The ACC has had a postseason to remember in the college football world, coming up with several huge wins and making their voice heard as the top conference.
Entering the 2016 bowl season, many people were saying that the Big Ten was the best conference in college football this year. At the same time, the SEC made their usual claim for that title while the ACC, after sending Clemson to the playoff and FSU to a New Year’s Six bowl, knew it still had work to do if it wanted a shot at that title.
Well, I think we can safely say the ACC has let their voice be heard.
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With the bowl games done and the CFP National Championship Game being all that is left, the home of the Tigers, Seminoles and 12 others finished with a 8-3 record – far and away the best of any Power Five conference this postseason. It isn’t just the number of wins, but also the quality of what took place involving many teams from the conference.
Let’s take a look at how the 11 bowls featuring ACC teams ranked after everything was said and done.
Dec 31, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs with the ball as LSU Tigers defensive end Arden Key (49) tackles during the first half at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
No. 11 – Citrus Bowl (LSU 29 Louisville 9)
The Cardinals, at one point, seemed destined for either a playoff berth or at the very least a spot in the Orange Bowl. They finished with a three game losing streak and looked like hot garbage against a LSU team without its best player.
It isn’t so much that the Panthers came up short in this one and got the loss. It’s the fact they did so against a middle of the road team from the Big Ten in a postseason where they conference was a laughing stock.
No. 9 – Sun Bowl (Stanford 25 North Carolina 23)
I don’t care that the Tar Heels technically lost this game thanks to some questionable moments at the end. There was no reason why UNC shouldn’t have gone to El Paso and gotten a convincing win in this one.
Dec 26, 2016; Shreveport, LA, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack tight end Jaylen Samuels (1) rushes for a touchdown during the first half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Independence Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
No. 8 – Quick Lane Bowl (Boston College 36 Maryland 30)
It’s a good win for the Eagles, who I’m pretty sure didn’t score that many points over long stretches of the 2016 season. It was also nice to remind the Terrapins of what they are missing since leaving the ACC.
This win was one that the Yellow Jackets can build off of, getting another W over a team from the SEC East – okay, that’s not exactly a challenge of late, but Paul Johnson will take anything to help build confidence and momentum entering 2017.
No. 6 – Independence Bowl (N.C. State 41 Vanderbilt 17)
The Wolfpack were in control of this one from the opening kickoff and didn’t let up, continuing their hot play from the finale against North Carolina. It’s also a good thing anytime you can beat up on someone from the SEC, just like Georgia Tech.
No. 5 – Military Bowl (Wake Forest 34 Temple 26)
After finishing the regular season 1-5 to be at .500 entering their bowl game, there were not many people who thought that the Deacs could do it against a ranked conference champ. Let me be the first to say I was wrong.
Dec 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; The Clemson Tigers celebrate after the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Clemson Tigers won 31-0. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
No. 4 – Belk Bowl (Virginia Tech 35 Arkansas 24)
Let us not forget that the fighting pumbas were actually ahead in this one…by a score of 24-0! The Hokies put together one of the best bowl comebacks in the history of the sport to get the win and build some momentum entering the 2017 season.
No. 3 – Russell Athletic Bowl (Miami 31 West Virginia 14)
Speaking of momentum, things couldn’t have gone much better for the ‘Canes – well, except for the poor first quarter by quarterback Brad Kaaya. After that, Miami cruised to the win over a ranked team to get to 9-4 on the year and continue the positive direction of head coach Mark Richt.
No. 2 – Fiesta Bowl (Clemson 31 Ohio State 0)
Yes, this is technically the bowl game that means the most since it was a CFP semifinal game, but some points have to be deducted based on what the Tigers did to the Buckeyes – further proving that Ohio State had no business playing in the playoff this year.
Dec 30, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles players celebrate after defeating the Michigan Wolverines 33-32 at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
No. 1 – Orange Bowl (Florida State 33 Michigan 32)
When we do our rankings of the best bowl games in FSU football history next year, this thriller in Miami Gardens will surely find its way on the list. It had everything a fan could ask for – including a win by a three loss ACC team over a mighty Big Ten power this season.
For the first 30 minutes of action, the Seminoles made the Wolverines look like a little league team and showed what conference truly brought their “A” game during the postseason. The win not only makes FSU an early favorite for the playoff system next year, but that the ACC can hang with any other Power Five conference in the land.