This time, the media who cover the ACC picked Tommy Bowden's Clemson Tigers to win the championship Monday during the 2008 ACC Football Kickoff at The Ritz-Carlton Lodge on Reynolds Plantation. It's the first time Clemson has been favored to win the conference since winning it all in 1991.
Incidentally, that's the last time Clemson won an ACC Championship in Football.
"Ya'll have picked us pretty high the last three years, and we have finished either second or third the last three years," Bowden said. "I have learned that ya'll are pretty accurate and maybe a little smarter than what I thought."
Clemson received 59 first place votes to win the Atlantic and 51 votes to win the ACC overall.
"Clemson is used to being in this position, but I'm not used to being in this position," said Bowden.
This is the sixth time Clemson has been the preseason favorite since the event began in 1976. Clemson has gone on to win the ACC Championship four of those years.
Besides 1991, the Tigers were the preseason favorite in 1978, 1987, 1988 and 1989. Clemson went on to win the title every year but 1989 when it finished third. Twenty-one of the past 32 years the team chosen in the preseason to win the ACC championship has gone on to win the title at the end of the year, including last year's champion Virginia Tech.
"This will definitely elevate the competition's level of play," Bowden said.
And that includes Bowden's father's team, Florida State. For the first time since the Seminoles joined the ACC in 1992, Bobby Bowden's team isn't favored to win a division or the conference championship. In fact, FSU was voted to finish third in the Atlantic Division after scoring 265 points and one first place vote. Wake Forest was voted as the second place team.
"I think that's what makes the ACC interesting. Last year it was Virginia Tech and this year maybe it is Clemson," Bobby Bowden said. "It will be good. That's what he wants. He got in the business just like I did – try and win them all and be the best."
The elder Bowden remembers the days when he was in his son's shoes – always on the cusp of bigger and better things, but unable to get it done in crucial situations. From 1986-1992, Bobby Bowden remembers hearing the naysayers criticize him over-and-over for not winning the big game. He said he hung in there because he knew his time would come.
He believes that's exactly what's in store for his son and Clemson.
"We went seven years coming out second, third, second, fourth, third and nothing worse than four. So what were they saying? ‘You can't win the big one.' Then we finally won it," Bowden said. "That's exactly like Tommy. Sometimes you have to go through that. You coach and you can't quite do it and don't quite do it and everybody says you can't do it, then all of sudden you get over the hump.
"It would be great if he got over the hump this year, but it might not happen. It could be he is still a year away or something. You don't quite know."
One reason why Bobby Bowden feels the Tigers aren't too far off from winning it all is because of their quarterback – Cullen Harper.
The elder Bowden said he finally got over the hump and started winning championships because he started getting strong quarterback play from guys like Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke – both Heisman Trophy winners.
Harper returns to Clemson for his senior year as the ACC's top quarterback. He led the conference in passing efficiency last season, throwing 27 touchdowns to just six interceptions. He completed 65.1 percent of his passes for 2,991 yards, while setting 21 school records along the way.
"I will tell you what," Bowden said. "It's amazing how lucky you get when you have a great quarterback. It's amazing how good you get when you have a great quarterback… Tommy has a veteran quarterback and the best thing he has is that supporting cast."
No Surprise, Tigers Favored in 2008
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