It's Safe to Say the ACC Is Back
Share this article
As an ACC fan, and more specifically, a Florida State Seminole fan, I've been waiting for a season like this.
Not only did the Noles end the SEC's 7-year BCS Championship run, they also reclaimed their intimidating allure. (At least, they did after Jameis Winston got rid of that deer-in-headlights look late in the first half.) This characteristic was something the Seminoles have been seeking to reclaim for over a decade, after they seemingly went on a strange hiatus where college analysts and football fanatics were considering them a merely adequate program and deservedly so.
Yes, the BCS Championship aided with the ACC's reclamation, but it was the strong performances in the other bowl games that helped reassert the ACC as one conference not to sleep on.
Clemson, surprisingly, beat Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. Remember when the Buckeyes were in contention for the BCS Championship game, only to falter in the Big-10 title game against Michigan State? Regardless, Clemson, which didn't pull a 'Clemson' this time, handed the Buckeyes their second consecutive defeat, 40-35. That was definitely a 'statement game' that allowed the rest of the world that doesn't follow the ACC to witness how lethal the Tigers offense -- more specifically, Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins -- can be.
Boyd not only showcased his ability to lead, but also his skillset, which was simply magnificent, both on the ground and through the air. Watkins pretty much caught everything thrown his way to the tune of a personal-best 16 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns. It's safe to say spectators were in awe of the aerial attack that was on display, while the Buckeye defense was scrambling for strategies to combat it.
Florida State, on the other hand, took its time, chipping away at an 18-point deficit to vercome Auburn. It took serious brass to maintain the will and determination necessary to defeat this SEC powerhouse, but the Seminoles made the plays and capitalized on the breaksat the end to secure its first BCS Championship since 1999.
Duke, despite falling to Texas A&M in the hard fought Chik-Fil-A Bowl, had a cinderella season that no one could have predicted. David Cutcliffe altered the entire culture surrounding Blue Devils football. Although still overshadowed by a dominant basketball powerhouse, the Duke program garnered a shot of much-needed respect with a 10-win season and a trip to the ACC Championship game.
Miami, young and inexperienced, had a short stint in the Top-10 this season before spiraling out of control after being thumped by Florida State. Frankly, that lofty ranking said as much about the shallowness of pollsters as the loss to the Seminoles said about the 'Canes. Expect them to rebound and be a top-notch program next season.
Virginia Tech, always a threat to win between 8-11 games per season, had a down year by Frank Beamer's standards but will surely rebound, reload, and contend for the 2014 ACC crown just like they normally do.
Louisville, entering the ACC next year, will boost the ACC if they stay the course and continue to stay as successful a football program as they have been in recent years, thanks to a Sugar Bowl win over Florida and sensational quarterback play, thanks to Teddy Bridgewater.
Yes, I fully understand the ACC had a losing record this bowl season. As a collective unit, they compiled a 5-6 record.
However, I can sense the tide is beginning to turn. The ACC won two major bowl games and Duke almost defeated a tough Texas A&M team; if not for the unbelievable turnaround Manziel showcased in the second half, the Blue Devils might have done it.
Florida State and Clemson will be in contention next year for the newly designed four-team playoff. Duke, Virginia Tech, Miami, Louisville, and Georgia Tech won't be pushovers by any means in 2014. Pittsburgh is always tough and North Carolina seems to be headed in the right direction.
The ACC possesses solid teams with high ceilings. With the right structure and leadership, who knows how successful this conference can be. They just had two Heisman candidates with Jameis Winston and Andre Williams. I firmly believe they have the talent pool to contend with the SEC and the Pac-12.
With the resurgence of Florida State and Clemson, the ACC is officially back and ready to steamroll its opposition in 2014.