The ACC Domino

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

Once upon a time, the ACC was a premier athletic conference.

Having North Carolina and Duke means the conference has a shot at a national championship almost every year in basketball.

In football, they have a few solid programs. Clemson won a national championship in 1981. Georgia Tech won a share of the national championship with Colorado in 1990. The Yellow Jackets also have claimed three more national championships (1917, 1928, 1952) and three unclaimed national titles (1916, 1951, 1956).

Florida State joined the ACC July 1, 1991 and started playing football in 1992. The Seminoles won or shared a conference championship in their first nine seasons. They also won national championships in 1993, 1999 and 2013.

FSU was a top program in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Their rival, Miami was also an elite team dating back to the 1980’s. The Hurricanes won national championships in 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991 and 2001. They were undefeated before losing the BCS Championship Game in overtime in 2002. UM was an independent before joining the Big East in 1991.

In 2004 they left the Big East for the ACC along with Virginia Tech and Boston College. At the time it looked like the ACC was going to elevate to an elite football conference.

The Hokies played Florida State in the 1999 national title game and they routinely produced NFL talent. Boston College is a solid program that would normally make it to bowl games.

Unfortunately, the only team that lived up to expectations early on was Va Tech. They were the ACC Champs in their first year (2004) and won again in 2007, 2008 and 2010. They defeated Boston College in the conference championship game in 07 and 08.

Miami has never won the ACC since joining. Florida State falling off in the 2000’s and Miami never living up to expectations are the foundation to why they are in jeopardy of shutting down in the near future.

Dabo Swinney took over as the head coach for Clemson during the 2008 season and turned them into a national power. He led the Tigers to their first ACC title in 2011, then again from 2015-20 and 2022. They also won national titles in 2016 and 2018.

Clemson was the only marquee team in the conference for most of this time.

In another round of expansion Syracuse and Pitt joined the ACC in 2013. Notre Dame also joined that year in all sports except football. Louisville joined in 2014. These moves show adding teams just for the sake of it but not actually improving anything. Maryland left the ACC for the Big Ten in 2014.

This season is another round of expansion with SMU, Cal and Stanford joining the conference in all sports starting in 2024. This is another case of adding schools but not gaining any real value. Perhaps it can be looked at as expanding the recruiting footprint to Dallas and northern California at best.

Looking at it honestly, these are teams that do not compete for conference titles and certainly not on a national level. The conference is like a dead man walking at this point.

By comparison, the SEC adds Texas and Oklahoma this season. Two historically great football programs.

As you have heard by now, Clemson and FSU are suing the ACC to leave the conference. It is also reported that UNC wants to leave. This is the last domino to fall in creating super conferences in college sports if any of the current members can escape their contract with the ACC.


Frantic Atlantic

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

We are going to take a look at the ACC Atlantic division and predict how the teams will do this season.

#7 Syracuse: Dino Babers has had one winning season out of six at Syracuse. That includes 15 conference wins out of 50 ACC games.

The Orange return one of the nation’s top running backs in Sean Tucker (1,496 yards) but big progress in the passing game is needed under new play-caller Robert Anae.

Quarterback Garrett Shrader (781 rushing yards & 14 TDs) threw for less than 100 yards in three of his last four starts.

#6 Louisville: Quarterback Malik Cunningham was one of the best dual-threat players in the country last year and he’s back in 2022.

He was a 62% passer a year ago, throwing for 2,734 yards and 18 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions, while also rushing for over 1,000 yards and 20 additional touchdowns, both top 10 numbers nationally.

He lost a few receivers that transferred but the Cardinals also had some talented players transfer into the program. Wide receivers Tyler Hudson (Central Arkansas) and Dee Wiggins (Miami) should be good playmakers on the outside.

Tight end Marshon Ford (49 receptions) has a chance to be an All-ACC first-team pick.

They also return four starters on the offensive line.

#5 Boston College: The Eagles started 4-0 last season before the wheels fell off and they lost four consecutive games.

They finished at 6-6 and won just one ACC game at Chestnut Hill.

Quarterback Phil Jurkovec went down in Week 2 and he didn’t return until November. He’ll be back this season with running back Pat Garwo III and receiver Zay Flowers. They only return one starter on the offensive line so that is a big concern.

They return 7 starters on defense and they only gave up 22.2 points a game last fall.

#4 Florida State: The Seminoles made progress in head coach Mike Norvell’s second year in ’21, finishing 5-7. I don’t expect them to compete for the conference title, but they win total should increase.

Quarterback Jordan Travis passed for 2,074 yards, 15 touchdowns and 6 picks.

The season opener is in New Orleans against LSU. The Tigers are coming off of a disappointing season with a new head coach so FSU can win that game and set the tone for the season.

#3 Wake Forest: QB Sam Hartman returns after leading the offense to 41 points per game last year.

The Demon Deacons have talented receivers like A.T. Perry, Taylor Morin and Donavan Greene. They also return four O line starters.

Defense is where they struggled the most in 2021 and it’s still a big question mark.

#2 NC State: The Wolfpack return 17 starters, which is the most of any team in the ACC from a squad that went 9-3 last fall.

That includes quarterback Devin Leary (35 TDs, 5 INTs) and one of the nation’s top linebacker units anchored by Payton Wilson and Drake Thomas.

They must replace its top two rushers (Bam Knight and Ricky Person) and elite left tackle Ikem Ekwonu. They averaged a league low 3.3 yards per rush in 2021.

#1 Clemson: The Tigers had their streak of consecutive ACC titles snapped at six and failed to make the CFB Playoff for the first time since ’14 last season.

Offense was a problem last year and five-star QB DJ Uiagalelei completed 55.6% of his passes for 9 TDs and 10 picks. In theory he can’t get any worse and if he plays better Clemson will be back in the Top 10.