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Better ACC aided in Clemson’s rise to the top

Dabo Swinney has enjoyed all the accolades he has received from his fellow coaching peers this off-season.

The Clemson coach has received many congratulations and messages from a lot of coaches after the Tigers won the national championship back in January. He received even more of those messages from his fellow ACC coaches this past week in Amelia Island, Fla., during the Atlantic Coast Conference’s spring meetings.

“They have been great, Swinney said. “They have been very encouraging, and it is not just now. I have seen all of these guys several different times since the championship game, whether it is the convention, recruiting or whatever. They have all been thrilled for us.”

And though Swinney appreciates all the nice pats on the back, he said the conference as a whole played a role in why Clemson was able to climb the mountain and win the program its second national championship.

“From a conference standpoint, we have a great group of coaches,” Swinney said. “This league, in my opinion, is the best conference out there.”

Led by Swinney, Florida’s Jimbo Fisher, Miami’s Mark Richt, Louisville’s Bobby Petrino and Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson, it can be argued the ACC has the best collection of coaches in the country.

All five coaches listed above ranked rank among the top nine nationally in wins per season, with a minimum of five years of head coaching experience. Fisher leads all head coaches nationally, averaging 11.14 wins per season after seven years as a head coach. Swinney is fifth (9.89), Richt is seventh (9.63), Petrino is eighth (9.08) and Johnson is ninth (8.85).

In all seven coaches rank in the top 25 nationally in terms of career win percentage too as North Carolina’s Larry Fedora and Virginia’s Bronco Mendenhall join the other five. Fisher ranks second (.821), followed by Swinney (seventh, .761), Richt (ninth, .740), Petrino (11th, .717), Johnson (17th, .670), Mendenhall (19th, .656) and Fedora (24th, .627).

The ACC’s good coaching proved itself last year as a total of 11 ACC teams ended 2016 with winning records, the most of any FBS league and the most in ACC history. The next highest total by a conference was eight teams.

The ACC was 10-4 vs. the SEC in head-to-head competition, including Clemson’s 35-31 victory over SEC Champion Alabama in the national championship game. Overall, the ACC was the only Power 5 conference to post a winning record against other Power 5 opponents, and it had the best record of any conference vs. non-conference competition.

Aiding in that was a 9-3 record in bowl games the most postseason wins in its history and the best record in the nation. The nine wins also tied the NCAA record for most postseason triumphs set in 2005 by the SEC.

Prior to the 2016 season, the ACC had not had more than five bowl wins in a single season.

“It is the deepest (conference), I think,” Swinney said. “Other leagues may get a little more press or whatever, but at the end of the day I think that is why we have been so successful in the postseason because of what we play week in and week out. This is a great conference that is well position for the future.”

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