Alex Turko (@aturko_23)
The past two off-seasons have been filled with the chatter of conference realignment and eager preparation for the College Football Playoffs that begin in 2014. The next generation of college football fans might not ever know of the classic rivalries from the “pre-realignment” era that were abruptly halted from conference changes. With Florida State stuck in the ACC for the long haul, the additions to the conference come just in time with the College Football Playoffs approaching.
Last season the ACC was sluggish in their talks to build upon their existing members and to keep up with other conference’s attempts to build the “mega conference.” This lack of urgency lead the ACC’s “football” schools to start putting out feelers to leave the conference, and the fans to frantically imagine life beyond the ACC. Florida State and Clemson alike were already connecting the dots for a logical move regionally, to move to the SEC and become conference allies with their most hated rivals (Florida and South Carolina respectively). After talks with the SEC stopped, rumors swirled that FSU was listening to offers from the Big 12 and Big 10. After the ACC signed a TV contract that issued a 50 million dollar exit fee, it seemed as though the “football schools” were stuck in a football purgatory.
Everything changed for the better when Maryland left the ACC for the Big 10, as ACC commissioner John Swofford was forced to bring in new schools to the conference. He promptly snagged Louisville and Notre Dame were added. (Notre Dame remains independent in football but must play 5 ACC schools a year)
These teams were thought to be basketball driven additions, but I think this will create a powerful football conference in the future.
Florida State has always been dogged for a weak schedule, but now with the additions to the conference, they will be able to boost their resume to the voters on the playoff committee next season. Jimbo Fisher has made a statement to compile a difficult schedule for the first season of the playoffs, 2014, notably hosting Clemson, Florida and Notre Dame at home, while playing Oklahoma State (kickoff classic game in Cowboys stadium) Louisville and Miami on the road.
The conference appears to have four teams that should consistently rank in the top-25 over the next couple of seasons in: Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech. With Miami seemingly on the rise (which could be proved by beating Florida this upcoming season), they could add their name to the mix as one of ACC teams that should be ranked throughout the season. If Pittsburgh continues to improve under second year head coach and Syracuse stays average, that would make a conference with plenty of teams that could compete with other conferences in terms of how deep the conference could be. Do not forget NC State has added former Northern Illinois’ coach, Dave Doeren, and Georgia Tech should be playing with confidence after beating USC in their bowl game. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and fans alike should relish in the fact that they soon could be king of a potentially powerful football conference.
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