The Atlantic Coast Conference is looking for a fresh start. The way the last few postseasons have ended, the beleaguered league could use one.
The ACC sent two teams to the BCS for the first time in 2011 — but that just gave the league two chances to lose.
Every touchdown allowed by Clemson in the Orange Bowl seemed to push the league closer to rock bottom and deliver yet another blow to the on-the-field reputation of a conference that dropped to 2-13 all-time in the BCS.
So, after West Virginia’s 70-33 thumping of the Tigers, the ACC figures there’s nowhere to go but up.
“They don’t put two Ls because one got away from us,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “The bottom line is, (when) you win and when you lose, you have opportunities to learn and grow. That’s what the offseason’s about, and that’s what we’ve done.”
The ACC coaches hope that’s not only true for his Tigers, but the entire league — especially since it announced this offseason that it will keep sending a team to the Orange Bowl through the 2025 season.
For years, conference leaders have been eager for one of its teams to remain in contention for a national championship and, by association, keep the league nationally relevant.
That responsibility usually falls to Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State, Clemson. When they struggle, the rest of the ACC seems weak, too.
Now it’s probably up to the loaded Seminoles — who enter as the favorites for the second straight year — to carry that burden.
“When you sign your letter of intent to FSU, that’s what you should expect — to always be the topic of conversation as far as having a great team, having great players, a winning team,” quarterback EJ Manuel said.
Coach Jimbo Fisher’s first two seasons in charge in Tallahassee have been marked by close losses, dropping five games by a total 21 points since 2010. He knows his team has to find a way to win the tight ones if it’s going to resemble the swaggering bunch that captured the ACC’s last national title in 1999.
The Seminoles will be without senior cornerback and punt return specialist Greg Reid, who was kicked off the team on Wednesday for a violation of team rules.
Manuel says the team has worked on paying closer attention to details. After losing at least four games every year since 2004, Fisher says it’s time to finally live up to those lofty expectations.
“I think we’re ready to do it. I think we can do it now, and I think it’s something that we should do,” Fisher said. “I mean, that’s something you strive for all the time. You go through the season and you deal with it, you have to play well, focus, eliminate the clutter, block everything out and prioritize.”
FLORIDA STATE — Key players: QB EJ Manuel, DE Brandon Jenkins, CB Xavier Rhodes. Returning starters: 8 offense, 9 defense.
Notes: Seminoles face a hole in the secondary after the dismissal of CB Greg Reid. ... A three-game losing streak that included a loss to Clemson ultimately kept the Seminoles from winning the division for the second straight year. ... Florida State has higher hopes than just its 36th straight winning season. ... Toughest test comes Nov. 8 at Virginia Tech.
CLEMSON — Key players: WR Sammy Watkins, QB Tajh Boyd, RB Andre Ellington. Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense.
Notes: Tigers aiming for third division title in four years. ... Watkins, the ACC’s preseason player of the year, faces uncertain punishment after his offseason drug arrest. ... Former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables takes over from Kevin Steele, who left following the Orange Bowl meltdown.