ACC in 2014: Moving Forward
Posted By:Brett Haynes - Greenville, SC
After a strong close to 2013, and the addition of Louisville this offseason, the ACC looks to gain national respect...
Just a couple of summers ago, when conference realignment was in full discussion and heated debate, it looked as though the ACC might become the odd man out in major college football. Word on the street was that the sport was headed toward 4 "super conferences" in preparation of the first 4-team College Football Playoff, and the general perception was that the ACC was conference #5 and a non-factor.
The league was performing poorly on the field, and top member Florida State was rumored to be flirting with the Big-12. Several other ACC teams were also being tossed around the rumor mill, mentioned in the same sentences with the SEC and Big-12.
To be honest, at the time, fueled by playoff talk, it did seem as if ACC football might mist away into the Atlantic Ocean...
But two years later, things have changed in a major way for the league...
This past season, Florida State brought home a BCS Championship, Clemson brought home another BCS bowl win, and the league landed a very solid program in Louisville. The ACC Atlantic is now one of the toughest divisions in college football. Yes, I said that.
New TV deals are in the works and new bowl tie-ins for the league are much more attractive than previously.
In addition to this, Notre Dame is just an eyelash away from becoming a full ACC member. The Irish are official members in every other sport, and are scheduled to start a slate of ACC football games this fall. My prediction is that ND is a full member in football, as well, in the near future.
A league that was left for dead a short while back now has some very exciting story lines going on.
So where do things go now? Will good things continue to happen for the conference?
The main question is in the Coastal division. Will that side have a team step up? The Atlantic Division is tough, but the Coastal needs to become tough, also. Big names Miami and Virginia Tech have quietly slipped away from the nation's attention due to accumulating mediocre seasons. Can one of those two programs get back into the big time? Another couple of teams that are a mystery in the Coastal are Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Both teams have the potential to do big things, but never seem to break on through. Then there is Duke - a surprise team from 2013, but hardly a program that should be the anchor of that division (no disrespect to the Devils). I believe UNC is the favorite to win the Coastal in 2014, with a strong challenge from those mentioned. Virginia and Pitt do not seem to be a threat at this time.
Moving forward, the key to the ACC's resurgence has to be wins against teams from other conferences. Obviously, FSU carries the flag and the league needs the Seminoles to win in Dallas against Oklahoma State to open the season, and in Tallahassee against Florida later on. Clemson faces two SEC teams in Georgia and South Carolina. Miami travels to Nebraska. VT travels to Ohio State. These, and many others, are all games that the ACC needs to play well in - and win - if the league's image will continue to crawl out of the ditch.
It will not be easy to keep the momentum going, but I am excited to watch it all unfold in 2014, and feel the conference is poised for big things. One thing is for sure: the ACC isn't going anywhere for the time being.
Prediction for 2014: The obvious pick is Florida State, and that is who I am going to go with to win the Atlantic Division and the overall conference crown. FSU's stiffest competition within their division will come from Clemson (home) and Louisville (away). The Tigers and Cardinals will attempt to unseat the 'Noles on the Atlantic side of things, but I am going with FSU to win the division and conference again...Who will they face from the Coastal Division in the ACC Title Game? I am going to go with UNC. I have been big on them many times over the years, only to see NFL-type talent go to waste. This year, they finally make it to the ACCCG in Charlotte.