I would like you to rewind a few years ago as the ACC began to close in on the finalization of expansion.
Florida State, the newest member of the ACC, was still winning regular season titles with relative ease. Miami was coming off a National Championship and Virginia Tech was the national darling in the Michael Vick/Beamer Ball era.
As the media (both national and local) looked at the new ACC, much was said about the Seminoles, Hurricanes, and Hokies. The general consensus was that those three teams were not only the future of the ACC, but their talent and prestige were going to “legitimize” the ACC as a football conference. It was as if the “old” ACC (made up of eight teams that defined the ACC during most of the 1980’s) was only along for the ride. I most certainly think the perception was that those three schools were the only teams that could or would be national powers in the ACC.
Just three years into expansion and in just the 2nd year of the ACC Championship game, the ACC has flipped over on its old back. Clemson and Georgia Tech, two old school warriors in the ACC throughout much of the 80’s and early 90’s, will garner more national attention Saturday than any time in the new ACC. And that attention is warranted considering Clemson and Georgia Tech come into Saturday’s battle right in the middle of their respective divisional races in addition to being the two highest-ranking teams in the ACC half way through the season. Clemson and Tech, both of whom have won National Championships in the past 25 years, were almost forgotten with the expanded ACC. Times have certainly changed.
So much for the “new” ACC…this is just like the old days.
Tech has steamrolled their competition in the Coastal Division by whipping Virginia Tech on their own field a couple of weeks ago. Miami, already reeling from poor play early in the season, had their wheels officially come off in another embarrassing fracas in south Florida last weekend that may spell the end of the Larry Coker era even before the end of the season.
Clemson, for our part, has officially evened the playing field with Florida State by winning three of the last four games over the ‘Noles. The Seminoles, with armor chinks growing every year, are virtually eliminated from any chance of going to Jacksonville to represent the Atlantic Division in 2006.
So we stand here in mid-October of 2006 and there is little to no noise coming from the “ACC Saviors”. The two horses that seem to be pulling the ACC cart are two teams that were ACC football long before an expanded ACC crowned three newbies the saviors.
What is new is defiantly old.
Charlotte Attendance Was Extraordinary
The official number of people in the stands last Thursday night in Charlotte was 30,246. By sight, I would guess that 30,000 of those in attendance were Clemson fans. Temple brought a few hundred; the city of Charlotte brought even less. Let us not forget that this was a road game for Clemson. Forget about proximity for a moment. IPTAY members pay their dues to purchase season tickets. We then have to buy those season ticket packages on top of the yearly IPTAY dues. That season ticket package is only for home games, obviously. So what that means, quite simply, is that approximately 30,000 Clemson fans paid additional money to go watch their Tigers on a Thursday night 130 miles from campus against a terrible football team. Financially, this was a road game for the Clemson fan. Name one other school in the nation that would bring 30,000 people to a road game on a Thursday night? Clemson fans deserve a huge pat on the back for coming out of pocket in a big way for that game on Thursday night. Charlotte, a city begging for a larger role in college football, should be embarrassed that they could not put non-Clemson fans in the seats to help their cause. If Charlotte wants to make a statement that they can host more college football, they better start attending their bowl game in December in addition to attending games like the one Clemson played in last Thursday. To this point, they have done neither.
Here Comes Game Day
It never ceases to amaze me what makes the college football world tick. Clemson getting a Game Day broadcast by ESPN has me thinking I should feel like I won the lottery. Posters on Tigernet have been downright giddy over the show making its appearance in Clemson. I’m not sure I get what the fuss is all about, but if it makes this many people happy it has to be a good thing. I think it perfect that the show will broadcast from Bowman Field, showcasing a truly unique tradition at Clemson during Homecoming. The floats built by students will offer a perfect backdrop to showcase what makes Clemson special. What makes Clemson special is not the practice fields or the stadium. It’s the floats and the traditions and the beautiful campus scenery that will get a national showcase on Saturday morning. The only thing that can hold back the tremendous positive publicity is the almost certainty of stupid signs being held up by people watching the Game Day broadcast. I guess because other schools do it, our fans think it is ok to do. That is a shame.
I love big games. This Saturday is certainly a big game. But let us not forget that Clemson has had a bunch of big games in Death Valley over the years. I keep hearing rumblings about how this is a special moment because Clemson has never hosted such a big game with so much national attention. Those people have obviously not been around for too long if they believe that.
The Known Unknown
There has been much talk this week about Calvin Johnson and James Davis and Reggie Ball and C.J. Spiller. All of those players will be in the pre game spotlight and most certainly will be a major part of who wins or loses on Saturday night. But the one player that few talk about, but will play a critical role, is Will Proctor. The Clemson QB has flown under the radar the past few weeks, and with Tech’s excellent rushing defense, Proctor will have to make plays in the passing game to a depleted wide receiver group. Sometimes the most obvious key to a game is staring you straight in the face. Proctor has his eyes locked.