- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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The ACC hasn't had a winning record against the SEC since it went 5-4 in 2003.
It's time for that to change.
The SEC is chasing its seventh straight national title, but the ACC finally has a legitimate chance to get in the way. The ACC is looking for its first national championship since Florida State won in 1999, and the Seminoles are once again a preseason top-10 team.
Yeah, yeah, you think -- same old story.
Something is different, though, about this group, and it starts at the top.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said the talent on his team is "not superficial on paper." He has openly said he is more confident about this year's team than he was about last year's.
"I know the guys behind the scenes, I know what they're doing," he said. "Now it's the third year of our program, they know the expectations as far as what to do and how we want it done. I feel much more confident in our leadership. Not that we had bad leaders in the past, but we've got more of them, and more of them that understand what we want as a staff and how we're doing things. I have confidence in these guys. I truly believe in them."
As he should.
Fisher and his staff have lured in back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes. So has Clemson. The Noles aren't the only team in the ACC with a chance to derail the SEC, they're just one step ahead of the game. Look for the Tigers to be getting similar preseason hype heading into 2013. (First, though, Clemson has to do its part by beating South Carolina.)
Collectively, the ACC could at least help lower the profile of the SEC a notch if it would come out on the winning end of those nonconference games this year. Last fall, the ACC was 2-5 against the SEC. That's par for the course, though. Since 1996, the ACC has only had a winning record against the SEC four times (1998, 1999, 2002 and 2003).
Florida State, though, has now defeated Florida in back-to-back seasons. The Noles also beat South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl two years ago. The Noles should be the favorites against the Gators again this year. And if you want to compare Florida State to the likes of Alabama and LSU, start with the defensive line: the Seminoles might be the best of the three up front.
I think we have a chance to be successful against anybody we play," Fisher said. "I really do. I think we have the abilities to do that, the leadership to do that and the focus."
All that's left is for them to prove it.
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