In doing some quick searching through the archives for another story on the docket, I just so happened to stumble upon a fun little quote and headline form the past. Dabo Swinney, head coach of the Clemson Tigers, is widely regarded as one of the top college football coaches in the sport today, and some might even argue he is the best even ahead of Alabama’s Nick Saban. But it wasn’t really all that long ago Swinney was a coach who was charming but still clearly attempting to climb the ladder in the college football world. But lacking in confidence was never a part of Swinney’s personality, and the human quote machine turned up quite a prediction back in 2012 when the talk of various realignment discussions were at their best.
One rumor that never came to fruition was the idea of Florida State and Clemson leaving the ACC for the Big 12. Clearly, that never came to be, as both programs have remained in the ACC. But the topic was commented on by Swinney, in 2012 who made it clear the struggling ACC would regain its status as a power conference. Keep in mind at the time the ACC was similar in stature to its power-conference peers it is perceived to be today, without the benefit of having a national title contender in its lineup. Florida State was down (although some FSU fans would prefer 2012’s “down” to 2019’s “down”) and the conference was lacking in star power.
So when Swinney proclaimed the ACC will produce a national champion, you would be forgiven for not taking that comment too seriously.
At the time Swinney made his comments about the future of the ACC, the head coach of the Clemson Tigers was fresh off his best season at the helm of the program. Clemson completed a 10-4 record and won the ACC championship. Unfortunately, the season ended on the roughest of notes for Swinney and the Tigers when No. 14 Clemson was dominated in the Orange bowl by Big East champion West Virginia, 70-33. Little could anyone know at the time, Swinney was spot on with his future outlook for the conference and he had a major hand in making it a reality.
Two years after Swinney proclaimed a national champion would hail from the ACC, Florida State and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston climbed to the top of the college football world and won the final BCS National Championship. Fittingly enough, Florida State won its national championship game against Auburn, bringing the SEC’s BCS title run to an end after seven consecutive titles won by an SEC member. Florida State would follow up their national championship run by being selected for the inaugural College Football Playoff. After being taken out by Pac-12 champion Oregon in the Rose Bowl semifinal game, it was officially Clemson’s turn for national championship glory.
Clemson reached the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in the 2015 season, where they fell to Alabama, but the Tigers got revenge on the Crimson Tide the following season to claim the national championship for the 2016 season. Last season, in 2018, Swinney coached the Tigers to a second national championship in the College Football Playoff era.