Last weekend the college football schedule featured the usual assortment of intrastate rivalry games that traditionally end the regular season.
Included were three matchups between SEC and ACC programs: South Carolina vs. Clemson, Florida vs. Florida State, and Georgia vs. Georgia Tech.
Those games were viewed nationally as an opportunity for the ACC to show that its best teams could compete with the top tier of the SEC, the conference that has had four of its teams combine to win the last six national championships.
Florida State and Clemson – clearly the best two teams in the ACC – even entered their contests on their home fields and favored to win. But the three SEC teams all won decisive victories, which further cemented the football reputations of both leagues. For good measure, Vanderbilt also blew out Wake Forest in a meeting between the small private schools to complete the sweep of last week’s four games pitting the SEC against the ACC.
The two conferences appear to be headed in different directions, with the SEC solidifying its place as the dominant force in college football and the ACC, long viewed as the nation’s preeminent basketball conference, attempting to hold firm as a viable football conference with the winds of realignment swirling around them.
After Saturday’s results, the SEC won five of six games played between the two conferences this season. The only ACC victory came in the opening weekend, when Clemson beat Auburn, which would go on to have a winless season in SEC games. Meanwhile, also in that opening weekend, a Tennessee team that would finish 5-7 soundly defeated an N.C. State team that would finish 7-5.
Here’s where the SEC most convincingly shows itself to be the nation’s top football conference, with six teams in the Top 10: No. 2 Alabama (11-1), No. 3 Georgia (11-1), No. 4 Florida (11-1), No. 7 LSU (10-2), No. 9 Texas A&M (10-2), and No. 10 South Carolina (10-2). The ACC’s best filed in behind all of those schools: No. 13 Florida State (10-2) and No. 14 Clemson (10-2).
The SEC has reached the stage where it’s selectively choosing which schools will join if expansion continues to trend toward four 16-team mega-conferences. The ACC recently lost one of its founding members in Maryland, which decided to jump to the Big Ten. No schools are looking to leave the SEC, but various media outlets report that other key ACC members are exploring the possibility of joining the Big Ten, SEC or Big 12 by following Maryland’s lead. Meanwhile, the ACC’s response has been to morph into the Big East with the coming additions of Syracuse, Pitt and now Louisville.
Last season the SEC went 6-3 in bowl games, with one of the losses coming when Alabama beat LSU in the national championship game. The ACC went 2-6, with two of the losses coming at the hands of SEC teams -- Mississippi State over Wake Forest and Auburn over Virginia. This season the SEC expects to send nine teams again to bowl games, with either Alabama or Georgia guaranteed a spot in the national championship game. With North Carolina and Miami (Fla.) out of the picture due to NCAA troubles, only five teams are guaranteed bowl slots, although Georgia Tech might be granted a waiver if it finishes with a losing record.
The poor perception of the ACC continues with tickets on sale for its championship game in Charlotte between Florida State and Georgia Tech priced as low as $3.66 on StubHub.com. The lowest price on StubHub.com for tickets to the SEC title game in Atlanta between Alabama and Georgia are on sale for $323.99.