GREENSBORO, N.C. — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney still keeps a clipped newspaper story in his office from when quarterback Tajh Boyd signed to play for the Tigers in 2009.
Now the two are making headlines together again.
For the second time since 1991, Clemson is the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference and Boyd is the preseason pick to win another ACC player of the year award.
“I’ve kept that (article) because it’s just a reminder of what an attitude of belief can do, and when you get the right guys around you, you can do great things,” Swinney said. “And Tajh has just been tremendous since he got here.”
The Tigers and Miami were picked to win their respective divisions and meet in the title game in Charlotte, following a vote of 120 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.
Clemson received 102 first-place votes in the Atlantic Division balloting, well ahead of the 18 that reigning league champion Florida State got. The Tigers are the preseason favorites in the division for the first time since 2008, when a midseason stumble led to then-coach Tommy Bowden’s departure and the ascent of Swinney to replace him.
Clemson had been picked second in the Atlantic behind Florida State in each of the four years since – and won it twice in that span. Miami had 65 first-place votes in the Coastal, ahead of Virginia Tech’s 27 and North Carolina’s 22.
The Tigers then received 95 votes to 15 for the Seminoles as the eventual ACC champion.
The Hurricanes – who were picked fifth in the 2012 preseason poll – would have played in last year’s ACC title game, if not for self-imposed postseason-ban sanctions.
“I hope they’re not as inaccurate as they were last year,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “I think, from our standpoint, I hope that the adversity that we encountered and obviously endured the last two years with the NCAA has prepared us for this, and that we’re not really thinking ahead. ... We’re internally focused and driven and we’re not worried about what anybody says about us, good or bad.”
Boyd, the ACC player of the year in 2012, broke his own league records with 36 touchdown passes and 46 TDs responsible for. He received 105 votes in the preseason balloting – no other player got more than four.
“He easily could have gone on” to the NFL, Swinney said. “He wants to win. He has some unfinished business, and it’s exciting to see where we are now, and where we were when I was sitting in his den back in December of 2008. It kind of makes me dizzy to think about it.”
Expectations weren’t terribly high for either of the ACC’s two new faces. Pittsburgh was picked fifth in the Coastal while Syracuse was the sixth-place selection in the Atlantic.
The bottom of the league standings has a familiar feel.
Duke, which is coming off its first bowl appearance since the 1994 season, once again was picked at the bottom of the Coastal. The Blue Devils have been a last-place pick – either in their division or overall in the ACC – in 13 of the past 14 years.
And Boston College was selected last in the Atlantic for the second time in five years. The Eagles fired Frank Spaziani after they went 2-10 last year and his replacement says he has “no problem” with that prediction.
“Is that something you want to see? No, you don’t want to see that,” new BC coach Steve Addazio said. “But is it realistic? Yeah. I mean, what are you judging it off of? Well, you’re judging off of what you saw the finish be. The finish wasn’t real good, so we’ve got to change that.”