On paper, it looks feasible.
Clemson beats Florida State at home, survives a Thursday night scare against Georgia Tech, and rolls into Columbia, S.C., undefeated. And if Clemson is undefeated heading into its regular-season finale against rival South Carolina -- a team it has lost to each of the past four seasons -- there’s no way the Tigers lose to the Gamecocks again.
Well, maybe Florida State has a better chance.
The Seminoles pull the upset in Death Valley, beat rival Miami at home, and roll into Gainesville undefeated. With a perfect season on the line, there’s no way Florida State loses to Florida again.
C’mon, ACC fans. You’re smarter than that.
The odds of the ACC producing an undefeated team this year are as rocky as Virginia Tech’s new Hokie Stone helmets. Sorry if the reality of it is as harsh to look at, but the ACC has produced just two undefeated teams in league history: Clemson in 1981 and Florida State in 1999. Georgia Tech finished 11-0-1 in 1990. Unpredictability isn’t localized in the ACC, it’s a widespread epidemic in college football, where Texas loses to BYU, USC loses to Washington State, and Connecticut loses to Towson.
So yes, Clemson could lose to Florida State -- and Georgia Tech.
No team in the ACC has done anything yet to indicate it’s good enough to join those storied undefeated teams in conference history. Florida State’s national title intentions won’t truly be tested until Oct. 19 in Death Valley, a place the program has not won since 2001. Clemson was fortunate to win on the road at NC State and found a way to win when the offense wasn’t always clicking, but the Tigers showed they are vulnerable, too.
The team that wins on Oct. 19 will have the best chance to go undefeated, but both Clemson and Florida State have to play their SEC rivals on the road this year. Who’s to say they’ll survive unscathed until then? Certainly not Georgia Tech. Not Miami. Here’s your jinx for the season: Clemson is not going to “pull a Clemson,” and, more accurately, Florida State is not going to “pull a Florida State.” They’re not going to lose to Maryland or Syracuse. Clemson might lose to Georgia Tech on Thursday night, though, and by that time, don’t be surprised to see the Yellow Jackets ranked.
Oh, and psst, don’t forget about Miami.
The Canes could very well be undefeated heading into the Nov. 2 game in Tallahassee. It won’t be easy for Miami, either, as the Canes have Georgia Tech and a Thursday night game at UNC on the horizon. Regardless of Miami’s record, though, the Canes will give FSU their best shot. If Miami found a way to beat Florida, you better believe the Canes can find a way to win the one that means even more.
This is not an indictment of the ability of Florida State or Clemson. Instead, it’s a vote of confidence in Georgia Tech and Miami -- and South Carolina and Florida. It’s a reminder that undefeated seasons are hard to come by, and the ACC has far more to prove before it’s given the benefit of the doubt in that regard.
The ACC enters Week 5 with five undefeated teams. Cheer for them. Don’t lose hope that they can keep it up. And enjoy it while it lasts.