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What Jameis Winston's Heisman Means for the ACC

Florida State's Jameis Winston took home college football's highest individual award on Saturday. What does that mean for the ACC as a whole?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As you already know, Florida State's Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday. He's the second freshman and third Seminole to take home the award, but more importantly for Syracuse, he's the first ACC Heisman winner since the year 2000 (FSU's Chris Weinke). The Orange's new conference home is an upgrade from where we were, but let's not allow that to hide the fact that the ACC has had a rough decade or so. Winning one award won't completely change that either, though a Florid State championship might go a long way toward killing off the narrative of inferiority that's plagued this conference since the 'Noles (and ACC's) last trip to the National Championship Game in January of 2001.

When the BCS era began back in 1998, the ACC was an undisputed "power conference" -- a league that would contend for a national title nearly every season, so long as the 'Noles were that team, that is. Florida State played for the first three BCS National Championship Games, losing two (to Tennessee and Oklahoma, respectively), while also defeating (then-) future ACC program Virginia Tech. But then the first Big East raid occurred, Miami and Florida State both hit rough patches and the Hokies lorded over a mediocre collection of 12 schools for much of the time span from 2004 through 2011. This wouldn't have been a bad thing had Virginia Tech managed to win more of its BCS games, of course. The league had done fine with one superior squad (FSU) before. But with high-profile bowl losses stacking up, and the SEC racking up national titles, a narrative was built and the ACC lived up (down) to it every year.

As you'll recall, this league has almost hit the breaking point numerous times since Syracuse and Pittsburgh both announced they'd be joining up back in September of 2011, in part because of this perceived (and actual) mediocrity. For two years, it seemed the Big Ten or Big 12 (or both) were about to pull the ACC apart. Notre Dame joined up, and all seemed okay. Maryland defected and the ACC upgraded with Louisville. The Grant of Rights hushed all the impending doom talk, but without on-the-field success, none of that meant much in terms of the league's actual value. Now it does.

Yes, I know Florida State has not gone out and won a title just yet. And of course, trophies for one conference team don't mean trophies for all (though the SEC has told us otherwise in recent years). But this could very well be the beginning of a new era -- one with a dominant ACC (even if it's just Florida State) contending for a title in most seasons. The 'Noles have a golden opportunity to gain some conference pride back by beating the SEC's Auburn Tigers next month. And even if it doesn't happen, Winston's Heisman Trophy is already a huge step in the right direction. In today's college football landscape, Florida State's rise is the ACC's, and the ACC's rise is Syracuse's. Like it or not, you're rooting for FSU in January, because it helps our own Orange in the long run. So we might as well start practicing this for when the Seminoles (hopefully) win it all:

A-C-C! A-C-C! A-C-C!