Breaking Down The ACC Race With ESPN's Andrea Adelson
By Dan Harralson
ACC teams historically have hung their hat on basketball, becoming known by most as the premier conference in that sport, especially with the dissolution of the Big East.
ACC football has not put on the same type of clinic that its basketball teams have produced, but this is year is different. Much different.
Three Top 15 teams are from the Atlantic Coast Conference. Clemson, Florida State, and Miami all have made a splash on the national scene during the first month of the 2013 season. One person that knows all to well how good these teams are: ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson. She is one of the best in the business and she knows the ACC from top to bottom.
First, Clemson knocked off then-No. 5 Georgia on college football's opening Saturday night. After watching Clemson win a somewhat tight game at North Carolina State last week, it's scary to think the Tigers still can get better.
"This is a team that still isn't hitting on all cylinders on offense," Adelson said. "In fact, it's their (Clemson) defense that has produced some outstanding results. I think for me, that's been the big difference for Clemson this year: Their ability to rely on their defense."
Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston took the college football world by storm as he put on an unbelievable performance at Pittsburgh on Labor Day.
"All of the questions were about Jameis Winston. What would he do? I think he's more than lived up to his billing and probably has exceeded expectations at his point based on the three performances that we've seen out of him," Adelson said. "I don't think we have quite seen the best out of what this (Florida State) defense can offer, but certainly with Jameis Winston leading the way, I think Florida State has a shot to win every game on their schedule."
Another boon to the ACC came during the season's second week as Miami defeated Florida. That made it two SEC teams to fall to the ACC in meaningful games.
"Obviously Miami does have the best running back in Duke Johnson." Adelson said. "I don't think there's a question and much of an argument there, but he did have a difficult time in the majority of the game against Florida. The way Miami was able to win that game was creating all those turnovers on defense. I don't think anyone can sit there and say that Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson had outstanding games for the offense."
Watching these three teams unfold will be interesting throughout the season.
"I still think there is a gap between Clemson, Florida State, and then Miami," Adelson said. I think it's pretty clear that Clemson and Florida State are the two best teams in this conference based on the talent and the depth. I'm not sure Miami has the same type of depth that Clemson and Florida State have. That's where I believe there is separation between the two Top-10 teams and then Miami."
It's an interesting carousel of upcoming games between the trio of ACC juggernauts. It begins with Florida State going to Clemson on Oct. 19, the same venue in which the Georgia Bulldogs fell, 38-35. Florida State then hosts Miami on Nov. 2. It should have an early 1990s feel to it as both teams have a lot on the line.
The trio of ACC cross-divisional foes has an SEC feel to it this year as well. Imagine if Florida State falls to Clemson and then the 'Noles take down Miami. Miami then beats Virginia Tech and everyone else on its schedule. Clemson wins the Coastal Division with the head-to-head tiebreaker over Florida State. Then maybe Miami defeats Clemson in the ACC title game. You could have a Clemson team left out of the BCS after beating Georgia and South Carolina, and a one-loss Florida State team that lost to Clemson joins Miami in the BCS bowl game scene.
This scenario has played out before in the SEC. A team that does not win its division still could make a BCS bowl. It happened to 2007 Georgia, 2010 Arkansas, 2011 Alabama and 2012 Florida.
This just means the Clemson and Florida State game is that much bigger.
"Certainly you have to win that game. That winner will have an inside track on getting the BCS bid," Adelson said. "We've seen instances where there is a team on the outside looking in, but in our latest bowl projections on ESPN.com, we have Clemson and Florida State both making it into a BCS game."
Don't rule Miami out. They still can win the conference if they take care of business even if they lose their road matchup with rival Florida State.
"Now certainly Miami is capable of winning the ACC. Obviously they beat Florida," Adelson said. "How can you rule them out? But there is no question that game in Clemson between Florida State and Clemson will have major ramifications on what's going to happen, not only with the national championship, but with that BCS bid. Whoever wins that game could conceivably lose the ACC championship and then not get into the BCS. It will be an interesting scenario if Miami perhaps would win the ACC championship game."
It will be fun watching the ACC race unfold, and it begins Oct. 19 in Clemson.