Is tonight a changing of the guard in the ACC?

Dec 31, 2015; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney celebrates with linebacker Ben Boulware (10) and quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) after defeating the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2015 CFP semifinal at the Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium. Clemson won 37-17. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

Before Florida State first joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1992, the ACC belonged to Clemson. The Tigers won the conference 13 times, 12 times outright and were the standard when it came to ACC football.

From 1986-’91, Clemson went 33-7-1 (82 percent) against ACC competition and won the league crown four times.

But in 1992, there was a changing of the guard as Florida State rolled into the conference, and did not just take the crown off the Tigers head, but ripped it off. Beginning in 1992, the Seminoles went on a remarkable run of dominance in the ACC that will perhaps never be equaled.

In its first nine years in the league, FSU went 70-2 and won outright or shared the conference title nine times. By 2013, the Seminoles tied the Clemson program for the number of league championships in just its 22nd second season in the league. Not an easy pill to swallow for a proud Clemson program.

The Seminoles’ won their 15th ACC Championship in 2014 before Clemson added its 15th ACC title last year. Now, as the third-ranked Tigers’ travel to Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee tonight to take on No. 14 Florida State, they have an opportunity to take back a conference the school and the fan base has always felt was theirs in the first place.

A Clemson win tonight, will give it a firm grip of the ACC’s Atlantic Division race, while putting it a step closer to repeating as ACC Champions for the first time since winning three straight from 1986-’89. During that three year run in the 1980s, Clemson was 17-3-2 in conference play.

Heading into tonight’s game, the Tigers (7-0, 4-0 ACC) have won 13 straight ACC games, including last year’s ACC Championship Game.  Since 2011, when Dabo Swinney led his troops to the program’s first ACC title in 20 years, Clemson is 38-6 against ACC competition.

Since 2012, the Tigers are 31-1 against ACC teams not named Florida State. However, they are 1-3 against the Seminoles in that same time frame and have not beaten the Seminoles in back-to-back years since winning three straight from 2005-’07. Coincidently, during that stretch is the only time Clemson has won at Doak Campbell Stadium (2006) since the ‘Noles joined the ACC.

If Clemson wants to take back the ACC, fittingly enough it has to go to Tallahassee and take it from the Seminoles, a place where it is just 1-11 in its last 12 tries.

“We have accomplished a lot as a program and that’s the one thing we haven’t done, so that’s what we look to do this week and come out with a big win,” Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said.

Is tonight a changing of the guard in the ACC? I guess we will find out soon enough.

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