As we head into the 2016 college football season, it’s understandable that you might be having a tough time remembering all of the crazy things that happened last year, which ended with Alabama holding off Clemson 45-40 in the College Football Playoff championship. So with a new season upon us, we’ve decided to give you a recap of everything you may have forgotten from the Power 5 conferences in 2015. After recapping the SEC, the Pac-12, the Big Ten and the Big 12, here are 25 things you may have forgotten from the ACC last season.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
A season to remember at Clemson
Clemson was your 2016 ACC champion. OK, you didn’t forget that, but what you might have forgotten is the Tigers' run through the ACC and into the College Football Playoff was a bit surprising. Dabo Swinney’s club began the year ranked No. 12 overall, behind the likes of USC and Auburn (who both finished with at least five losses last year), before winning the ACC and qualifying for the playoff. Maybe most notably, the playoff run also led to arguably the world’s greatest pizza party, courtesy of Dabo Swinney.
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But the Tigers came up one win short
To Clemson's credit, once they made the playoff, the Tigers proved they belonged. Despite entering their semifinal against Oklahoma as an underdog, the Tigers crushed the Sooners, 37-17, before facing Alabama in the title game. There, the Tigers held their own, cutting the lead to five points with under four minutes to go, before eventually losing 45-40 to the Crimson Tide.
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Watson emerges as a star
Individually, it was a season to remember for Tigers’ quarterback DeShaun Watson, who became a cult hero in college football circles before evolving into a household name for all sports fans by the end of the year. Watson finished the season with over 4,100 yards passing and 35 passing TDs on his way to finishing third in the Heisman Trophy. More importantly, Watson received the ultimate praise from Nick Saban, who called him the best player Alabama had faced since Cam Newton following his title game performance.
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Clemson and FSU continued a league trend
The Tigers were also involved in two of the ACC’s most thrilling games last year -- a wild 24-22 win over Notre Dame in a monsoon (where Swinney famously said it was a BYOG game -- "Bring Your Own Guts"), as well as a 23-13 win over Florida State. For the fifth straight year, the winner of Florida State-Clemson went on to win the ACC.
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A 2016 Heisman candidate emerged for Florida State
While the Seminoles couldn’t win their third straight ACC title, don’t feel too bad for Jimbo Fisher’s club. They won 10 games in what was considered a "rebuilding year" following Jameis Winston’s departure for the NFL. In the process, Dalvin Cook emerged as the star of the offense, rushing for a school-record 1,691 yards, on the way to earning All-American honors. Cook will be a major Heisman contender in 2016.
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But FSU got crushed in the Peach Bowl
Of course, for as "good" as the season was for the Seminoles (relatively speaking), it did end in disappointment with a Peach Bowl loss to Houston. In that game, the Seminoles had arguably their worst offensive performance of the season, turning the ball over four times in a 38-24 loss to the Cougars.
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The Golden era ended at Miami
One of the Seminoles' signature wins of the season was one of the most disappointing losses of the season for their biggest rival Miami, as Florida State won 29-24 in Tallahassee. As it turned out, it was one of the final death knells for Hurricanes coach Al Golden, who was fired two weeks later after Clemson beat the breaks off Miami in an embarrassing 58-0 loss for the Canes.
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The Miami-Duke game was insane
For as bad as the Clemson loss was for Miami -- and it was awful -- they bounced back nicely in their first game under interim head coach Larry Scott. You do remember that one, right? When Miami used eight laterals on the final play of the game to stun Duke 30-27? Man, was that a wild game.
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Mark Richt heads to Miami
The Duke win may have been the highlight of Miami’s season, but the highlight of Miami’s year came a few weeks later when they hired Mark Richt as the school’s new head coach. The former Canes quarterback has been in Coral Gables a little over eight months, but has done everything right since his hiring, from re-establishing recruiting pipelines in South Florida to uniting Miami’s famous former players, as well as becoming a heck of a Tweeter. Seriously, look at that timeline. Richt is an animal!
North Carolina surged to a Coastal title
While Miami made plenty of headlines -- both good and bad -- in the Coastal, it was actually North Carolina that won the division. Larry Fedora’s club had a bit of a dream season, losing their opener to South Carolina before ripping off 11 straight wins to claim the school’s first-ever division title. With a potential playoff berth on the line the Tar Heels played admirably against Clemson, losing 45-37 in the ACC championship game.
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But that UNC bowl game ...
As as admirable as that title game performance was for UNC, it was largely overshadowed by a disappointing bowl performance against Baylor. The Tar Heels lost 49-38, getting completely run over by the Bears in a game that will be remembered historically as the final game of the "Art Briles era" in Waco.
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Steel City revival
Staying in the Coastal, how about those Pitt Panthers? After five long years and seven (interim and head) coaches since Dave Wannstedt left, the Panthers found stability in Year 1 of the Pat Narduzzi era. Not only does Narduzzi appear to be in the "Steel City" for the long haul, but the Panthers' program finally appears to have a clear vision heading into the future. After an eight-win season, the Panthers enter 2016 brimming with talent (17 starters are back overall) and a real shot to win the Coastal Division.
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James Conner's story has a positive ending
The biggest offseason story in Pittsburgh had nothing to do with football, but instead the terrifying diagnosis of running back James Conner with leukemia. Incredibly, Conner was still able to practice with the team during the spring (even as he went through chemo) before being declared cancer free in May.
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Conner goes Hollywood
Even better, Conner got a trip to Ellen to talk about his whole experience. There, he met fellow cancer survivor Eric Berry in an incredibly emotional moment.
Frank Beamer ended an amazing era at VT
Meanwhile at Virginia Tech, it was the end of an era. Frank Beamer retired after an incredible 27 years at the school, which included seven conference titles (four in the Big East, three in the ACC) and a national championship game appearance following the 1999 season. The Hokies sent Beamer out in style, winning three of their final four games to get bowl eligible before beating Tulsa in the Independence Bowl.
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Virginia Tech hires a rising star
Maybe even better is what happened after Beamer left Blacksburg. He was replaced by Justin Fuente, a rising star in coaching who led Memphis to a nine-win season last year. Of every team in the country who hired a head coach this offseason, you could argue it was the Hokies who made the biggest splash.
Get to know Dino Babers
If not, maybe you could make the case for Syracuse, who hired Dino Babers. Don’t remember Babers? You should, as he was the head coach of one of college football’s most explosive offenses in the country at Bowling Green last year. The Falcons ranked No. 4 in the country in total offense, while averaging a cool 42 points per game (which ranked sixth nationally as well). Considering that the Orange ranked 118th in the country in total offense last year, Babers' presence in Syracuse should be a welcome addition.
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Boston College had a historically bad year in sports
There was nothing worth remembering at Boston College last year, as the Eagles went 0-8 -- yup, winless -- in ACC play. Want to add extra insult to injury? The Eagles also didn’t win a single ACC game during basketball season, becoming the first school in major college sports history to go winless in both football and basketball. And yet somehow, it actually got worse for Boston College at their spring game.
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY SportsMark Dolejs
Wake Forest wasn't much better
While BC flailed, they did provide just about the only bright spot of the 2015 season for Wake Forest. Why is that? Well, Wake’s only ACC win of the year came against BC in a thrilling ... 3-0 victory. Of course, even though Wake got the win, weren’t we all losers for being subjected to it?
Danny Wild-USA TODAY SportsDanny Wild
Louisville set the stage for 2016
As dire as things were in Boston and Winston-Salem, they seemed equally bad in Louisville, where Bobby Petrino’s club lost three straight games to open the year. Thankfully, though, they got equally as exciting by the end of the season. The Cardinals closed out the year by going 8-2, including a dominant bowl win over Texas A&M. With most of their roster back, the Cardinals enter 2016 as a true playoff contender.
Up and down year in Durham
There is no playoff talk in Durham, but Duke is coming off arguably the strangest year of any team in the conference. We already mentioned that loss to Miami (which sadly was probably the most memorable moment of Duke’s season), but it was really what happened before and after that game that was interesting. The Blue Devils won six of seven to open the year, but the Miami loss put the Blue Devils in a tailspin and they lost four straight. Thankfully they bounced back nicely, winning their season finale and a wild bowl game against Indiana.
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Georgia Tech stunned Florida State
If Duke-Miami was the single craziest game of the ACC season (if not college football), then it was Georgia Tech’s victory over Florida State that might have been No. 2. You remember that one right, when the Yellow Jackets used a touchdown return on a blocked kick to beat the Seminoles on the final play of the game? It resulted in Florida State’s first ACC loss in almost three full seasons, as well as one of the single greatest announcer calls of the season. What a time to be alive!
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Another tough season in Charlottesville
Last year certainly was an interesting time to be a Virginia fan, where the 2015 season played out like so many others under Mike London, marked by near-misses. The most notable one was in Week 2 against Notre Dame, where the Cavaliers had the Irish seemingly beat before a late DeShone Kizer touchdown pass gave the Irish a thrilling come-from-behind win. The loss ultimately led to Mike London’s departure as UVA’s head coach, even if it also led to one of the most memorable moments (this photo) of the entire season.
NC State ... did something?
And finally, there are the NC State Wolfpack. Again, these are supposed to be the most memorable moments of last season, but honestly it’s hard to remember any big moments for Dave Doeren’s club. Still, with 15 starters back off a seven-win team, expect the Wolfpack to surprise some people in the ACC Atlantic this season.