In stepping forward this year, winning both the national title and a second BCS bowl, Dabo Swinney says the ACC confirmed what the league's coaches have believed for a while: 'we're as good as anybody out there.'
“Somebody had to break the streak,” said Swinney of the SEC's stranglehold on the national championship. “I think we can all take pride in that, just like the SEC has always taken pride in whoever wins the national championship. It’s great that this conference stepped up and got it done.
“The SEC is a great, tremendous conference. We don’t try to say we’re better than anybody or anything like that, but we’ve always maintained we’re as good as anybody out there. So it’s good to see a couple teams emerge as dominant teams, and we need that in this conference.”
As the ACC moves forward with a 14-team lineup (with Louisville replacing Maryland next season) and Notre Dame as an active, affiliated participant, Swinney believes the next step is for Clemson and Florida State to maintain their national stature, and for a couple more teams to join in the mix.
“Hopefully we’ll have a couple more,” Swinney said. “The SEC, that’s what they’ve done consistently, over the last decade, have their 1-2-3 teams really really good and nationally relevant. That’s what we need in this conference, especially as we move into the College Football Playoff scenarios. We want to be on that seam, from a conference standpoint and from a Clemson standpoint.”
Swinney said he's proud of what Florida State accomplished.
“I text back and forth with Jimbo (Fisher), congratulating him,” Swinney said. “They’ve done a fantastic job. We know very well the kind of team they have. It’s good to have the national championship back in this conference, and now we want our turn
“So we’ll keep trying to get to the top of that mountain.”
Upcoming discussions by the ACC may include changes to the league's schedule and division arrangement. Syracuse has requested that the league reconsider moving to a nine-game conference schedule, which would allow more crossover play. Meanwhile, commissioner John Swofford says the league is interested in pursuing greater flexibility and “autonomy” in determining which teams play for the ACC championship.
For the upcoming season, Clemson knows it will play eight ACC games: North Carolina, Syracuse, Louisville and NC State at home, and Florida State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College on the road. Dates for games will be announced by the ACC, probably in early February.