It’s time the rest of college football starts taking the ACC seriously.
For years, unless it was Florida State, teams would tend to write off an ACC opponent as an automatic victory. Sure, Clemson and Miami might put up the occasional fight, but those instances were generally rare.
This season, that’s all about to change.
The Year of the Tiger
Clemson has put it together in recent years, going a combined 21-6 over the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
More impressively, the Tigers have been getting it done against stiff competition.
After knocking off four ranked opponents in 2011—including a stretch of three straight—Clemson added another last year. Following last weekend’s 38-35 shootout victory over No. 4 Georgia, it's now won two straight matchups against Top 10 SEC foes (the Tigers also topped No. 9 LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last December).
This is the same Clemson team that was just 3-17 against ranked opponents from 2001 to 2010.
Add a 52-13 thrashing of South Carolina State in Week 2 to the season-opening victory over Georgia, and the Tigers have emphatically stated that they’re here to play. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has also made a strong case for Heisman Trophy contention.
Watch out for Clemson.
Return of the U
During the early 2000s, the Miami Hurricanes were one of the elite programs in college football. From 1998 to 2005, they put together eight straight seasons of nine or more wins. That included two BCS title game appearances and a combined 82-17 record.
Lately, that’s all changed.
Since 2005, the Hurricanes have won more than seven games just once. They were also only 5-10 against ranked opponents in that span.
However, following a 21-16 upset of No. 12 Florida on Saturday, Miami looks primed to earn back some of that respect.
Although their defense spent the majority of the game on the field—38:20 to be exact—the Hurricanes still looked dominant. They forced the Gators into five turnovers and limited them to just 6-of-15 on third-down conversions.
Sure, Miami still has some work to do on offense. But with just one ranked game left on the schedule—a visit to No. 10 Florida State on Nov. 2—a 10-win season isn’t completely out of reach.
The tides are turning in South Beach.
The Usual Contender
The Seminoles aren’t used to sharing the spotlight. Until recently, they were the lone threat coming out of the ACC.
A 31-10 record over the past three seasons surely helped Florida State’s case.
This year, the team has even more to be optimistic about. That’s because quarterback Jameis Winston has been a lot better than advertised.
In his collegiate debut, the redshirt freshman was pinpoint accurate with the ball, going 25-of-27 through the air for 356 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Seminoles to a 41-13 victory over Pittsburgh. He added 25 yards and another score on the ground.
With Winston leading the way, Florida State is ready to make some noise on the national stage.
Summing It All Up
Every year, there’s one team that sneaks up and makes a name for itself early on. In Miami and Clemson, the ACC has two of those teams.
Almost nobody had the Tigers and Hurricanes sitting at 2-0 after two weeks. However, that’s just what both schools have been able to accomplish, looking rather comfortable while doing so.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said it best:
Dabo: "How about that ACC? Spunky little old league?" Then he makes "The U" sign as he walks out.
— Greg Wallace (@gc_wallace) September 7, 2013
Don’t be surprised if midway through the season, the conference has three teams in the Top 15.