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Florida State Gets Gold for ACC Football

Congratulations to the Florida State Seminoles for winning the national championship!

Honestly, I didn’t think I would see the day that Florida State would win the ‘ship again.

And really, not any team from the ACC.

Before I go into that, kudos to Jameis Winston.  This young man has been through a lot this season, but this year’s Heisman Trophy winner didn’t have a spectacular game. 

He was 20 of 35 for 237 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and he was sacked four times.

But toward the later part of the third quarter and especially in the fourth quarter, he did what a Heisman Trophy winner is supposed to do.  With his team trailing 21-10, during that stretch, Winston led his team back, going 12 of 15 for 121 yards and the game-winning two-yard touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds remaining.

Winston goes down in history as the one of only four players to win the Heisman and the BCS national championship in the same year.  The others are Matt Leinart, Cam Newton, and Mark Ingram.

The ACC is now 2-2 in BCS national championship games.  Florida State has been the only team to represent the conference all four times.  In the BCS bowl era, which comes to an end this year, the conference has been, well, stank. 

ACC teams appeared in a BCS bowl 18 times, winning only five games, a .278 winning percentage.  It is by far the worse percentage of any conference, even worse than the Big East who the ACC is compared to frequently when it comes to football.  While playing less games, the Big East was won eight of 15 games.

ACC football had been irrelevant until this year. 

To understand that statement, let’s go back a little ways.  Florida State’s coming into the ACC in 1992 was a step up for the conference.  During those first nine years, it was a big deal when the Seminoles lost a game to a conference opponent, as the Seminoles won at least a share of nine-straight conference championships. 

FSU was in the conference, but still operating like a national power.  When the BCS was introduced in 1998, there was Florida State playing in the title game.  They lost the first year, beat Michael Vick and Virginia Tech (who at that time was in the Big East) the next year, then lost to Oklahoma in 2000.

Then something began to happen.  The ACC announced it was expanding and in 2003 annexed Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Miami from the Big East.  Subsequently, ACC football began to diminish.  Florida State somehow was affected severely and became a mediocre team.  Even Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College, who were all powers in the Big East, became mediocre.

Then 10 years later something else happened.  The ACC annexed two more schools from the Big East, essentially destroying that conference, adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse this year.  Unlike expansion 10 years earlier to improve football, these moves were to make the ACC even more powerful in basketball.

And wouldn’t you know it this was the best year for ACC football in the BCS era.  And the biggest surprise was the year Duke had, going 10-4 and playing Florida State for the ACC championship.

The ACC had 11 teams play in bowl games and were 5-6 collectively.  Clemson finished No. 8 and Duke No. 23 in the final AP rankings.

Of course, Florida State finished No. 1.

In their minds, ACC coaches have always thought their teams were as good as SEC teams.  This year in the most important game, the ACC was better than the SEC.

During the on-field post-game interview, when there is so much to forget about, too much to remember to say, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher made sure to let the world know that ACC football is competitive.

“The ACC is good football, folks,” said Fisher.

Florida State is good. The ACC is becoming good.

It’s fitting that the first and last national champion for the ACC in the BCS era is Florida State.

You can follow Donal on Twitter @dware1 and @boxtorowPlease share your thoughts at digitalpitches@ebony.com.