Giglio: As ACC rides high, Swofford lays low

jgiglio@newsobserver.comOctober 18, 2013 

SPORTS FBC-NEVADA-FSU 13 OS

Florida State wide receiver Rashad Greene (80) celebrates with wide receiver Kenny Shaw (81), after Greene scored a touchdown against Nevada at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida, Saturday, September 14, 2013. FSU defeated Nevada, 62-7.

STEPHEN M. DOWELL — MCT

Take that, haters.

That’s what I wanted to hear John Swofford say when he was asked about the ACC’s new-found success this college football season.

Instead, in true diplomatic form, the ACC commissioner calmly praised the impressive start by his league, which takes center stage Saturday night with No. 5 Florida State’s showdown at No. 3 Clemson.

“It’s really good for our conference to be where we are and to have games of this magnitude within the league,” Swofford said Wednesday in Charlotte at the annual media gathering for the upcoming basketball season.

Oh, come on, Johnny Swoosh, you can do better than that. Just a little brag, maybe a quick boast about the ACC’s early wins over the almighty SEC (Clemson over Georgia on Aug. 31 or Miami over Florida on Sept. 7)?

“We had some opportunities early and won some significant games,” Swofford said.

Magnitude? Opportunities? Significant? Dude needs to seriously work on his trash talk. The league has been trashed enough since Swofford helped change it in 2004 with the additions of Virginia Tech and Miami.

With three unbeaten teams in the top 10 this week, a one-loss Virginia Tech team coming on at No. 19 – and Swofford was quick to include future member Louisville, another top-10 team, in his talking points Wednesday – now’s the time to fire a few shots.

Fire any coaches at the airport lately, Pac-12? Buy another bow-tie cookie, Big Ten. You want Mack Brown, Big 12, you can have him. Where’s your football god now, SEC?

I don’t know, maybe away from the media “Ninja Swoff” stealthily throws zingers like he adds expansion teams. In public, he’s too cautious, and modest, to puff out the ACC’s chest. Or maybe it’s a matter of prudence, you never dump the Gatorade before the game’s over.

Swofford said there’s still too much football left to celebrate the conference’s successful start. Florida State could lose to Miami, the Hurricanes could stumble against Virginia Tech and Clemson’s no sure bet anywhere outside Death Valley.

“Hopefully, the second half of the season will be as good to us as the first half,” Swofford said.

So far, so good for the ACC, which has never been a football league, but has grown to 14.416* teams (the fractional representation of Notre Dame’s five annual games with the ACC) in order to become a better one.

Clemson ruled the conference until FSU joined in 1992. The Tigers spent the better part of 20 years trying to get to equal footing with the Seminoles, and only recently has coach Dabo Swinney been able to do it.

Before the wave of expansion in ’04, FSU and Miami were annual fixtures in the national race. Miami joined the ACC and turned to dust, dragging the Noles down with them.

But both Florida schools are on the upswing, which Swofford noted is the biggest reason for the bump in national perception for the conference.

“We’ve had some programs rebuilding and coming back,” Swofford said. “Those programs have great brands, and they’re coming back to where their brand has been previously.”

And Swofford did work in a well-disguised, “I told you so” when he mentioned the early wins over the SEC.

“I’ve said for years, there’s not a whole lot of difference here,” Swofford said. “You win a few of those kind of games and it changes the perception.”

Perception is a fluid concept. Swofford understands that. The SEC, with No. 1 Alabama and seven straight national titles, is still king and it gets another shot at Clemson (South Carolina, Nov. 30) and a first crack at Florida State (Florida) on the same day.

Maybe that’s why Swofford is unwilling to throw some shade the SEC’s way. Or maybe he just prefers to let the results speak for themselves.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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