ACC Preview Week: A look back at seasons past

As we kick off our conference previews with an entire week dedicated to the ACC we also want to take a look back on the conference’s history. Today is a brief retrospective of the ACC.

Last Year in the ACC

Conference Champion: Clemson (10-4, 6-2)

We went in to last season with many expecting Florida State to be the team to beat but the Clemson Tigers were the team who got off to a fast start. The Tigers faltered late in the season but managed to defeat the Seminoles and Virginia Tech twice on their way to an Orange Bowl. Clemson was routed in the Orange Bowl by West Virginia. The ACC’s entire postseason was poor, finishing 2-6, with Florida State and North Carolina State picking up the only victories.

Tajh Boyd
Tajh Boyd and Clemson took control of the ACC in 2011.

Tajh Boyd led the ACC in passing with 3,828 passing yards and 33 touchdowns. Receiver Sammy Watkins led the Tigers and ACC with 12 touchdown receptions and his 1,219 receiving yards were second in the conference. On defense Andre Branch led the conference in tackles for loss with 17 and in sacks with 10 but it was Boston College’s Luke Kuechly who was the Defensive Player of the Year. Kuechly led the ACC with 191 tackles (nobody else had more than 126), and that includes an astounding 102 solo tackles (nobody else had more than 65).

Virginia Tech running back David Wilson was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year and ACC Player of the Year after rushing for 1,709 yards and nine touchdowns and leading the ACC in yards from scrimmage with 1,838 total yards. We saw a rise at Virginia under second-year head coach Mike London, the ACC’s Coach of the Year. Virginia made their first bowl trip and first winning season since the 2007 season.

Of course, the story of the conference may have been shaping up off the field as conference realignment continued to provide rumor mills with plenty of energy. The ACC officially announced they would be adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse, both from the Big East, by 2014 depending on when they can work their way out of the Big East.

5 Years Ago in the ACC

2007 Conference Champion: Virginia Tech (11-3, 7-1)

It was not a particularly strong season for the ACC but they did finish the year with a pair of teams in the final AP Top 25. Virginia Tech took the conference crown but fell short against Kansas (KANSAS!) in the Orange Bowl as the Jayhawks were having a bit of a magical run that season. Elsewhere the rest of the conference struggled in the postseason with the ACC going 2-6. Florida State lost to Kentucky. Maryland lost to Oregon State. Georgia Tech was blown away by Fresno State. Virginia and Clemson each took three-point losses but Wake Forest and Boston College managed to pick up bowl wins.

Matt Ryan
The 2007 season was the year of Matt Ryan.

But this was the year of Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan. The ACC Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year passed for 4,507 yards (more than 1,500 yards more than Clemson’s Cullen Harper, second in the ACC) and led the conference with 31 touchdowns. Ryan was the reason Boston College was relevant in 2007, even climbing to as high as number two in the polls in October. The Eagles started the season outside the top 25 but a 3-0ACC record and some key losses around the nation helped Boston College move up to No. 14 and the rise up continued with a 27-14 win at Notre Dame, moving them to second in the AP poll. A 14-10 victory against the Hokies in Blacksburg the following week made Boston College the team to beat but Florida State clipped their wings in Boston with a 27-17 defeat.

Virginia head coach Al Groh was named the ACC Coach of the Year after the Cavaliers finished the season with a 9-4 record and returning the program to the postseason after a losing season in 2006. Virginia defensive lineman Chris Long, son of Howie, would go on to have a standout season and earned Defensive Player of the Year honors.

20 Years Ago in the ACC

1992 Conference Champion: Florida State (11-1, 8-0)

The era of Florida State’s dominance in the ACC starts here.

1992 FSU
Florida State’s national title hopes in 1992 would
have to wait a year.

Florida State joined the ACC and immediately took over the top spot in the conference for almost an entire decade. Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles had national championship plans but a loss at No. 2 Miami will forever live in infamy in Tallahassee. It was the only game the Noles lost that season as they went on to win their final seven games, including wins  against No. 6 Florida and No. 11 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, which set up a rematch for the national championship the next season.

Florida State’s Charlie Ward was dominant on the field with 2,647 passing yards and 22 touchdowns, but he was prone to turn the ball over with 17 interceptions. His 504 rushing yards helped people forget about that though.

The ACC went 3-1 in postseason play, with North Carolina and Wake Forest joining the Seminoles in the win column. North Carolina State took the lone loss, losing to Florida in the Gator Bowl. Wake Forest head coach Bill Dooley took ACC Coach of the Year honors after leading the Demon Deacons to an 8-4 record after three straight losing seasons. It was also his final year with the school

50 Years Ago in the ACC

Conference Champion: Duke (8-2, 6-0)

It is hard to believe that Duke had a period of time when they ruled ACC football. Duke’s last ACC title came in 1989, but the last time it had happened came in the 1962. In fact, the 1962 season would mark Duke’s third-straight ACC football championship. They did s scoring an average of 19.9 points per game and allowing just 10.5 points per game.

Duke head coach Bill Murray once had the Blue Devils
on top of the ACC. 

Duke used two quarterbacks that season, with Walt Rappold passing for 696 yards and two touchdowns while being intercepted 11 times. Gilroy Garner proved to be more efficient with a 64.6 completion percentage, 413 passing yards, 2 touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. The running game was led by Mark Leggett’s 478 yards and four touchdowns but it was Mike Curtis who entered the end-zone eight times on the ground. Billy Futrell also had six touchdowns and 387 rushing yards to complete the three-headed monster rushing attack.

The ACC in 1962 would look mostly familiar to you today, minus Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College of course. But South Carolina was still an ACC member at this point, a far cry from where they are today. Duke was the only team from the ACC to be ranked in the AP top 25 that season, and after starting the season ranked eighth in the nation they fell out for the remainder of the season after losing 14-7 at Southern California. Ouch.

Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Previously contributed to Host of the Locked On Nittany Lions Podcast. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.