SEC vs. ACC.
If you live in these parts, it's hard to escape the comparisons, or the competition.
The SEC is college football's undisputed kingpin. The ACC, chiefly because of a shared geographical footprint, strives constantly to keep pace.
Many of the schools in the ACC, which soon will stretch from the Canadian border to the Everglades, have carved out recruiting niches up and down the eastern seaboard.
Clemson and Florida State stand as the exceptions.
The Tigers and Seminoles compete in the ACC, but they operate in an SEC world, with SEC budgets and SEC-like fan bases, clashing on the field as often as scheduling allows and going head-to-head for the some of the best talent in the country, centered in the recruiting-rich Southeast.
At no time is that more obvious than in the home stretch leading up to National Signing Day.
When Clemson introduces its new class of freshmen Wednesday afternoon, at least half of the newcomers will have been won in head-to-head battles with SEC schools. And most of the ones that got away will be headed to the SEC.
During a pre-signing day teleconference on Monday, ESPN director of recruiting Tom Luginbill offered his take on the predominance of the SEC in recruiting. He said Clemson is not alone in competing against the SEC for the nation's best players.
"I think to some degree everybody is," Luginbill said. Nobody likes to hear that, but that’s the reality of the situation. The king of the hill is the SEC. I referenced the region of the country in the South. You have two conferences and 24 teams all battling for the deepest player pool. If you take a look, you take a look at some of the premier players remaining – they’re all at premium positions. They’re at corner, linebacker, defensive line and the offensive line.
"Those positions that aren’t growing on trees, but if you want to win a championship – you better have them."
In striving to place themselves among the best of the best, Luginbill said Clemson and Florida State have brought the fight to the SEC.
"I do think Clemson battles that and I think FSU battles that," Luginbill said. "Miami to some degree battles it. It’s going to continue down that path until somebody knocks them off the mountain.
"It’s perception, perception, perception. In my opinion, it’s the single biggest thing that Texas A&M has going for them – more so than an 11-2 season and a Heisman Trophy. Right now their affiliation with the SEC is playing bigger than anything else."