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The Best College Football Season From Every ACC School

Best ACC Seasons
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The Atlantic Coast Conference has a storied history and prowess in college football. Even less desirable programs like Wake Forest and Boston College have shined at the moments when they had the potential to make a run. Here are the best seasons that every ACC football team has ever had

Editor's note: Notre Dame is not included in this list and neither is Cal, Stanford or SMU.

Boston College: 1940

The best team in Boston College history was their 11-0 season in 1940 under Hall of Fame coach Frank Leahy. They outscored opponents 320-52 during the year.

ACC Best Seasons
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The quarterback of this team was future Chicago Bears and Baltimore Colts quarterback Charlie O'Rourke, who ran in the game-winning score against Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl to give Boston College a claim to the national championship. They ranked fifth in the Associated Press Poll in all-time coaching great Frank Leahy’s second season with the team. 

Clemson: 2018

Even though the 2016 Clemson team was the one that broke through to win their first title since 1981, the 2018 team solidified the Tigers' spot on top of the college football world with a perfect 15-0 record and 44-16 blowout win against Alabama in the national championship game. Players like defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt were able to claim the second national championship of their careers, and true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence emerged as a star that will rank right up there with former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson in the halls of Clemson's history.

Throughout the 2018 season, Clemson was regarded as one of the best teams in the country but always ran second to Alabama until a 27-point win against Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff semifinals and the 28-point win against the Tide in the CFP National Championship left the Tigers not just as the undisputed best team in the land that season. It's not just the best Clemson season, it might be one of the best seasons for any team in the modern era.

Duke: 1941

Coach Wallace Wade had the 1941 Duke Blue Devils ranked among the top teams in the country, finishing the year with a 9-0 regular-season record behind an offense that averaged 34.5 points per game with three 50-point performances.

To end the year, they would host the Rose Bowl due to World War II conflict on the Pacific Coast and beat Oregon State 20-16.

Florida State: 2013

FSU has given us multiple seasons to choose from when it comes to picking their best one yet, but 2013 is head and shoulders above any other year of Seminole football. Florida State decimated its path to the national championship win over Auburn, outscoring their opponents by a combined 723-170. Their closest regular-season game was against Boston College, and they won by two touchdowns. The closest game behind that one was over Miami (ranked No. 7 at the time) by 27. Did I mention that their quarterback Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy?

With 23 future NFL Draft picks on the roster, including Winston and two more consensus All-Americans (Bryan Stork and Lamarcus Joyner) along with standout wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State was No. 1 in the country in kickoff return yardage, interceptions, passing yards allowed, red zone offense, scoring defense, passing efficiency and set a new record with 723 total points. The Seminoles were also top-5 in the country in total defense, scoring offense per game, turnover margin, and set nine new ACC records that included scoring margin, touchdowns, and consecutive 40-point games.

Georgia Tech: 1990

The Yellow Jackets went undefeated in 1990, composing a final record of 11-0-1, beating four ranked teams, including No. 1 Virginia. Following the conclusion of their play, multiple selectors deemed Georgia Tech a national champion.

The UPI Coaches Poll named Georgia Tech the national champion after the Yellow Jackets beat Nebraska in the Citrus Bowl, but ended up sharing the honor with Colorado, who finished No. 1 in the final AP poll after beating Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl to finish 11-1-1. Bobby Ross was named national Coach of the Year and defensive back Ken Swilling was a consensus All-American in the program's first conference and national championship season since 1952.

Louisville: 2006

The 2006 Louisville Cardinals defeated three of their four ranked foes by two scores or more, one of them being the 11-2 Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the Orange Bowl. Louisville’s only blemish was a 28-25 loss at No. 14 Rutgers, who had an impressive season in their own right.

ACC Best Seasons
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They finished 12-1 with a top-5 final ranking despite losing star running back Michael Bush to a season-ending injury in the season opener against Kentucky. Quarterback Brian Brohm played extremely well, and if Louisville had beat Rutgers in the final game of the regular season, they'd likely be in the mix with Ohio State and Florida for a spot in the BCS Championship Game.

Miami: 2001

This was one of the easier choices on this list. The 2001 Miami Hurricanes are the greatest college football team ever assembled The Hurricanes began their season ranked No. 2 and never fell below such a threshold. They faced five ranked opponents, only one of which kept the game within less than 22 points. They had an average margin of victory of 32.9 points per game.

Their roster also produced several NFL players, 38 to be exact, including defensive backs like the late great Sean Taylor and Hall of Famer Ed Reed. Miami had six consensus All-Americans: offensive tackles Joaquin Gonzalez and Bryant McKinnie, Ed Reed, cornerback Phillip Buchanon, tight end Jeremy Shockey and kicker Todd Sievers. 

North Carolina: 1997

In 1997, the North Carolina Tar Heels went 11-1, their only loss to No. 3 Florida State. They finished the season ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll. Brown's 1997 season, his last of the first stint as coach before leaving for Texas, was the culmination of the long road back to national prominence.

ACC Best Seasons
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They finished the year with three consensus All-Americans: defensive end Greg Ellis, cornerback Dre Bly and linebacker Brian Simmons, and three first-round picks in the 1998 NFL Draft: Ellis, Simmons, and defensive end Vonnie Holliday. Brown had gone from back-to-back one-win seasons to back-to-back 10-win seasons over a decade, raised the talent level in the program, and forever changed what many thought could be accomplished at North Carolina. 

North Carolina State: 2002

In 2002, North Carolina State went 11-3, with two wins over ranked opponents and all three of their losses being decided by 7 points or less. N.C. State's first and only 11-win season came amid Florida State's ACC dominance thanks to a former Bobby Bowden assistant, Chuck Amato, who brought the national spotlight to Raleigh in 2002.

N.C. State won seven ACC championships from 1957-79, but the highest ranking in the poll era (No. 12) came from this team that went 11-3, knocked off the Seminoles and beat Notre Dame 28-6 in the Gator Bowl. What the 2002 team lacks in championships it makes up for with national significance and the star power of quarterback Philip Rivers, safety Terrence Holt and eight other future NFL Draft picks.

Pittsburgh: 1976

In 1976, Pittsburgh beat Notre Dame and Penn State in the regular season before taking down Georgia in the Sugar Bowl to finish as a 12-0 consensus national champion.

ACC Best Seasons
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Hall of Famer Johnny Majors was named national Coach of the Year, and even on a team with 19 future NFL Draft picks, there was one lone star who shined brighter than any other: Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett. The 1976 season saw Dorsett win the Heisman Trophy and break what was then the NCAA career rushing record. 

Syracuse: 1959

The 1959 Syracuse Orange were also consensus champs, with an 11-0 record and a star running back in Ernie Davis, who took home the Heisman Trophy just two seasons later. Syracuse went on to take down No. 4 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, 23-14.

ACC Best Seasons
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Offensive lineman Roger Davis, another key piece to Davis' success that year, was a consensus All-American year as well as Hall of Fame coach Ben Schwartzwalder, who oversaw the program's incredible run of dominant backs that stretched from Jim Brown to Davis to Floyd Little and Larry Csonka.

Virginia: 1995

The 1995 season was notable for Virginia not just for the ACC title, but for the national attention that coach George Welsh, running back Tiki Barber, and the rest of the Cavaliers garnered throughout the season. Virginia was the first team to beat Florida State in ACC conference games when they took down the No. 2-ranked Seminoles 33-28 in Charlottesville.

ACC Best Seasons
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They also went to Michigan and Texas for top-20 nonconference games, losing both, but doing so by one point each. Winning the ACC and finishing the year with a win against Georgia in the Peach Bowl made for an epic season that stands out as the program's best.

Virginia Tech: 1999

Led by outstanding dual-threat quarterback Michael Vick, the Hokies completed an 11-0 regular season to earn a bid to the BCS National Championship game, a loss to No. 1 Florida State. The Noles whooped Virginia Tech, but it was an exciting run nonetheless.

Vick dealt with an ankle injury for much of the 1999 season and still won Big East Offensive Player of the Year. Linebacker Corey Moore was a consensus All-American and two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year, and the roster featured 16 future NFL Draft picks. 

Wake Forest: 2006

In 2006, Wake Forest finished their regular season with a record of 10-2, went to their only ever ACC title game to beat Georgia Tech, and subsequently earned a bid to the Orange Bowl against Louisville.

Wake lost 24-13, but that doesn’t take away from the historical aspects of their season. To this day, this is Wake Forest’s only ACC title since 1970. And fun fact: WF beat Florida State 30-0 in Tallahassee, the only shutout loss ever dealt to them at home in the Bobby Bowden era. 

1 Comment

5 days ago

Wake Forest has played in more than just the 2006 ACC title. They lost to Pitt in 2021. They also won an ACC title in 1970. This artically is horribly researched or fact checked.

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