Clemson vs. UNC ACC Football Championship: Best For Business

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The Clemson Tigers have already clinched a berth in the ACC Football Championship Game, and if things break right for the North Carolina Tar Heels next week in Blacksburg, we will know our match-up for December 5 in Charlotte.

Week 11 got us closer to a Clemson/UNC match-up for the ACC title, with Clemson staying unbeaten in a 37 – 27 win at Syracuse. UNC moved to 9 – 1 (6 – 0 ACC) on the year with a 59 – 21 win over Miami (FL).

Given this “new kid on the block” mentality, and the fact that the nearby SEC Championship Game in Atlanta is always the hottest ticket in town, this year’s ACC championship will be the chance to showcase two of the best teams to ever meet in the game. If they can both win out.

Back in the mid-2000’s my father and I looked into getting SEC Championship Game tickets. I lived in North Carolina, and we’d whet our appetites for a bowl game environment with the Continental Tire Bowl (later Meineke Car Care Bowl, and now the Belk Bowl) in Charlotte. We thought it would be fun to take a trip down I-85 to the Georgia Dome for the biggest title game in college football.

We checked it out online, and found that there was a five-year waiting list just to be in contention to get a ticket. We have come a long way in sports ticket availability with sites like Stub Hub and Seat Geek, but back then in my household, we were outta luck.

Even if the ACC Football Championship were to be North Carolina versus Duke, there wouldn’t be the fanfare that follows those schools’ regular season basketball matchups. Kids camp out for days just hoping to get inside Cameron Indoor Stadium or the Dean Dome for a game that has no realistic bearing on how the actual season will turn out. I don’t see any co-eds camping out in Charlotte to see the two football teams go at it.

Tobacco Road has its mind made up, and it has been that way for years. It’s a basketball region and that region dominates said sport. ACC football has been dominated by folks down in Tallahassee or up in Blacksburg for the last decade, and this year signals a chance to keep it in state(s) and have us a classic showdown.

With all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the ACC basketball championship, the football version has yet to capture its own conference’s fans’ admiration.

When the ACC was a nine-team league in basketball, the conference tournament held my attention like nothing else come March. Even the strictest of high school teachers would turn on the giant tube TV anchored up in the corner of the classroom so we could “study” while we watched the 8 seed vs. 9 seed play-in game. Glorious.

The basketball championship has history, it’s been around longer (since 1954), and has produced memories that people will tell their grandkids about. It’s steeped in culture, fandom, superstition, and glory.

The football championship has a real shot to be something more than just a stepping-stone for Clemson this season. If UNC can win out and jump Florida State in the College Football Playoff Poll, this could be a marquee matchup come December.

Clemson defense vs. UNC’s potent offense. Can UNC stop Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson? We are almost guaranteed a hard-hitting shootout.

UNC football would go from an afterthought, and an embarrassment following the opening loss to South Carolina, all the way back to a contender. Clemson is editing the college football, and urban, dictionaries with a new definition of “Clemsoning.”

We could see the highest combined rankings of any two teams to the reach the championship. FSU and Georgia Tech had a combined ranking of fifteen last year. We could see the second appearance of the number one ranked team in the country playing in the championship game, following Florida State in 2013. That season Duke never seemed a threat to the Seminoles, but kept it close at halftime before losing their mojo after three quarters, and eventually dropping the game 45 – 7.

Clemson and UNC could also set a new mark for lowest combined losses entering the game. In 2013 and 2014, the teams playing for the ACC title had two losses combined.

Both games featured  an undefeated Florida State as the favorite. They played 10-2 Duke in 2013, and 10-2 Georgia Tech last season. In 2013, the Seminoles were favored by 28 against Duke, and they covered.

Last season Georgia Tech joined a long list of teams to take FSU to the brink and fall short. Even at 13-0, after wining the ACC for a third straight year, the Noles got a three seed in the first College Football Playoff and got destroyed by Oregon in the Rose Bowl Semifinal.

The championship game has been trending in the right direction for years now. Clemson may come in playing for a national championship opportunity. UNC has never been in the ACC title game before, and the Tarheels will have come all the way back from a postseason ban.

If Clemson is unbeaten and ranked number one, and North Carolina is 11 – 1 and on an eleven game winning streak, this game will be the apex of a season that has seen the ACC struggle with the AAC, drop games that were head scratchers, and struggle to maintain two ranked teams.

If these teams can meet in Charlotte highly ranked, and live up to the matchup on paper, then the ACC can send a team or two into the New Year’s Six Bowls with their heads held high.

While there may never be a five-year waiting list for ACC Football Championship tickets, a top fifteen matchup with national title implications in front of a sold out crowd would go a long way towards legitimizing their conference title game.

If both teams win out, it would mark the first ACC Football Championship meeting between two charter members of the conference. I realize there would be no championship without the additions of Virginia Tech, Boston College, Miami and Syracuse, but as a lifelong fan of the conference, I would love to see two teams I grew up immersed in face each other for all the marbles.

Rankings are BCS except 2014 (CFP)

2005: (5) Virginia Tech vs. Florida State

Attendance: 72,749

Result: FSU 27 – 22

Inaugural game, still holds attendance record

 

2006: (11) Wake Forest vs. (22) Georgia Tech

Attendance: 62,850

Result: Wake 9 – 6

 

2007: (6) Virginia Tech vs. (11) Boston College

Attendance: 53,212

Result: VT 30 – 16

 

2008: (17) Boston College vs. (25) Virginia Tech

Attendance: 27,360

Result: VT 30 – 12

 

2009: (10) Georgia Tech vs. Clemson

Attendance: 42,815

Result: GT 39 – 34

 

2010: (15) Virginia Tech vs. (21) Florida State

Attendance: 72,379

Result: VT 44 – 33

First Game in Charlotte after move from Florida

 

2011: (11) Virginia Tech vs. (15) Clemson

Attendance: 73,675

Result: Clemson 38 – 10

 

2012: (13) Florida State vs. Georgia Tech

Attendance: 64,778 (ticket sales)

Result: FSU 21 – 15

**Sanctions year in which 6-6 GT made the title game while UNC and Miami were better, record wise

UNC 8-4, Miami 7-5

 

2013: (1) Florida State vs. (20) Duke

Attendance: 67,694

Result: FSU 45 – 7

 

2014: (4) Florida State vs. (11) Georgia Tech

Attendance: 64,808 (ticket sales)

Result: FSU 37 – 35

 

2015: Clemson vs. Coastal

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