For the first time since 2000, the Atlantic Coast Conference swept all of the intrastate rivalries against the SEC on the last weekend of the regular season.
Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Louisville defeated Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Kentucky. And while this certainly causes jubilation at the ACC’s headquarters in Greensboro, the real significance is not as clear. At least not with respects to how the ACC stacks up against the SEC.
Yes, the ACC swept the four games. Those four games were all against SEC East teams, however, and did not include East champions Missouri. Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina are all in the midst of disappointing seasons–while Kentucky is a couple years into rebuilding. In other words, it was hardly the cream of the SEC crop this season involved Saturday. It did include, however, both division winners in the ACC–Florida State and Georgia Tech–as well as Clemson and Louisville. It’s pretty clear that these are the top four ACC teams.
The ACC also enjoyed the home field advantage this year, as three of the four games were hosted by the ACC teams. And the margins were extremely close in three of the games, with Clemson’s blasting of South Carolina generating the only kind of margin or separation. The Tigers are clearly better than the strangely disappointing Gamecocks this season, as everything about the 35-17 pasting confirmed.
Elsewhere, consider: Florida State was very close to losing to Florida in Tallahassee–committing 5 turnovers and needing the Gators’ normally reliable kicker to miss two makeable, though not short, field goals in a 24-19 win. The game featured two stunning momentum reversing sequences, one favoring each team, in the first half. Without the early 94-yard pick six, the Gators might have routed the ‘Noles. Without the punt disaster late in the half, FSU might have routed the Gators.
Louisville, meanwhile, was at home and yet trailed Kentucky for most of the afternoon in their wild 44-40 affair. Kentucky was only 2-6 in the SEC this year, and four of the losses were thumpings–including a 41-3 loss to LSU and a 63-31 drubbing to Georgia. The Wildcats were not competitive with much of the SEC, but they were certainly right there with the Cardinals.
Without a doubt, the ACC’s most impressive result was Georgia Tech’s 30-24 overtime win between the hedges in Athens. Both teams were 6-2 in their respective conferences, and a case can be made that Georgia was more impressive against the SEC than Tech was against the ACC. Besides, the Jackets rarely win in Athens, where the Bulldogs blasted Auburn 34-7 just two weeks ago. Oddly, Tech kicked a 53-yard field goal on the game’s last play, capping off a three-play drive to send the game into overtime. They then had their PAT blocked in the extra period, but their defense ended the game with an interception inside the five-yard line.
So, with all of this, what we can possibly deduce about the relative strengths of the conferences? I think that the most the ACC can say is that they are perhaps stronger than the SEC East. That’s something, as this is not normally the case. As we all know, however, this year the SEC’s strength is even more westward leaning than normal with perhaps the conference’s top four or five teams.
It was a great day for the ACC indeed. Yet no one seriously believes that these four ACC teams would take down Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss on a given Saturday. They don’t even believe that in Greensboro.
The author is contributor to Breitbart, Newsmax TV, and Talk Radio Network, and has covered sports in both ACC and SEC territory.