|administrateur||Date: Saturday, 2013-10-19, 4:44 AM | Message # 1|
|How fitting that our first top-five matchup of the college football season involves a pair of ACC teams. |
For the record, it's the first top-five matchup in the ACC since 2005.
Save the hoops jokes -- and in the spirit of full transparency, I've been as guilty as anyone when it comes to dismissing the ACC as a football league only until basketball practice starts in October.
Even now, I'm leery about branding the ACC as a football juggernaut across the board.
But I'm 100 percent sold on Clemson and Florida State being the real deal, and their showdown Saturday in Death Valley will be the first of several to come in the next few weeks that will shape this season's national championship race.
"Games like this, we relish it. We love it," Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd said. "We live in these moments, because that's what we wanted."
The ACC would also like, once and for all, a little respect. Here's a chance to go get it, especially after dragging around that "Little Brother" to the SEC label for as long as it has.
You don't think the SEC looks down its collective noses at the ACC?
I think back to some of the responses we got from SEC players this summer, albeit anonymously, when we asked them what immediately came to mind when they thought about other conferences.
When the ACC was broached, we got everything from "SEC Lite" to a "step down from the SEC" to "soft."
Historically, it might be hard to squabble with such perceptions, but I can't make that leap in the here and now, particularly with regard to the top of the ACC.
Just like the SEC, the ACC has three teams in the top 10 of this week's Associated Press poll -- No. 3 Clemson, No. 5 Florida State and No. 10 Miami. The ACC is the only league with two teams in the top five.
Rankings are just window dressing this time of year. We all know that.
But on the field, Miami has already beaten Florida, and Clemson has beaten Georgia.
And don't get Clemson coach Dabo Swinney started on the whole meaning of "Clemsonning." I can't say I really blame him. The Tigers have caught more grief for who they've lost to over the last few years than they've received credit for who've they beaten.
They ended the season a year ago by taking down LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and opened this season by defeating Georgia. That's a pair of top-10 conquests.
The one thing that has dogged Swinney since taking over at Clemson full-time in 2009 is his struggles against Steve Spurrier and South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won four in a row in that series for the first time since the early 1950s.
In that rivalry, a four-game losing streak might as well be a 40-game losing streak. At least, it seems that way in a state that is divided right down the middle.
But Swinney's ability to elevate Clemson's program to national prominence has helped ease the pain of losing so many in a row to the Gamecocks.
That's what makes Saturday's contest one of the biggest the Tigers have played in Death Valley in a long time.
Win or lose this weekend, Swinney is confident Clemson's program has been built to "sustain success." The Tigers have won 17 of their last 19 games since their humiliating 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl to end the 2011 season. Their only two losses during that stretch were to Florida State and South Carolina.