conference is on a run of seven straight national championships. Alabama, Florida, LSU and Auburn have combined to win all of the BCS titles since 2006, and every year it appears that there are multiple SEC teams that are still in the hunt well into November. This year isn't necessarily any different, with the Crimson Tide setting the pace and league-newcomer Missouri still unbeaten heading towards Halloween. This season though, the SEC has company near the mountaintop.

The Atlantic Coast Conference is enjoying its best season ever. It's just too bad that those of us here in the Triangle have to live vicariously through the cheers of those schools on top of the standings. In a fandom sense, it sort of makes us feel like football fans from Mississippi. Only with better public education. Oh well, our time will come.

It will, right?

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  • StunGunn Oct 26, 2013

    The ACC may be better this year than it has ever been in football, but the only team that will make real noise on the national scene is FSU. They're good. REAL good. Clemson, Miami, VT have all been exposed for what they are, and their rankings will drop.

    As far as "greatest" goes, this may be the "greatest" season Duke has had, maybe not "ever", but certainly the greatest in a long time.

  • Ken D. Oct 25, 2013

    View quoted thread



    The column isn't about Triangle football having a good season. It's about the ACC. Triangle teams were mediocre even when the league only had 7 or 8 teams, and expansion hasn't made them any better. But four teams in the top 14 is about as good as it gets for the league.

  • tarheelfan41 Oct 25, 2013

    Over the years Gold has spoke many times about how much better the ACC is due to expansion and how much better it will be in the future. That is great for BROADCASTERS, JOURNALIST, TALKSHOW HOST, and the like, but for State fans, UNC, DUKE, Wake Forest football fans it has not been so great. A few very low level bowls and a lot of @#$% whippings. I had rather the ACC win than lose when playing outside the conference but that's about as far as it goes. I had rather my team won and had a chance of a conference championship most years. I see none of the big 4 battling for the conference championship in the foreseeable future. I simply do not get excited about FSU having a possibility of winning a national championship nor do any of my friends no matter which local team they pull for. By Saturday night ask State how they feel about FSU...

  • tarheelfan41 Oct 25, 2013

    Better public education than Miss? Give the NC GOP just a little more time and they can turn that around. By junk999

    We gave the democrats a 100 years and they managed to put a challenge to Mississippi, depending on the year, finishing in the 40s of state education rankings.

  • junk999 Oct 25, 2013

    Better public education than Miss? Give the NC GOP just a little more time and they can turn that around.

  • cjw6105 Oct 25, 2013

    ACC's best season ever?

    The Big Four doesn't have one team that is better than mediocre, and I seriously doubt any of them will finish better than .500. UVA is as bad as I can remember. VT, despite their ranking, is still the worst they've been since they entered the league. BC is about as bad as 2012, which was very bad. Maryland, on its way out, will be lucky to finish 6-6. Syracuse ditto. I haven't figured out Georgia Tech and Pitt yet, but at best they're about 7-5 material.

    Clemson is good but to me nothing special; I've seen better Tiger teams. Miami may win the Coastal Division but credit their schedule if they do- they don't have to play Clemson, and they're catching VT on a down season for the Hokies. And FSU is good, no doubt, but I still don't think this year's team is as good as the teams from the 1990s and early 2000s that simply steamrolled everyone in the league, when the league was the ACC and not the Big East.

  • ezme22 Oct 25, 2013

    mooers never win

  • dave437 Oct 25, 2013

    Triangle football, too funny.....

  • jdupree Oct 25, 2013

    Not the best, but a very good one thusfar. Local teams are average at best including Duke and Wake Forest. For those two, they are having a very good year compared to their normal year, but still just average teams.

  • JACKSON THIS IS OUR STATE SAWYER Oct 25, 2013

    Typical blathering from Gold, 10 plus paragraphs of talk show jargon. Substance amounted to zero. I think Fla.St. will win sat but it after tough battle from N.C.S.U. then will go on to go undefeated. if the cards fall right possible Nat. champ. game.
    Good luck to the Pack but also good luck to the noles.

  • ACC: Syracuse at NC State

    Saturday at 12:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • SEC: Florida at Kentucky

    Saturday at 2:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • Pac 12: Stanford at Arizona

    Saturday at 4:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • Big Ten: Wisconsin at Minnesota

    Tomorrow at 7:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • NBA: Dallas at Portland

    Tomorrow at 9:30 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • NHL: Hurricanes vs. Minnesota

    Friday at 8:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
Local
Final
BRK 91
CHA 115
 
Final
DUKE 94
WAKE 51
 
Final
LOS 4
CWS 6
 
Final
CLE 4
CIN 2
 
Final
TEX 2
KAN 13
 
Final
SFG 2
OAK 9
 
Final
SEA 4
SDP 3
 
Final
MIL 8
WMIL 0
 
Final
COL 3
ARI 6
 
Final
MIN 3
UMIN 1
 
Final
IND 105
NYK 82
 
Final
ORL 100
PHO 105
 
Final
BRK 91
CHA 115
 
Final
TOR 112
CLE 120
 
Final
BOS 85
UTA 84
 
Final
MIN 85
DEN 100
Final
NOP 88
DET 85
 
Final
MIA 100
LAL 94
 
Final
HOU 100
MEM 102
 
Final
OKC 123
PHI 118
 
Final
SAN 112
SAC 85
 
1st
GSW 25
MIL 17
 
1st
LAC 20
POR 22
 
Final
UNCA 80
LIB 70
 
Final
PSU 67
OSU 77
 
Final
USB 62
BING 57
 
Final
FORD 66
DUQ 81
 
Final
GMAS 51
GWU 67
 
Final
UNH 67
HART 63
 
Final
STJOE 55
LAS 50
 
Final
Terriers 79
LIU 70
 
Final
GTDNS 83
MAINE 66
 
Final
LOU 59
ND 71
 
Final
SHU 66
PROV 79
 
Final
BRY 91
SHU 85
 
Final
MORE 79
SEMIZ 74
 
Final
MNTER 58
RFLSH 73
 
Final
LSU 63
TENN 78
 
Final
SFLA 74
UCF 45
 
Final
VERM 66
UMBC 39
 
Final
RMU 91
WAGN 68
 
Final
UMASS 53
RICH 56
 
Final
TULA 63
HOU 68
 
Final
YALE 71
HOW 62
 
Final
PITT 63
MIAMI 67
 
Final
TXPA 48
NMST 69
 
Final
MSU 72
PURD 66
 
Final
STLU 48
BONA 64
 
Final
DUKE 94
WAKE 51
 
2nd
TULSA 47
CIN 55
 
Final
VANDY 66
MSST 56
 
2nd
OKST 82
TCU 66
 
2nd
UCLA 85
USC 69
 
Final
WYO 76
UTST 53
 
2nd
MARQ 43
STJ 53
 
2nd
EILL 53
SIUE 47
 
Half
FRES 32
AFA 23
 
Half
NEV 32
COLST 41
 
Half
ILL 31
NEB 25
 
1st
SJST 21
BSU 38
 
11:00pm Tonight
ORST
OREG
11:00pm Tonight
UNLV
SDST
11:59pm Tonight
HAW
UCSB
 
Final
WIN 1
OTT 3
 
Final
DET 2
NYR 1
 
1st Intermission
ANA 1
MON 0
 
1st Intermission
COL 0
PIT 0