Jameis Winston has become the face of the conference's best team this season.
The ACC as a conference had a good year: a national championship, various individual awards and 11 teams made a bowl game. This conference still lacks the respect it deserves though. The future for the ACC looks bright and they are making a push for being one of the most complete conferences in college football. Emerging teams such as Miami and Duke are a big reason for that, while teams like Florida State and Clemson are having sustained success for the conference.
Florida State capped off a brilliant 14-0 season with a victory over Auburn in the BCS National Championship. Jameis Winston led the game-winning drive, which resulted in a touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin, shown in this video below.
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher is proud of the ACC, according to this tweet from FSU Football.
Jimbo: The ACC is an unbelievably competitive league. Hopefully now we get a little more respect. I am proud to be in it. #Noles— FSU Football (@FSU_Football) January 7, 2014
Winston earned many individual honors, including the Heisman and Davey O'Brien Award. He wasn't the only player from the ACC to receive individual awards though. Aaron Donald also took home some hardware, including the Bednarik, Outland and Lombardi awards. Donald led Pittsburgh to a Little Caesars Bowl victory over Bowling Green, and also helped them reach a 7-6 record in their first year in the conference.
The ACC got another BCS bowl victory when Clemson took down Ohio State 40-35 in the Discover Orange Bowl. Eleven teams from the conference reached a bowl game, which is very impressive.
Shown in this tweet from ACC football, 11 teams in the ACC finished with a winning record, the most by any league since 1932.
The ACC also had five wins over ranked non-conferences opponents, according to this tweet from ACC Football.
Duke had one of its best seasons ever, reaching 10 wins. College football fans got a big surprise when they gave Texas A&M all they could handle in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Stephen Wiseman from the Herald-Sun believes Duke will be just as good next season, too.
Duke missed an opportunity last night but the Blue Devils have plenty back for another run in '14 http://t.co/MaDDskiemS— Stephen Wiseman (@stevewisemanNC) January 2, 2014
The ACC's future looks bright because of these emerging teams. Two years ago, the conference's outlook was unclear, with Florida State at 9-4 and Clemson with a 10-4 record. Now Florida State and Clemson are emerging as top-10 teams, while teams such as Virginia Tech and Miami will look to return to prominence.
David Cutcliffe has built a successful program at Duke. Despite not getting high-profile recruits, he has developed players instead. Cutcliffe led Duke to a 10-4 record this season, which is amazing considering Duke's 2013 recruiting class was ranked 70th in the nation.
Anthony Boone was a two-star recruit coming out of high school, but under Cutcliffe's guidance has done a solid job at quarterback. In the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Boone threw for 427 yards and three touchdowns.
Maryland heads to the Big Ten next season and Louisville will make the jump to the ACC. Under Charlie Strong, Louisville has been successful the last couple of seasons. Even with Strong going to Texas, Louisville should still be a top team in the ACC with new head coach Bobby Petrino.
Petrino had a 41-9 record in his first stint at Louisville from 2003-2006 before going to the Atlanta Falcons.
All in all, the ACC is not going to surpass the SEC anytime soon. The Pac-12 is definitely the next best conference, but after that there isn't a conference that looks better than the ACC. The Big 12 could make an argument with Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma, but the ACC matches up nicely with Florida State, Clemson and Duke.
The ACC isn't the best conference; that's not the argument I am trying to make. The ACC is emerging though, and the future looks promising for them.