Former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden was the headliner of Friday’s Charlotte Touchdown Club’s Luncheon Speaker Series.
Bowden, 85, led Florida State to 12 ACC championships and two national titles before he retired in 2009.
Before addressing a packed ballroom at the Westin hotel, Bowden spoke about his impressions of the ACC, the job Duke football coach David Cutcliffe has done in turning around the the Blue Devils’ program, and his predictions for this year’s College Football Playoffs.
Q What is your reaction to those who say the ACC is one of the weaker Power 5 conferences?
That’s because they don’t play them. I guarantee you they are better every year that I see them. You’ve got Clemson undefeated, you’ve got Florida State undefeated, and you’ve got people playing pretty good in this conference. The SEC might be stronger from top to bottom. But I don’t know of anybody else that is.
Q Have you been surprised by what Cutcliffe has accomplished with the Blue Devils?
Wherever he’s been, he has done a great job. What he’s doing at Duke doesn’t surprise me. Duke can go as far as they want to go. Listen, when I was a kid coming up, who was one of the toughest teams in the nation? Duke University. It’s just, how far does their administration want to go? Because he can take them there.
Q Which four teams do you see making this year’s College Football Playoff?
Ohio State has got the best material in the country. It might be too good. I think they’re everybody’s favorite, but they’re not playing like it right now. I think the Alabama-LSU winner will be there. I think the TCU-Baylor winner will be there. Then you’ve got Michigan State, and there are other good ones. … I left out Clemson and Florida State. I’d put Clemson in the same ranking that I’d put TCU, I believe. But they’re going to have their hands full with Florida State before it’s over.
Q What are your impressions of quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers?
I don’t follow pros yet. Now once they get in the playoffs, I’ll follow them, because they get serious then. But I have noticed Charlotte being successful, and the quarterback having a great year. … You’ve got to have talent around you. But (Newton) is probably as talented as any quarterback in the NFL. But still, he can’t do it by himself. You’ve got to have a supporting cast.