The regular season is done, but we’re heading toward what could be the biggest and best ACC Championship Game ever, while much of the rest of the league is simply waiting for bowl invitations or hoping to hang on to its coach. Each week in this space we’ll take a look around the Atlantic Coast Conference football fields and examine the most important happenings.
BEST OF THE BEST: Back in the early 2000s, when ACC expansion happened and the conference title game was conceived, the powers that be in Greensboro put Florida State and Miami in opposite divisions, thinking those perennial powers and in-state rivals would frequently meet with high stakes and even higher TV ratings.
Fast forward to 2017 and the Seminoles and Hurricanes still haven’t played for an ACC championship, but this year Miami finally held up its end of the bargain and this meeting with Clemson could be the best league title game the ACC has had yet.
Not that there is a super high bar to clear. The game has generally featured at least one division winner with multiple losses. Georgia Tech has played in the game four times since 2005, and no offense to the Yellow Jackets, but they aren’t a program that moves the needle with a nationwide audience.
Duke and Wake Forest each played in an ACC Championship Game before Miami ever qualified. And while those Underdog stories held a certain kind of appeal, the league office has obviously been waiting for a game like they are getting this week.
This time we’ve got two one-loss national title contenders. The eyes of the nation will be on two premier programs with copious signage all over Charlotte to remind them all Clemson and Miami are representing the ACC.
The Tigers and Canes each lost to inferior opponents this season, but they’ve also brought their very best when playing top notch competition. If that pattern holds it’s shaping up to be the best ACC title game we’ve seen.
COACHING MOVES?: The ACC is on what has become a rare situation these days: All 14 schools are relatively satisfied with their coaching situations and it doesn’t look like any head coach is in danger of losing their job.
Pitt had a disappointing season, but probably earned some goodwill for Pat Narduzzi with the upset of Miami to close out the regular season. It was a bad year for Duke and North Carolina, but David Cutcliffe and Larry Fedora had previously earned enough leeway at those basketball schools.
Almost everyone else in the league only served to solidify their status at their current schools this year.
So nobody is getting fired, but will any ACC coaches be hired away?
Both Jimbo Fisher and Justin Fuente have come up in discussions of the Texas A&M opening. If Fisher has grown tired of Florida State for whatever reason, then A&M would make sense as a close to lateral move.
Fuente seems happy in his second season at a Virginia Tech, but his roots are in Oklahoma and Texas and there might not ever be a better opportunity in that part of the country.
That’s not to say either is really interested in leaving, but it may be the only thing to watch in an otherwise boring ACC coaching carousel