Clemson chasing rare ACC history against Alabama tonight

Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports

1996 season, Sugar Bowl: Florida 52, Florida State 20

In the 1990s, the Florida-FSU rivalry reached an intensity nearly off the charts, and this game was a wildly anticipated rematch of the regular-season finale won by FSU in Tallahassee. The game became even bigger because Arizona State had beaten Ohio State in the Rose Bowl earlier on New Year’s Day, virtually ensuring the winner a national title. The Seminoles had topped the Gators 24-21 in the regular season, but the high-flying Florida offense left no doubt about the result this time. Florida State kept it close into the second half, but the Gators buried them in the third and fourth quarters with 28 unanswered points. Danny Wuerffel, Fred Taylor and Co. brought the first championship in school history back to Gainesville.

1998 season, Fiesta Bowl: Tennessee 23, Florida State 16

Vols fans haven’t forgotten this one. The end of the Peyton Manning era didn’t mean the end of Tennessee’s championship chase. With Tee Martin taking over for Manning behind center, the Volunteers got the upper hand against Florida State. The top-ranked Volunteers topped the second-ranked Seminoles, with a 79-yard pass from Martin to Peerless Price the key play.

1999 season, Sugar Bowl: Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29

There’s a recurring theme here: The Seminoles were giants of the ACC and the whole college football world during the decade. This was the Seminoles’ second national title, with an offense led by Chris Weinke and Peter Warrick scoring 18 fourth-quarter points to overcome sensational Hokies freshman Michael Vick in a shootout. Virginia Tech, of course, is now part of the ACC, but at the time was in the Big East.

2000 season, Orange Bowl: Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2

A defensive struggle with only one touchdown, the game also marked the last national title game for Bobby Bowden at FSU. Quentin Griffin was the only Sooner to find the end zone, while Torrance Marshall, Rocky Calmus, Roy Williams and a dominant Oklahoma defense held the Seminoles at bay. That was the ACC’s last championship appearance until …

2013 season, BCS championship game: Florida State 34, Auburn 31

A back-and-forth epic, among the most memorable games of the decade. The Tigers jumped out to a 21-3 lead, but couldn’t hold it as Jameis Winston rallied the Seminoles. The teams traded the lead three times in the last five minutes, including an apparent clinching score from the Tigers’ Tre Mason, before Winston’s 2-yard game-winning pass to Kelvin Benjamin crushed Auburn’s title dream with 13 seconds to play.

2015 season, College Football Playoff title game: Alabama 45, Clemson 40

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson torched the Alabama defense for almost 500 total yards, buy it wasn’t enough, thanks in large part to a couple of unheralded Tide stars in RB Kenyan Drake and TE O.J. Howard. Drake returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, just when the Tigers seemed to be mounting a comeback. And Howard, named the game’s offensive most valuable player, caught two long touchdown passes from Jake Coker. It was Nick Saban’s fourth title in Tuscaloosa.

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