The ACC has been clowned mercilessly in the past decade as the pipsqueak of the BCS. While UGA and Clemson were kicking off, Virginia Tech was in the latter stages of its mugging at the hands of Alabama in the Georgia Dome. Clemson redeemed the ACC and the seven FCS teams with wins over FBS programs was a measure of revenge for college football’s lower class.
On the opening week of 2013, the ACC debuted a new muscular physique. The conference is still a little bottom heavy and could afford to do some squats and calf raises to beef up the bottom half of its league, but Clemson’s win over UGA could be the seeds of a run to the national championship.
It may be premature, but the fact that Clemson avoided Clemsoning all over itself by making all the right plays in a high noon duel between Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd was extremely encouraging. In years past, Clemson had a habit of creating high expectations that ultimately tripping itself up. Clemson’s secondary is still lightweight, but their defensive line was able to pressure Aaron Murray.
Offensively, Sammy Watkins backed up his offseason bravado by shredding the UGA defense for 127 yards. Boyd deserves beaucoup praise for his performance, but ultimately Watkins and his 95 total yards after the catch put Clemson in the victory’s circle. The screen passes to Watkins near the sideline were Clemson’s way of putting Watkins in iso and have him create a lane to the
basket end zone. Watkins would not be denied.
Afterwards Dabo Swinney rejoiced like a man who’d clinched an automatic berth to the NCAA Championship Game. In fact, he’d done something better. He’d reversed the ACC curse.
Now, the questions have been deflected onto Aaron Murray’s legacy. His height will always be a concern at the next level. It’s probably best that he didn’t come out after the SEC Championship Game where scouts would have looked at his last pass and wondered whether it would have been tipped if he were a few inches taller with a longer wingspan. His habit of coming up just short in big games is a growing storyline. It’s a little unfair after he threw for over 300 yards against a collapsing offensive line, however, his 3-12 record against teams that finish the season ranked in the Top 25 will loom large moving forward.
It remains to be seen if Clemson’s win was a matter of Murray and Richt playing to character or Clemson finally declaring its superiority. The Tigers still have clashes against Florida State and South Carolina ahead, but there is a new positive mindset rooting itself in Clemson and throughout the ACC.