No. 9 Clemson has been atop the ACC for years. No. 8 Florida State is hoping to get back there
Clemson has been in control of the Atlantic Coast Conference for nearly a decade. Florida State aims to challenge that this fall.
The ninth-ranked Tigers are the preseason favorite after winning the ACC title for the seventh time in eight seasons. The Seminoles, however, are ranked higher in the AP Top 25 (eighth) and picked second to set up the potential for a Clemson-FSU meeting in the title game now that the league has nixed its two-division format.
That puts the spotlight squarely on the league’s marquee brands, though for FSU, it remains to be seen whether this climb will have staying power.
“We know that Clemson has been the standard in the recent past in the ACC and we’re pushing to get to that point,” coach Mike Norvell said.
Florida State terrorized the league when it arrived in 1992, winning national championships in 1993 and 1999 under the late Bobby Bowden, and then — after a lull from 2005-09 — again in 2013 with Jimbo Fisher.
By 2015, Clemson had blown past Florida State, starting a run of six straight ACC titles while reaching four College Football Playoff championship games with two titles (2016, 2018).
“We’re not locked in on whatever being a gold standard or what other people say or label us outside of expectations,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “We’re just locked in on what we focus on every day, what we control.”
FSU faded, with four straight losing seasons. The Seminoles are coming off a 10-win season with a bowl win against Oklahoma, and return 17 starters that include star quarterback Jordan Travis and pass rusher Jared Verse.
Now they’ll try to chase down the Tigers.
Clemson: The Tigers missed the ACC title game in 2021, but returned last year and beat North Carolina for the ACC crown.
Florida State: The Seminoles last won an ACC title in 2014.
North Carolina: The 21st-ranked Tar Heels are picked third with a strong offense, though the defense must improve.
QB Drake Maye, North Carolina: The preseason ACC player of the year and Heisman Trophy candidate threw 38 touchdown passes last year to go with seven rushing TDs.
QB Jordan Travis, Florida State: He threw for 24 touchdowns with only five interceptions last year and seven rushing scores.
RB Will Shipley, Clemson: The dynamic runner scored 15 touchdowns on the ground while also returning kickoffs.
LB Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson: Trotter was a second-team Associated Press All-American last season had 114 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 7 1/2 sacks.
Louisville’s Jeff Brohm and Georgia Tech’s Brent Key are the league’s two new coaching additions, both at their alma maters.
Key took over last season for fired coach Geoff Collins and led the team to a 4-4 finish, including road wins against ranked Pittsburgh and UNC teams. Brohm had coached the past six years at Purdue before returning to the program where he still ranks among the career passing leaders.
Brennan Armstrong ranked among the nation’s top passers at Virginia the last time he led an offense under coordinator Robert Anae. Now they’re together at North Carolina State.
Anae spent last year at Syracuse after the arrival of Tony Elliott as Virginia’s coach. But Armstrong went from ranking second in the Bowl Subdivision by averaging 404.5 yards through the air with 31 touchdown passes in 2021 to 221 yards per game with seven TD passes in 10 games last year.
Armstrong will visit his former team on Sept. 22.
“It’s going to be a good experience,” Armstrong said. “Boos, cheers, whatever comes with it, I’m just there to win a game.”
GAMES TO WATCH
Florida State vs LSU, Sept. 3: The Seminoles open with a marquee matchup against the fifth-ranked Tigers in Orlando.
Florida State at Clemson, Sept. 23: The Tigers have won seven straight meetings and haven’t lost to the Seminoles in nearly nine years.
Clemson at N.C. State, Oct. 28: The trip to Raleigh could be the toughest road game on the Tigers’ league slate, with Clemson losing its last trip there in 2021 (27-21 in double overtime).
Notre Dame at Clemson, Nov. 4: The 13th-ranked Fighting Irish have won 27 straight regular-season games against ACC teams in their scheduling partnership, including against Clemson last year (35-14).
North Carolina at Clemson, Nov. 18: The Tigers have taken five straight meetings since UNC’s last win in 2010, including in the 2015 (45-37) and 2022 (39-10) title games.
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