There was a time when it was hard to imagine Clemson winning an ACC Championship.
From 1992-2010, the Tigers watched as Florida State won 12 ACC Championships. They even had to watch Virginia Tech win three out of four titles when it first came into the league in 2004. Maryland (2001) and Wake Forest (2006) also held up the crown during that time span.
It was a hard pill for Clemson and its adoring fans to swallow.
Prior to 1992, the Tigers owned the ACC, winning 13 championships, including seven titles from 1978-’91. Clemson was the standard that all other ACC teams had to live up to at the time.
But that changed when the Seminoles joined the conference in 1992. For the next 19 seasons, Clemson walked in the dark, desperately looking for those championship days.
On December 1, 2008, Clemson hired Dabo Swinney to be its head football coach. That was truly the day that changed Clemson Football forever, though at the time we did not know it.
A year after being named the full-time head coach, Swinney had the Tigers in the ACC Championship Game, and he nearly came close to winning it. Georgia Tech scored a last-second touchdown to down the Tigers 39-34 in what is still considered the best of the ACC Championship Games since the league went to the championship game format in 2005.
On December 3, 2011, exactly 10 years ago on Friday, Swinney got Clemson back to the ACC Championship Game, except this time the Tigers did not allow Virginia Tech to steal it from them. They physically dominated the Hokies from the beginning, as they cruised to a 38-10 victory.
Little did we know that was just the beginning. Since that cool night in Charlotte, Clemson has won six more ACC Championships, and once again is the gold standard in the league.
The Tigers also took college football by storm, winning two national championships in the previous five seasons, while going to the College Football Playoff six years in a row.
But Clemson’s reign over the ACC will come to an end on Saturday when Pittsburgh battles Wake Forest in the ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. It will be the end of one of the greatest championship runs in ACC history, as Clemson is the only ACC team to win the league title outright for six straight years.
But do not worry, I doubt it will take the Tigers 20 years to win another ACC Championship. During the broadcast of last week’s 30-0 win over rival South Carolina— the Tigers fifth straight win, by the way — the broadcasters said Swinney made it clear Clemson will get back to where it is playing for conference and national championships very soon.
So, Saturday night will be all about Pitt and Wake Forest in the ACC, as it should. But I got a feeling next year and beyond is going to be all about the Tigers.
After all, doesn’t the ACC stand for Another Clemson Championship?
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