Clemson University

Dabo credits ACC for CFP success: ‘This league doesn’t take a back seat to anyone’

Is Syracuse the biggest obstacle for Clemson in the ACC?

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney speaks Wednesday, July 17, at ACC Kickoff media event in Charlotte about the upcoming season and the Tigers' opponents.
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Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney speaks Wednesday, July 17, at ACC Kickoff media event in Charlotte about the upcoming season and the Tigers' opponents.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney admits now that the narrative that was out there about the ACC a decade ago was true. The league was down and couldn’t compete with the elite teams in college football the way it currently does.

From 2000 through 2012 the ACC didn’t have a team win a national title or even play in a national championship game.

“Certainly 10 years ago things were different in this league,” Swinney said at the ACC Kickoff event last week. “Ten years ago, I know when I got this job, we had a long way to go, not only at Clemson but as a league.”

But now? It’s hard to argue with the recent results.

During the past six years the ACC has the most national titles in college football with three. The ACC is also the only league to have multiple teams from a conference win a title since 2011, with Florida State winning the championship in 2013 and Clemson doing so in 2016 and 2018.

The only other teams to win national titles over the past eight years are Alabama (2011, 2012, 2015, 2017) and Ohio State (2014).

“I think our league is so understated it’s not even funny. I mean we’ve won more national championships the last six years than any conference in football. You probably wouldn’t know that because nobody’s going to talk about that,” Swinney said. “But where we are today, and the reason we win, is because of our league and how we’re challenged week in and week out. I think that’s what people miss.”

There have been plenty of excuses made for why Alabama lost to Clemson by four touchdowns in the national title game, including the narrative that Nick Saban’s team was worn out from playing an SEC schedule. Swinney isn’t buying it.

“The rhetoric used to be, ‘Well, an ACC team’s never going to win the national championship because they don’t play anybody. So when they get to the postseason and they’ve gotta play the big bad boys, they can’t beat them,’” Swinney recalled. “Well now, we win, and the only reason we win is because we don’t play anybody. So you can’t have it both ways.”

Swinney pointed out that the ACC had 11 teams make a bowl game in 2018.

Clemson has a 41-3 record over the past three years and two of the three losses were against ACC teams.

“This league doesn’t take a back seat to anyone. It’s a very competitive league,” Swinney said. “It used to be we couldn’t win because we don’t play anybody. Now we only win because we don’t play anybody. That doesn’t add up to me. At the end of the day, I think the credit goes to this conference. I think that’s why we’ve been so successful in the postseason.”

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