ACC fans won’t have to wait long this fall for the game that will define the Atlantic Division race. On Sept. 24, Clemson hosts Florida State in the matchup that will reveal whether or not the Seminoles can play with the consistency needed to win the ACC title in the second season under coach Jimbo Fisher. It will also show whether or not Clemson can be a contender despite a dramatic overhaul on offense. Both programs have already separated themselves on the recruiting trail by luring in some of the nation’s most elite players, but there’s only room for one at the top.
Both programs will be coming off of marquee nonconference games, as Florida State hosts Oklahoma and Clemson hosts Auburn the previous week. There is little if any time for first-year starting quarterbacks Tajh Boyd and Florida State’s EJ Manuel to get the kinks out. Manuel is already a step ahead, as he has a 4-2 record as a starter, while Boyd will make his debut in a new, up-tempo spread offense under first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
The expectations are high for Fisher, who won the Atlantic Division in his first season as a head coach, but the pressure is on Clemson coach Dabo Swinney to avoid back-to-back losing seasons. Both coaches have enough talent on their rosters to win the division, but quarterback play, as always, will be the key. How quickly Boyd and his teammates adjust to the new offense will determine whether or not they’re ready to unseat the defending division champs.