ACC coaches have just about had it with all the SEC glorification over the last few years. Remember back to the Orange Bowl, when Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson said after an emphatic win over Mississippi State:
"For at least a week or two, we don't have to hear about the SEC."
It should be noted that win came over an SEC West team. Because Dabo Swinney got up on his soap box and made pointed comments of his own at the ACC spring meetings last week, throwing shade at what is universally described as the "toughest" division in college football:
"We've won three Orange Bowls in a row, we had 11 bowl teams, we got incredible nonconference wins. Four, five years ago you all used to ask me, When are y'all going to beat somebody outside your conference? None of you ask me that anymore. The Atlantic Division had more draft picks than any division in college football. I don't hear that being written about anymore. We're still going to talk about some other division in college football. This mighty division. The fact of the matter is this league is incredibly strong.
Swinney added: "You look at Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl outside of some unbelievably unhuman play by Johnny Manziel in that game, Duke wins that game. Our conference is strong. I think we just got to keep producing results and hopefully you all will eventually buy into the ACC being as good as any conference that there is out there. As coaches, we know where we are."
So that got me wondering about the divide between the Atlantic and SEC West. Time for a little fact check.
Statement: The Atlantic Division had more draft picks than any division in college football.
Correct. The Atlantic had 30 picks. The SEC West had 29, though it would have had 30 had LSU offensive lineman La'el Collins been drafted. On the other hand, Arkansas had three players drafted who signed with Bobby Petrino, who is now at Louisville ...
Speaking of Louisville, the majority of the Atlantic's picks came from Florida State (11) and the Cards (10), so that speaks once again to the top-heavy nature of the Atlantic. Factor in Clemson, and the top three schools in the division combined for 26 of the 30 draft picks. Only five of the seven teams in the Atlantic had a player drafted. On the other hand, each school in the SEC West had a player drafted, including five each from Auburn, Mississippi State and Arkansas.
Statement: We had 11 bowl teams.
Correct. But the SEC had 12. Break it down by division: The Coastal (6) had more bowl teams than the Atlantic (5). The SEC West (7) had the edge over the East (5). And Swinney neglects to mention the Atlantic and SEC West had the same number of victories -- two a piece. But in win percentage, the Atlantic had the edge (.400 to .285), mostly because the most ballyhooed division in college football had all seven teams make a bowl game. And its top five teams lost, leading to headlines reading "SEC West's no good, horrible, very bad bowl season" and SEC West fails to live up to the hype. Though Florida State lost badly to Oregon, the biggest storyline behind Ohio State winning the national championship was the disastrous SEC West performance. Whether that dings its rep headed into 2015 remains to be seen.
Statement: We got incredible nonconference wins.
True. The ACC swept its SEC rivals on the last weekend of the regular season. Georgia Tech beat Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl, giving the ACC a 5-3 mark against the SEC. But it is harder to judge the Atlantic vs. the West in head-to-head matchups because ACC teams are more likely to play teams from the East. Last season, there were no games between the Atlantic and SEC West. During the 2013 season, there was just one -- and it was a big one -- Florida State beat Auburn for the national championship. The last time an SEC West team beat a team from the ACC Atlantic was during 2011-12 bowl season, when Mississippi State beat Wake Forest. But there have only been three total matchups since, and just one in the regular season. Clemson has two of them with two wins over Auburn and another over LSU.
The difference is this: The SEC West is better top to bottom because it has more balance. There are no 3-9 teams skulking around its division. But the top of the Atlantic is obviously strong. The Atlantic finished with three teams ranked in the Top 25. The SEC West had four, including an 8-5 Auburn team that made the final poll. The problem for the ACC remains the same -- it needs better depth across the league for inroads to be made about its perception. But the future should be fun. Alabama and Florida State could open the season in 2017, though nothing is official. There are several Atlantic vs. West matchups already set well into the future (here's hoping they remain scheduled!):
2015: Louisville vs. Auburn; LSU at Syracuse
2016: Clemson at Auburn; Florida State vs. Ole Miss
2017: Auburn at Clemson, Syracuse at LSU
2018: Clemson at Texas A&M
2019: Texas A&M at Clemson
2020: Mississippi State at North Carolina State
2021: North Carolina State at Mississippi State
2024: Ole Miss at Wake Forest
2025: Wake Forest at Ole Miss