Followers of this blog know we were there when ACC football was a national punchline. Remember this article back from early 2012, when we lamented the ACC embarrassing itself during bowl season? You don’t have to root for your conference brethren to do well out of conference, but the ACC football was struggling so badly that it hurt the ACC in their media negotiations, bowl lineups, and in some circles almost got the ACC left out from being a power conference.
It was ugly back then. Every non-conference game was a fight for respect. National media looked at the ACC, and constantly said the ACC needs to win this game or that game to to change perceptions, adn they weren’t wrong. Slowly that started to happen in 2012, when the ACC had a 4-2 bowl mark. Several had predicted a 1-5 or 2-4 bowl mark that season. You know what happened over the next couple of years. Florida State won a national title in 2013, and is one of the elite programs in college football now. Clemson became a national power, but the conference still lacked depth as we said in 2014 and even through 2015. Here is something we said in that 2015 article that almost sounded prophetic.
That’s what we have behind Florida State and Clemson – a lot of potential, and that’s still something.
I feel confident Louisville is on the cusp of being really solid, and if another team or two can add depth, then the ACC can finally be the football conference we’ve been waiting for.
That time arrived during the 2016-2017 season. ACC football became the country’s best football conference. Before SEC and Big 10 fans get in a twist, I’m not saying the ACC is taking over college football, but in 2016 it was the the best. The results don’t lie. The ACC went 15-6 against the two conferences. Argue if you wish the “matchups”, but I never heard that come up when the South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia were better and beating Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia Tech a few years ago.
The ACC went a nation’s best 8-3 during bowl season. Clemson and Florida State again proved they were at the top of the college football food chain by beating the best the Big 10 has to offer in Ohio State and Michigan. Georgia Tech was the defacto SEC East champion going 3-0 against the division. Pittsburgh beat Big 10 Champion Penn State during the regular season. Boston College, Virginia Tech, NC State, Wake Forest, and Miami picked up bowl wins. The Canes knocked off top 20 West Virginia in their bowl game.
It’s not just our blog calling the ACC the best football conference in 2016, Stewart Mandel of FoxSports agrees, and so does Matt Zemek of FanRag Sports who has his take on the ACC’s long road to respectability.
It’s been a remarkable ride for the ACC. Once considered a conference whose playoff of worthiness was debatable to what we see now – a conference with elite national powers, depth that can match anyone in the country and the wins to prove it.
Clemson plays Alabama on Monday January 9. Should Clemson win the national title, it would be without doubt the greatest ACC football season in history.