Can anyone challenge Clemson in the ACC this coming season?
The answer is not this year.
Clemson has owned the ACC for more than a half decade now, ripping through the conference with a 38-2 record since the start of the 2015 season, which does not include five wins in the ACC Championship Game.
The Tigers enter the 2020 season with 19 straight conference wins, 22 when adding their wins over Miami, Pittsburgh and Virginia in the ACC Championship Game.
No one has been a challenge for Clemson from the Coastal Division. After holding off North Carolina and Virginia Tech in the 2015 and ’16 games, the Tigers have annihilated Miami, Pitt and Virginia in the last three title games.
Clemson beat Miami, 38-3 in 2017, Pitt 45-10 in 2018 and Virginia 62-17 last season. All three games were over by halftime.
But the Coastal is not all to blame, either. The Tigers’ longtime rival, and thorn in their side for more than two decades, has fallen into mediocrity. Clemson has defeated Florida State by an average margin of 40 points the last two seasons and in 2017 won by 17 points.
Overall, FSU has lost five straight to the Tigers.
The last two seasons, only Syracuse has come close to beating Clemson in the Atlantic. Chase Brice came off the bench for an injured Trevor Lawrence and rallied the Tigers from a 10-point deficit to beat the Orange, 27-23, in 2018.
Since then, the Tigers have won its last 11 games against Atlantic Division foes by at least 20 points and have an average margin of victory of 42.8 points. No division foe came within 31 points of them last year.
A lot of credit for Clemson’s dominance in the ACC goes to the type of program Dabo Swinney has built in Tigertown over the last decade. Clemson has not only destroyed the ACC, but its also taken down college football powers Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma along the way.
Swinney and his staff evaluate, recruit and develop players better than anyone in the country and right now they are unmatched in the ACC. But the rest of the conference’s overall lack of consistency has also helped matters.
No team outside of Clemson has produced back-to-back winning seasons in conference play coming into 2020. Only four teams last year were 5-3 or better in the ACC.
So, it is obvious the other 13 teams in the conference need to pick things up or Clemson’s level of dominance in the ACC could continue for another five years.
North Carolina appears to be making strides under Mack Brown in his second year. After last year’s surprising 7-win team, the Tar Heels return 17 starters combined on offense and defense and are currently in the midst of one of its best recruiting seasons in decades.
In the Atlantic, while Florida State is rebuilding its program, Louisville has found something in second-year head coach Scott Satterfield. He took a 2-10 program from 2018 and led most of those same players to an 8-5 record last year.
The Cardinals return 15 starters in 2020.
The contenders are trying to get themselves in position to compete against the Tigers. The question now is how long will it take them to catch up?
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