Miami vs. Florida State. The 2004 relaunch of the Atlantic Coast Conference was opening with a heavyweight battle: Hurricanes against the Seminoles.
The game turned out to be something of a dud, a 16 - 10 slobberknocker. The bigger problem, however, was yet to come. The powerful Hurricanes have turned out to be pushovers. Miami has zero ACC titles since leaving the Big East in 2004. In fact, The U hasn't even won a divisional title! Some "new" powerhouse conference, eh?
I mean Boston College has played in two title games, coming up short both times, but BOSTON COLLEGE has had more overall success in the ACC than Miami. Yesh.
Out of the "newbies" (programs that made the leap from the Big East to the ACC in '04 and '05), Virginia Tech has done the best. The Hokies have played in five ACC championship games, winning three. Of course, Frank Beamer always seems to find ways to just miss out on really good seasons, so Tech's three ACC titles are somewhat easy to forget.
But I think the bigger point to be made here is just how difficult it is to jump conferences. Syracuse fans may take moving to the ACC a little for granted, for a variety of reasons:
- Time - We've known about the conference switch since the fall of 2011
- Familiarity - A lot of the ACC foes are old Big East foes, or teams Syracuse has had recent series with (N.C. State, North Carolina, Florida State)
- Conference Strength - The ACC is not the SEC. And given its horrible BCS bowl record (3-13 overall, 1-2 in BCS title game) it's easy to think the ACC is really just the Big East with a little bit of a southern drawl.
Yet, all things considered this is going to be a very different home -- especially Syracuse's new division.
Clemson and Florida State are both legit contenders. It's easy to look at the preseason rankings and just assume Alabama will win it all, again. But every season a team or two from just outside the top ten makes a run and finds itself with all the momentum at the right time. The Tigers, with Tajh Boyd at quarterback and Sammy Watkins at wideout look like one of those surprise the nation type teams.
Athlon Sports thinks both Boyd and Watkins could even find themselves in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race when it's all said and done.
And as for the 'Noles? When I think of FSU in 2012 I instantly remember the choke-job loss at N.C. State and this:
(look at the joy on that guy...LOOK AT THAT JOY!)
but do you realize Jimbo Fisher's team won 12 games last season, ending with a blowout win over Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl? Sure the coaching staff, outside of Fisher, will look a lot different this season, but there is plenty of talent in house, including the top-ranked recruiting class of 2012. Plus, quarterback Jamesis Winston seems to be the next Big Thing when it comes to Florida State football.
See, there's some real top flight talent in the ACC. The Old Guard didn't go away when Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College entered, and it doesn't look like it's going anywhere now. Not to mention Beamer is still making Virginia Tech good-but-not-great every year and Miami always has the feel of a sleeping (on-a-jail-cot) giant.
It's still nowhere near the powerhouse John Swofford envisioned back in '03, but things aren't exactly as bad as some people think. This season is set up as another possible run for the Seminoles or Tigers. Yes, that probably means both will lose bad games (Clemson in the Dome, anyone?). And both will likely tease fans with what could be before breaking their hearts with what is.
But, for the Syracuse fan perspective, I think it's important to remember: This isn't the Big East. There isn't exactly a revolving door at the top. FSU usually finds its way toward the upper-echelon, and Clemson has been doing that lately too.
Virginia Tech has had success, Boston College had it early on, but for a Syracuse program in the midst of a lot change, not just in conference but in coaching staff, the jump to the ACC may be more like Miami's experience. It may take a few years, not a few games, before SU finds itself in a real heavyweight ACC battle with the 'Noles or Tigers.