NC State head coach Dave Doeren said at Tuesday’s session of ACC media days that his home conference has outperformed the mighty SEC over the last two seasons. Before rolling your eyes back into your head far enough to examine your brain, consider where Doeren is coming from.
For those of us college football followers who reside outside the SEC footprint, the conference sometimes feels like a party guest who arrives, drinks all the beer, hits on everyone else’s dates and demands to be the best at any games being played. Now, imagine if that guy was your next-door neighbor.
That’s the ACC’s relationship with the SEC.
Sharing a geographic footprint with a conference means fighting for attention from much of the same audience, but more importantly, jockeying for the same recruits. When the SEC is on your same block, thumping its collective chest about being the best, an ACC coach would be derelict in his duties not standing up for his league.
EDSBS’s Spencer Hall summarizes it nicely, in less than 140 characters.
Dave Doeren says the ACC has done better than the SEC the past two years, which is exactly what I would say if I were him.
— OLIVER STACKS (@edsbs) July 21, 2015
There’s also probably a certain level of frustration oozing out of ACC coaches, not just Dave Doeren. Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson ended last season with wins over Georgia and Mississippi State, the latter a rout in the Orange Bowl. Johnson sounded off after that win.
Now, here’s the real kicker: Dave Doeren isn’t wrong.
The SEC long ran roughshod over its neighbor, but the last two years have seen a shift, which arguably started with the 2012 Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Clemson, long a favorite punching bag of SEC opponents, beat an LSU team that opened the season with very real national championship aspirations.
Dabo Swinney’s Tigers opened the following season with a win over Georgia in one of the most exciting games of the last few years. Clemson fans poured onto the field that August night and, as Swinney spoke with ESPN in the postgame fray, chanted “A-C-C!”
That same season included Miami’s win over Florida, and Florida State going undefeated for the first championship claimed under the ACC banner in 14 years. In 2014, the ACC owned Rivalry Week with a 4-0 record over the SEC. Swinney and Clemson finally got over the hump against Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, while Johnson’s Georgia Tech outlasting Georgia in overtime served as the centerpiece.
Of course, the ACC hasn’t exactly turned into the bully on the block. Georgia exacted revenge over Clemson for the 2013 loss in last year’s season opener, rather emphatically. Todd Gurley ran roughshod over the Tigers to begin their 2014 regular season in the same manner the 2013 version ended: with a loss to an SEC opponent.
Duke let a big slip against Texas A&M in the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl, in the same venue where Alabama opened the season beating Virginia Tech. Save this past season’s loss to Clemson, South Carolina has been excellent against the ACC, opening 2013 with a win over North Carolina and capping 2014 by defeating Miami.
Dave Doeren’s point could certainly be argued — but it also can’t be outright dismissed. The ACC has made considerable strides, in the process gaining ground on its neighbor. The 2015 ACC-SEC encounters could be the most contentious showdowns between two sides forced to share the same block since George H.W. Bush moved onto Evergreen Terrace.