It was quite the weekend for the ACC. First, the conference voted to allow Stanford, Cal and SMU to join. It plunged the ACC into the arms race that is conference realignment, picking up the scraps of a soon to be dissolved Pac 12 and adding a major market team from Dallas in SMU.
While it’s fair to say that adding a team from Texas and two from California to the Atlantic Coast Conference makes little sense, causes some logistical problems and hurts the traditional regional nature of college sports, the ACC had to adapt to the times. With the power five soon to be a big two (SEC and BIG 10) and two other major conferences (ACC and BIG 12), Jim Phillips and company had to join the trend of gobbling up teams that the other three have started.
Stanford, Cal and SMU will join in the 2024-25 academic year, making 2023-24 the last one under the current landscape of college athletics that has existed for a long time. In the final football season of its kind, the ACC had a good weekend on the field as well as in the boardroom.
The two highest profile games of the weekend featured matchups between an ACC school and an SEC school. North Carolina played South Carolina and Florida State played LSU in a top 10 matchup on Sunday night. Both ACC schools won their respective contests, and did so convincingly.
Florida State is one of two favorites, along with Clemson, to win the conference and is widely considered a threat to make the College Football Playoff. LSU, who came into the week ranked fifth in the AP poll, had plenty of preseason expectations as well after a strong finish to last year and the second season under Brian Kelly. The Seminoles won 45-24 in a game in which LSU was favored.
After Sunday, the LSU hype train came to a screeching halt while Florida State’s intensified. That win provides a clear path for an ACC team to make the College Football Playoff, whether it’s Florida State, or a team that could knock the Seminoles off like Clemson, or maybe even North Carolina.
The Tar Heels made their own impressive statement with a 31-17 win over South Carolina. UNC went into the game ranked while the Gamecocks did not, but, still, the perception that exists when an SEC team plays an ACC team was still prevalent, as shown by the fact that a ranked UNC team was only favored by 2.5 points.
So, the ACC began the weekend by stabilizing its future, giving it more room to breathe in the unpredictable world in which college athletics operate. Then, throughout the weekend, the conference showed it has real talent on the football field that can make noise on the national stage. That’s a good handful of days for the ACC.