UNC Can End Their ACC Championship Drought
We are guaranteed a new ACC champion for the first time in three seasons with the Clemson Tigers already a lock from the Atlantic Division. Three time defending champion Florida State was eliminated with Clemson’s victory over them in Week 10.
North Carolina is close to wrapping up a Coastal Division title and a berth in the ACC Football Championship Game in Charlotte. The Tar Heels can add another team to the list of ACC Championship Game winners, with four different schools claiming a title in the ten-year history of the game.
Over the last decade, the Big East transplants, specifically Virginia Tech (three titles) and Boston College (two title game appearances) have had greater success than their more established ACC brethren.
Dating all the way back to 1992 when Florida State began competing for ACC titles, there are major championship droughts occurring for several ACC schools.
The 1990’s were all about the Seminoles, and this was my first experience with football. It seemed every season was FSU’s to lose, and there were only a few teams nationally who could stop them. In the entire decade the Seminoles only lost thirteen games.
Since the ACC championship game era began, only Clemson and Wake Forest have won the title other than FSU or Virginia Tech.
Going back further, only the Maryland Terrapins, Wake Forest, and Clemson have won the conference title outright since 1992 besides Virginia Tech and Florida State.
Virginia and Georgia Tech tied with Florida State for a split conference title in 1995 and 1998, respectively. That makes six of the fourteen teams that have had some sort of claim to a title in the last 23 years.
The ACC dry spells I am focusing on are the ones that reach back to the 1990’s or prior. The kids who are in school at these institutions now won’t remember these ACC championships. I wasn’t even alive the last time NC State or North Carolina won a league title.
Not counting the teams who have entered the ACC since 2004, the longest drought belongs to the NC State Wolfpack. The Pack hasn’t won a league title since 1979.
Next in line are the North Carolina Tar Heels, who last won the ACC the following year in 1980.
Lastly, the Virginia Cavaliers tied for the league title in 1995, with Florida State.
North Carolina Can End the Spell
NC State and UVA will head back to the drawing board as far as conference title contending goes, but UNC still has a shot to erase their title drought by getting to the ACC Championship Game and competing with Clemson.
If things turn into chaos, as they often do, UNC has a shot to supplant Clemson in the College Football Playoff with a little help from the Big 12, B1G, and Stanford.
The Heels just earned a number 17 ranking in the latest CFP poll. When CFP spokesman Jeff Long was asked on ESPN about UNC, he cited two FCS wins (NC A&T and Delaware) and their loss to South Carolina as negatives on their resume.
I don’t know what sort of scenario will have to play out to get UNC into the playoff. If Florida stuns Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, then there may be two SEC teams in the final four. Who’s to say Clemson won’t stay ahead of UNC in the final CFP Poll even with a loss. If Clemson and UNC meet in the title game, it will be Clemson at number one, and UNC up to number fourteen or fifteen at best.
Given how low UNC has stayed in the CFP Poll, a two-loss Notre Dame squad would likely land ahead of the Heels headed into championship weekend. It’s the x-factor of beating the number one team in the land that UNC has in its back pocket.
If UNC demolishes and embarrasses Clemson, and the CFP committee honors its current respect for the Tigers, then they must consider UNC for a final four spot.
None of this will matter if UNC can’t beat VA Tech or NC State. Clemson has little to worry about, as they have already beaten Notre Dame and will coast into the playoff if they win out.
If chaos does not reign, and UNC still wins the 2015 ACC Championship, they cannot see a New Year’s Six bowl as a consolation. Being number five, six, or seven is going to be the most unenviable spot to finish in the polls come the end of the college football season. If and when the playoff expands to eight teams, number nine will feel this pain.
For UNC to come out of the Coastal and actually contend with a top team like Clemson is good for the conference, and could make the final stretch of season very entertaining. At the least they can add some variety to a conference that has been dominated by a select few schools for the better part of 25 years.
*All of the winners listed in this article are taking into account GA Tech was forced to vacate their 2009 championship
** List of ACC Champions: http://www.collegefootballpoll.com/champions_acc.html