2013-14 is the season of ACC football

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
4:00
PM ET
The jokes started popping up on Twitter seconds after Duke lost to Mercer in the NCAA tournament.

"Guess Duke is a football school now!"

"Maybe the ACC should stick to football!"

On and on they went over the course of the weekend, as the ACC kept dropping schools out of the NCAA tournament until Virginia was the last league school standing.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cutcliffe
Dannie Walls/Icon SMIWith Duke's success under David Cutcliffe and the bowl wins from Florida State and Clemson, ACC football is on the rise.
Yes, Virginia -- one of the biggest surprises in all of college basketball -- is the lone league representative in the Sweet 16, the first time only one ACC team has made it to the regional semifinals since 2010. Meanwhile the football-dominant SEC, an afterthought in basketball circles, has three.

Is this a bizarro world?

It certainly feels that way today, especially when you consider recent additions Pitt and Syracuse were supposed to make the ACC a formidable, unstoppable, all-encompassing basketball force. Louisville, which will come into the league in July, is in the Sweet 16 but the American conference gets credit for that in 2014. The fact remains the traditional hoops powers -- Duke, Syracuse and North Carolina -- all failed to deliver.

But on the football side, traditional football powers finally came through. Indeed, the ACC has the reigning national champs in Florida State and another top-10 presence in Clemson. Both made BCS bowl games -- the rough equivalent of the Elite 8 perhaps -- and helped tidy up ACC football perception. The aforementioned Duke Blue Devils, meanwhile, made the ACC championship game and finished with 10 wins for the first time ever. Yes, Duke football ended up with a better year than Duke basketball. Let that one sink in.

None of this happened overnight. For years, we have heard about the need for the ACC to raise its football profile. People may want to associate the ACC with hoops, but football pays the bills and -- to a large extent -- frames the national narrative about what you should believe about a specific conference. When the ACC failed to place teams in the national championship game, it was painted as a step behind the SEC.

That was not the case this past season, as Florida State beat a team from the SEC to win its third national championship. The Seminoles, and the Tigers, show no signs of slowing down, either. Meanwhile Louisville and Miami, along with Duke at the very least, appear to be on the rise.

We can draw one conclusion, then. Say it with me: 2013-14 is the season of ACC football.

None of this is to say this is a permanent changing of the guard. The ACC will always have Tobacco Road, and it will always have basketball. Virginia still has a very real chance at winning a national championship in hoops -- an incredible story in itself. That would give the ACC football and basketball national champions. And that goes back to the ultimate hope, somewhere down the line: Football and basketball dominating equally.

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