NC State coach Dave Doeren, Syracuse coach Scott Shafer, and Boston College coach Steve Addazio are new to the ACC, so they need to be let in on a little secret: Florida State and Clemson are beatable (shh).
It’s a fact that is annually drowned out by the preseason hype, but it happens literally every year:
In 2007, Boston College made a dramatic comeback with 1:46 to go for a 20-17 win at No. 15-ranked Clemson.
In 2008, Maryland shocked No. 20 Clemson with a 20-17 win.
In 2009, Boston College recovered from blowing an 18-point lead and came back to beat FSU, 28-12.
In 2010, Boston College ended a five-game losing streak with a home win against Clemson.
In 2011, NC State stunned everyone with a 37-13 win against No. 7-ranked Clemson.
In 2012, NC State did it again, this time shocking No. 3-ranked Florida State, 17-16.
There’s no question that Florida State and Clemson are the premier teams in the ACC. They will likely be the league’s only two ranked programs heading into the fall, they out-recruit every other program in the conference, and they are the ACC’s best hopes at producing a national title contender. With all of their facilities, resources and talent, they should be dominating the division -- and they are. None of that, though, will stop the rest of the Atlantic Division from trying to close the gap. It’s what Doeren and Addazio were hired to do, and both have a plan that goes beyond recruiting.
“I think there’s two things you do,” Doeren said, “you get better players, and you do a better job of coaching. We’re going to do both. The third piece that I thought we were the masters of at Wisconsin is developing that talent. I thought we took a lot of players that were marked at whatever star for Rivals that weren’t as high as Ohio State’s guys, but when we played Ohio State our guys were just as good because we did a great job of making them bigger, stronger, faster, tougher and knowing how they were going to fit with what we were doing with the schemes. That’s the really unsung part of recruiting: are the guys you’re recruiting going to fit into what you do, and can you make them better once they get there?”
FSU currently has the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, while Clemson is ranked No. 10. NC State and Boston College, though, have finally appeared in the ranking, checking in at Nos. 29 and 30, respectably. That’s a noticeable difference already for both programs.
Addazio said recruiting smart, tough-nosed players who fit the bill of a “BC kid,” or, these days, a “dude,” is a big part of it. It’s not the only aspect, though, of building the program.
“You find your niche so to speak,” Addazio said. “We’ve got to be a real team. I know everyone wants to be a real team, but our key is to be a really close-knit team. ... We have really bright guys who come here. They’re smart. This is a tough school. We’ve gotta have great character, great team chemistry, smart guys who work hard, have toughness. BC had real success with that in the past. That’s important.
“We’re different than Florida State or Clemson. They have their niches and we have ours. We have to be true to what our niche is. That applies to recruiting, that relates to the style of play. Are we going to out-athlete one of those teams? I don’t know about that, but that doesn’t mean you can’t win. You can. Let’s take a look at Stanford. What has Stanford done? What has Northwestern done? They’re very similar schools. ... They’re real confident in their plan, and we have ours. You’ve got to be true to who you are and what your plan is.”
At Maryland, Randy Edsall is entering his final season in the ACC before ushering the Terps into the Big Ten conference. Last year, Maryland was outscored 86-24 in back-to-back losses to FSU and Clemson. This year, he said, has the potential to be different.
“Anything can happen on any given Saturday,” he said. “A lot of it has to be where we’ve got to make sure we can stay healthy. Offensively, we’ve got skill guys who can play with anybody in the country. Our offensive line, we still have to get better there, but defensively, I think we’ve got guys who understand how to play pretty good defense. What we’ve got to do is go out on the field and do that. In our division, everyone is looking up to Clemson and Florida State. If you want to find a way to get to the top, you have to find a way to beat them. That’s what our guys have been working on.”
It helps to know it’s been done before.