In case there wasn’t enough anticipation for the Week 1 matchup between Alabama and Florida State in Atlanta, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher brought it to a new level.
At first it was unprompted. Toward the end of his opening statement Thursday in Charlotte for ACC Media Days, Fisher said he thinks the ACC has established itself “as the premier conference in college football.” Statements like that always make SEC fans puff out their chests in outrage, especially as the fourth day of SEC Media Days came to a close about 400 miles west in Hoover, Alabama.
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But Fisher was ready to make his case for the ACC’s supremacy when pressed further.
“Well, I would say two of the last four national championships have come from here. (The ACC’s) played for three of them. 8-3 in playoff games and (New Year’s Six) bowl games, non-conference records against the SEC, the Big Ten and everybody else, we have the winning record. You have two Heisman Trophy winners, also the runner up last year. You have six coaches in the top 20 in all-time winning percentage in college football,” Fisher said.
“I think the programs have developed that way. I coached in the SEC for 13 years — I think it’s a tremendous conference. I think the Big Ten is a tremendous conference. I think they all are. But I think right now what we’ve accomplished in the last five years and you’re talking about major wins, big wins, national championships, Heisman Trophy winners, coaches, everything that gets involved, I think the ACC is as good a league as there is in football, I really do.”
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Fisher’s Seminoles, coming off 10 wins and an Orange Bowl while ACC Atlantic foes Clemson beat Bama for the national title, will have to put that billing to the test against the Crimson Tide in a game that will certainly now have an increased dose of the “conference vs. conference” talking point.
At SEC Media Days Wednesday, Alabama coach Nick Saban was complimentary of both Florida State and Clemson, saying the two have “dominated the ACC for the last few years.” Specifically, Saban said Florida State has “as many good players returning as anybody in college football.” But when lauding FSU, Saban said the Seminoles are “built like an SEC team.”
“Florida State, especially, is built like an SEC team, you know, like our teams. You think of Florida State, you think of fast, explosive players which they have a lot of, but they are also big, physical, play great defense. Tough team,” Saban said. “And I think it’s probably Jimbo’s experience in this league that sort of why he built his team that way. And that’s certainly the kind of team that they have this year.”
Considering the SEC’s track record and Fisher’s experience in the league, that’s not a slight. But it’s pretty easy to make a case that Florida State is better than every SEC team aside from Alabama.
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Fisher is ready to represent the ACC against the Tide. He better be, he said. After all, it was he who scheduled the game for Week 1 instead of a usual season-opening cupcake.
“I scheduled it, so I’d better be ready for it,” Fisher said. “I think it’s a great opportunity. I think it’s what college football is about. You get to walk in that atmosphere and environment, the two-winningest teams in college football in the last seven years. I think it’s great for our league, I think it’s great for college football.”
A game of that magnitude — featuring two of the most talented rosters in the country — becomes a measuring stick of sorts, even if it comes that early in the season.
“I think we find out where we’re at,” Fisher said. “I think not every year you have those games and I think this is a year that we’re both prepared to be able to do that, and I think it’s an outstanding chance for us to take another step toward how we want to play and the things we want to do.”
It’s shortsighted to say a game like this ultimately decides conference supremacy. Those things aren’t measured on a game-by-game basis, if at all. But if Florida State does win, it will certainly be another line to add to the ACC’s resume.
It may not be the only line next season for Fisher and Florida State, either.
“We open up with Alabama, we finish with Florida. That’s been the SEC Championship game the last two years,” Fisher said. “Our ability in the ACC to go schedule non-conference teams — our league is as good as anybody.”
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