Bowden Likes Wide-Open ACC

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - Okay, get this.

If Georgia Tech knocks off Maryland this Thursday night, and that's no guarantee, suddenly seven Atlantic Coast Conference teams would have one league loss.

Granted, by Saturday night that number will be cut by two. But to have this much parity in the ACC is unheard of - at least since Florida State joined the conference. The Seminoles have dominated league play, losing only two ACC games since coming on board.

That was until earlier this season, when Bobby Bowden's team was crushed by then-winless North Carolina. And from that moment, the conference has been in an uproar.

Tommy Bowden, for one, couldn't be happier.

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"With a lot of teams having one loss this early in the season there are more big games than normal (this weekend)," the Clemson coach said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "Normally it is Florida State undefeated and the rest of the conference has one or two (losses). The fact that Florida State lost early threw a lot of guys in the mix."

That mix will begin to clear up this Saturday.

Besides No. 16 Clemson's trip to N.C. State, Virginia travels to North Carolina. All four teams have one conference loss, and a second at this stage of the season could seriously hamper any hopes of winning the ACC title.

And while that may put added pressure on his Tigers this weekend, Bowden prefers having his games - and those of the rest of the league - mean something where the ACC race is concerned.

"I think it gives the conference credibility more so than a one-man show," he said. "I think it's a good thing from a national perspective. It's not so much who's playing for second. Our chances are as good as everyone else's with one loss."

Those chances remain good only as long as the wins keep coming. Clemson (3-1, 1-1) hasn't played since thrusting itself back into the ACC race with a 47-44 overtime upset of then No. 9 Georgia Tech on Sept. 29.

Saturday, the Tigers travel to Carter-Finley Stadium in hopes of snapping a two-game losing streak at that facility. Clemson won last season's meeting with N.C. State at Death Valley, but were victimized by freshman quarterback Phillip Rivers' knack for hitting big plays.

Rivers, now a sophomore, is missing his big-play weapon from a year ago with Koren Robinson's defection to the NFL. However, that doesn't diminish the respect the Clemson coaching staff has for Rivers, especially quarterback coach Mike O'Cain.

O'Cain was still the head coach at N.C. State two years ago when he offered Rivers the scholarship, even though other schools shied away from him because of his unusual throwing motion.

"He's accurate," Bowden said. "I talked to (O'Cain) and asked why he offered him (a scholarship) when teams like Alabama and Auburn didn't. He said he was accurate. He was a winner."

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