3 teams on the rise in the ACC, but will they challenge Clemson?

3 teams on the rise in the ACC, but will they challenge Clemson?


3 teams on the rise in the ACC, but will they challenge Clemson?


Since the start of the 2015 season, Clemson has literally owned the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Tigers are 38-2 in regular season conference games in the last five seasons and 5-0 in the title games. They have won 19 straight games against ACC competition in the regular and 22 overall counting the ACC Championship Game.

Clemson’s average margin of victory during its 22-game conference winning streak is 32.8 points. Only NC State in 2017, Syracuse in 2018 and North Carolina in 2018 have had an opportunity to knock off the Tigers during the 22-game stretch.

How much longer will Clemson own the ACC?

Last year, the Tar Heels were a two-point conversion away from knocking the Tigers off their throne.

It’s no surprise, UNC is considered to be one of the ACC’s three teams on the rise. Two of the teams Clemson needs to pay attention to—not necessarily this year—in the future reside in the Atlantic Division.

Florida State is just 38-26 since Clemson took over the conference in 2015. The Seminoles have not won more than seven games in each of the last three seasons.

However, some believe new head coach Mike Norvell was a home-run hire at FSU. But he still has some work to do before he can get the program back to where it can compete with the Tigers year in and year out for the conference championship.

The main areas of focus for Norvell and his staff in their first two years will be at quarterback and on the offensive line. The Seminoles have underachieved at both positions since the days of Jameis Winston.

Louisville will begin its second year under Scott Satterfield, who did an unbelievable job with the Cardinals in 2019. He took a two-win team and turned them into an 8-5 team, including a Music City Bowl win over Mississippi State.

The Cardinals are still several years away from challenging the Tigers for the top spot in the ACC, but if anyone can do it, it will be Satterfield.

After Clemson beat the Cardinals last year in Louisville, on the way down to the post-game press conference, I rode down with former Clemson staffer Brad Scott.

Scott could not stop bragging about Satterfield. He said told the Louisville people in the elevator they have got them an up-and-coming coach and he is going to do good things for their program. He also bragged about what kind of man he is.

Then there are the Tar Heels. UNC has the pieces in place on offense to give Clemson fits. Quarterback Sam Howell was perhaps the nation’s best freshman quarterback last year. He led the ACC in passing yards per game and touchdown passes. He threw 38 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions.

Howell isn’t alone. North Carolina returns its top rusher in Michael Carter and its top two receivers in Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown. The Tar Heels’ offense is more than capable of giving Clemson fits if the two are to play in the ACC Championship Game.

However, where UNC still has to grow as a program is in the trenches. Depth is an issue on the offensive and defensive lines right now. The defense was better a year ago, but it still isn’t ready to slow down a Clemson offense that is still way ahead of everyone else in the conference.

Mack Brown has the Tar Heels on the right path, but they are still two years away, at the earliest, from being considered a serious contender for Clemson’s crown in the ACC.

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