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ACC Football Slightly Better in 2022, But Significant Work Needed


David Teil

Convincingly beaten by Tennessee in the Orange Bowl and dealing with his program’s first straight three-game losing streak in more than a decade, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney opted for a positive rotation.

“We’re nowhere near where we need to be or [are] it’s going to be,” he said during his post-match gabfest, “but we got better. It’s something you can take away from it. »

He might as well have spoken for the entire ACC.

The conference football product has improved in 2022 but still requires significant work.

In the penultimate year of a four-team college football playoff — the 2024 12-court triple — the ACC was ruled out for the second straight season. Also, like in 2021, ACC teams failed to beat a ranked non-conference opponent during the regular season.

Finally, Notre Dame continued to own the league.

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Committed to playing an average of five ACC opponents a year, the independent Fighting Irish have gone 4-0 in those games in 2022, including victories over Atlantic Division champion Clemson and the winner of the North Carolina coastal division. Notre Dame hasn’t given up a regular season game against an ACC opponent since 2017 in Miami.

The ACC’s non-conference record of 41-23 was slightly better than the previous year’s 37-25. Most impressively, Florida State knocked out eventual SEC champion West LSU, and Syracuse beat Big Ten West winner Purdue.

Still, ACC teams finished 10-18 against peers Power Five, a notch better than 8-18 last year.

A 5-4 bowl record was the ACC’s first playoff victory since 2018, and UCLA’s shorthanded Pitt’s Sun Bowl conquest of No. 18 marked the league’s first victory over a ranked non-conference opponent since Clemson beat Ohio State in the 2019 CFP semifinals. Panthers backup quarterback Nick Patti engineered a last-minute drive and Ben Sauls threw a game-winning 47-yard field goal, his fifth of the day in as many attempts.

Pitt (9-4) closed on a five-game winning spree, and coupled with last season’s 11-3 record, the 2021 ACC champions are on their best two-year run since 1981 and ’82. , when they went a combined 20-4.

Likewise, Duke (9-4) capped off Mike Elko’s first year as head coach with a Military Bowl win over Central Florida. This is only the third season the Blue Devils have finished above .500 in the ACC and won a bowl – the others were from 1954 and 1960.

No offense to Pitt and Duke, but Florida State is a much more essential brand of ACC football, and the Seminoles’ 10-3 year, capped by a heartbreaking 35-32 Cheez-It Bowl victory over Oklahoma, was perhaps the most encouraging development for the conference.

Second-team All-ACC quarterback Jordan Travis threw for a career-high 418 yards against the Sooners and rushed for 50 more as the Seminoles extended their winning streak to six. If Travis returns next season as planned, FSU is going to be a problem — the Seminoles added all-conference cornerback Fentrell Cypress, a transfer from Virginia, to their roster on Sunday.

Under third-year coach Mike Norvell, Florida State is making progress off the court as well. The Athletic Department broke ground on a $100 million football support complex last month and, in a burst of creativity, ran a 30-second commercial for its fundraising arm during the telecast of the bowl of ESPN.

Commissioner Jim Phillips pushed ACC schools to invest more in football and, to that end, banded together with senior administrators at each campus, including chief financial officers. Additionally, a panel of ACC athletic directors — Virginia Tech’s Whit Babcock is on the panel — compiled a spreadsheet detailing each program’s investment in areas such as infrastructure, staffing and salaries.

Calling the data “really clean and precise”, Phillips said the league-wide initiative had “huge impact and residual”.

When this residue appears on the dashboard, that’s another matter.

The 247Sports Composite ranks Miami’s recruiting class of 2023 fourth nationally behind Alabama, Georgia and Texas, but when’s the last time the Hurricanes met or exceeded their hype?

Headlining Travis, North Carolina’s Drake Maye, Duke’s Riley Leonard and Clemson’s Cade Klubnik, the ACC will feature again next season to feature some of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the nation. But seven other starting quarterbacks in the league entered the transfer portal, including Brennan Armstrong of Virginia.

Looking at the big picture, in the nine years of college football playoffs, the ACC, thanks to Clemson, trails only the SEC in total offers (11-8), winning percentage (. 667-.500) and championships (5-2). If the ACC’s 6-6 playoff record seems tame, consider the remaining Power Five conferences — Big Ten, Big 12 and Pacific 12 — combined 5-13 in CFP games.

The 2023 season will provide the ACC with plenty of opportunities to check on progress, starting with Week 1 matchups such as Virginia-Tennessee in Nashville, Florida State-LSU in Orlando and North Carolina-South Carolina in Charlotte.

It’s only been eight months and goodness knows how many transfer portal entries are available.

military soccer

Duke quarterback Riley Leonard (13) drives past several UCF defenders and scores a touchdown during the second half of the Military Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Annapolis, Md. ( AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

Terrance Williams




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