Miami celebrates victory over Florida. (September 6, 2013)
Clemson’s 52-13 dusting of South Carolina State on Saturday was routine and did nothing to enhance the ACC’s football profile. But as he exited his postgame presser, Tigers coach Dabo Swinney had a message about the conference.
“How about that ACC?” he said. “Spunky little, old league.”
Indeed, though in its infancy, the 2013 regular season, thanks to Clemson and Miami, is on track to rate among the ACC’s best and already towers over 2012.
Not to place too much stock in the Tigers’ opening-week win over Georgia and the Hurricanes’ over the Gators. Both games were in ACC stadiums, and perhaps Georgia and/or Florida aren’t/weren’t as good as their rankings.
But after a 2012 regular season in which its teams went 0-10 against Associated Press top-25 non-conference opponents — Clemson and Florida State bested ranked teams in their bowls — the ACC is 2-3 in such games this year.
Clemson defeated No. 5 Georgia to break a 36-game ACC losing streak against top-five non-conference competition, and Miami beat No. 11 Florida. The losses: North Carolina to No. 6 South Carolina, Virginia Tech to No. 1 Alabama, and Virginia to No. 2 Oregon.
The ACC’s next opportunity may have to wait until late November, when Georgia Tech, Florida State and Clemson play their traditional regular-season finales against Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, respectively.
ACC newcomer Pittsburgh hosts Notre Dame on Nov. 9. The Irish are No. 21 this week after Saturday’s loss at Michigan but could fall out of the top 25. Georgia Tech plays at Brigham Young on Oct. 12, and the Cougars were among the “others receiving votes” this week after their Saturday upset of Texas and despite their Week 1 loss at Virginia.
The ultimate measure of the ACC this season will be whether some combination of Clemson, Florida State and Miami remain in the national conversation, and how the league overall performs in bowls.
Regardless, toppling two ranked teams from the Southeastern Conference is notable. As the following list shows, the ACC hadn’t done that in eight years.
Seasons with multiple wins over ranked SEC opponents
* 1979: Wake Forest d. No. 12 Georgia and No. 13 Auburn.
* 1984: Georgia Tech d. No. 19 Alabama and No. 18 Georgia.
* 1992: North Carolina d. No. 24 Mississippi State; Florida State d. No. 6 Florida.
* 1994: N.C. State d. No. 16 Mississippi State; Florida State d. No. 5 Florida in Sugar Bowl.
* 1998: Virginia d. No. 17 Auburn; Georgia Tech d. No. 12 Georgia; Florida State d. No. 4 Florida.
* 1999: Florida State d. No. 3 Florida; Georgia Tech d. No. 16 Georgia.
* 2000: Clemson d. No. 25 South Carolina; Florida State d. No. 4 Georgia; Georgia Tech d. No. 19 Georgia.
* 2002: Virginia d. No. 22 South Carolina; Florida State d. No. 15 Florida.
* 2005: Georgia Tech d. No. 16 Auburn; Clemson d. No. 19 South Carolina.
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