Is Florida State ready to take back the ACC?
Florida State joined the ACC in 1992, right as the Bobby Bowden era in Tallahassee was nearing it’s peak. In FSU’s first 23 seasons in the conference, they won the league 15 times with three national championships.
But now the Seminoles have gone eight seasons without winning the ACC, their longest such stretch since joining the conference. In that span, they’ve had three different coaches and four losing seasons. All the while, another program has taken over.
In seven of those eight seasons, the Clemson Tigers have worn the ACC crown, with six straight playoff appearances from 2015-2020 and and national titles in 2016 and 2018. Dabo Swinney’s culture-driven program has been too much for anyone else in the league to contend with.
But suddenly things appear to have started falling off for the Tigers, as well. The 2021 team lost three regular season games and failed to win its division.
In 2022, the Tigers managed to win the conference, but out-of-conference defeats against middling Notre Dame and South Carolina (who they lost to for the first time since 2013) squads kept them out of the playoff. They ended their season getting dominated in the Orange Bowl against a Tennessee team led by its backup QB.
Their culture-first approach has cost them, as their overall roster talent hasn’t been strong enough lately to mask schematic issues offensively. Their way worked with the likes of Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence at QB. Without them, not so much.
Florida State, on the other hand, looks to be on the upswing. Mike Norvell finally turned things around in his third season, winning 10 games. And going into 2023, the ‘Noles bring back a ridiculous amount of talent to go along with several high impact transfers. The door looks open for FSU to finally take back the league.
Clemson, however, does look to be making some changes. Dabo Swinney finally made the decision to make an outside hire for OC, bringing in Garrett Riley from TCU to revitalize the Tigers offense. If Riley can tap-in to QB Cade Klubnik’s potential, Clemson has enough pieces elsewhere to stay on top of the ACC.
These two programs meet in Week 4 of the season, and, in all likelihood, will have a rematch in the ACC Championship Game now that the league has done away with divisions. For the first time in nearly a decade, who wins the ACC isn’t a forgone conclusion.