With the ACC Championship game on the docket, Chop Chat’s Sam Tschida reflects on when FSU Football used to be the flagbearers for the conference.
As the ACC Championship looms this weekend in Charlotte, it might be easy for ‘Noles fans to feel a sense of apathy for the game. It is now the fifth straight season that FSU football will be sitting at home during this week’s conference championship weekend, and it seems like ages ago since the ‘Noles have won an ACC crown.
With Clemson marching towards its fifth straight conference championship against UVA on Saturday, the ACC can now be known as the ‘All Clemson Conference’.
Florida State last won the ACC Championship back in 2014 against a very-good Georgia Tech squad. After finishing a tumultuous regular season undefeated, FSU won a shootout against the Yellow Jackets in Charlotte 37-35. The victory brought FSU fans their third-straight conference championship, and their fourth division title in the past five years. Up to that point, the ‘Noles had won more ACC titles than any other team in the conference with 15, despite joining in 1992.
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Since then things have obviously changed. Clemson has won the last four along with two national championships, while FSU is now on its third head coach and staff in four seasons. The Tigers now have the lead with 18 ACC championships, and will probably win their 19th this Saturday against Virginia.
FSU fans have been disheartened in recent years, with all the drama around the multiple coaching searches, a difficult firing this past season, and a constant barrage of bad media attention since 2013. With two of the Seminoles’ biggest rivals currently amongst the elite in Clemson and Florida and three straight losses to Miami, it’s easy to forget that the ACC was once Florida State’s conference.
When Florida State joined the ACC in 1992, they became the flag bearer for the conference’s football image. FSU was a football school stuck in a basketball conference, and aside from Clemson, had no competition when it came to attracting elite recruits. The ‘Noles won nine straight ACC championships from 1992-2000, two of which were ties with Virginia and Georgia Tech. The ‘Noles truly ruled the ACC and despite occasional challenges from the Yellow Jackets, Cavaliers and North Carolina, no one came close to dethroning the ‘Noles on a conference level.
Things changed quickly in the 2000s. After winning the ACC in ‘00, the ‘Noles lost out to Ralph Friedgen’s upstart Maryland Terrapins in 2001, but once again won the ACC in ‘02 and ‘03. The ACC did eventually change, adding football-centric schools like Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami in 2004. FSU still won a title in 2005, making it four titles during the ‘Lost Decade’. Even when FSU was down, they still ruled the conference.
The ‘Noles went on to win three straight from 2012-2014 after an eight-year hiatus from the top of the conference. Those teams compiled a conference record of 23-1, with the singular loss coming against NC State in Carter-Finley Stadium. Even in a conference that had finally gotten its act together from a football standpoint, the ‘Noles still ruled.
Obviously, things have changed. It is no longer possible for FSU to maintain the run of dominance it once did during the ‘90s in regards to the ACC. This is a not an indictment on the football program, but rather how much better the ACC has gotten. Clemson has gone from sleeping giant to a superpower.
There are more football programs with significant resources and a good history, not only the aforementioned Canes and Hokies but also Louisville and Boston College. The bottom feeders of the conference are now competent, with David Cutcliffe at Duke, Dave Clawson at Wake and Bronco Mendenhall at UVA. The ACC is still not the best football conference, but it is competitive and much better than it was in the 1990s.
All of this is to remind Seminoles fans that the ACC was once FSU’s conference, and it will be again at some point. Clemson didn’t win an ACC title from FSU’s entrance into the ACC until 2011; Virginia Tech won the ACC four times in the first six years that they were a part of the conference, but have not won any since.
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FSU fans might be disheartened, but they can never forget about the Seminoles’ past dominance, and that the ACC will be the ‘Nole’s again.