Unusual rivalries

There isn't much history between the Clemson and Syracuse football programs.

In fact, they have played only once, and that was one of the most miserable games in the history of the Clemson program (more on that in a bit).

But that lack of history between conference teams is one of the side effects of all the recent conference realignment. Gone are the days of all the ACC teams playing each other in a single season. Actually, those days have been gone for some time.

But this recent realignment has stretched the conference even more thin that it already was. Pittsburgh and Syracuse have little history with the ACC teams, other than the teams that used to be in the Big East with them: Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech. One thought about the future of the ACC: Maybe the conference should realign the football divisions between the original ACC members (Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia and Wake Forest) plus Georgia Tech and then the teams that have joined in recent realignment waves (Boston College, Florida State, Louisville, Miami, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Virginia Tech).

That could at least get rid of the silly "Atlantic" and "Coastal" designations. They're not quite on the immensely silly level of the "Legends" and "Leaders" of the Big Ten, which are going away, but the ACC's divisions could use some more sensible realignments.

Whatever happens with the divisions, it will take time for Syracuse and Pittsburgh to build some history and traditions in their ACC games. The same was true with Florida State when it joined the ACC in 1991 and Miami and Virginia Tech when they joined in 2004 and Boston College when it joined in 2005.

That's just natural. The rivalries built through the years don't just come about as soon as teams join new conferences, and the ability to build those is hurt quite a bit by the fact that teams don't play each other every year. Those things will happen, but that will be slow in the building.

It will take time for Clemson and Syracuse to build some history. Their only meeting came during the 1995 season in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1, 1996.

That was an awful day, both on the field and in the stands. It was overcast that morning in Jacksonville, Fla., leading up to the game, but as soon as the game kicked off, it started raining, and it rained hard. And it rained throughout the game.

There were also problems with tickets in parts of the stadium as some fans had duplicate tickets and had to stand in lines to figure out who was actually supposed to sit where.

At least the Syracuse fans had something to cheer about on the field. The game was billed as a showdown between Clemson quarterback Nealon Greene and Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb. Greene was a pretty good college quarterback who didn't have a tremendous amount of help, but he wasn't on McNabb's level. McNabb, of course, became a standout NFL quarterback, and he showed off those skills that day in Jacksonville.

McNabb threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, while Marvin Harrison had seven catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns despite breaking his thumb in the game. The game was never close, and Syracuse simply dominated a Clemson team that didn't deserve to be on the same field with the Orange.

The Tigers certainly would like some belated revenge Saturday when the teams meet for the first time as ACC competitors. That will be the first step toward building history, and Clemson certainly wants to start some new history with Syracuse after that meeting back in Jacksonville.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.

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