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Four ACC expansion candidates the conference could target if Florida State leaves

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For college football fans who assumed that conference realignment was all wrapped up, there now appears to be an encore waiting in the wings.

Florida State hasn't been thrilled with the ACC for quite some time, and according to On3's Andy Staples, we could be seeing realignment start quite soon because of it. 

"If the ACC is willing to negotiate with Florida State — as its most recent court filing suggests — then we could be looking at the next round of realignment sooner rather than later," Staples wrote on X.

For context, Florida State is currently suing the ACC for mismanaging the conference's media rights and imposing what they called 'draconian' exit fees that essentially prevent programs from leaving. There are obviously still things that need to be settled in the courthouse, but one result has already been made abundantly clear, which is that Florida State wants out and will do anything it can to get out. There hasn't been public confirmation that the Big Ten or SEC would take them, but that's a bridge that will be crossed when needed.

If the ACC was smart, it would do anything in its power to keep Florida State, or make sure they have a plan in place for if/when they do leave. Unlike the Pac-12 who was somehow blindsided by the two programs in the second biggest market in the country leaving for the Big Ten, the ACC is quite aware what could be happening. Florida State has made its choice clear, which means the ACC needs to start heading to the drawing board and determining which programs are viable targets.

Here are the four expansion candidates that currently would make the most sense to target, based on their projected willingness and attractiveness to the conference. It is worth noting that the ACC could check in on Big 12 programs to see if any of them would budge, but that would include a hefty buyout fee if one or two were to leave. 

Sep 24, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs linebacker Caden McDonald (54) looks on before the game against the Toledo Rockets during the second half at Snapdragon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2022; Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA; Tulane Green Wave quarterback Michael Pratt (7) throws a pass during the third quarter against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium. Tulane won 27-13. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 21, 2023; East Hartford, Connecticut, USA; South Florida Bulls running back Nay'Quan Wright (5) is congratulated after running the ball for a touchdown against the UConn Huskies in the second half at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Connecticut Huskies players celebrate after defeating the San Diego State Aztecs in the national championship game of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports