Swinney: ACC producing 'overall champion' soon

Clemson kicker Spencer Benton tackles Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Joyner after a punt in the second quarter.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson kicker Spencer Benton tackles Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Joyner after a punt in the second quarter.

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The expectation of a rise in ACC football prominence has been there since its 2005’s expansion to 12 teams.

Eight years later, the results have yet to come on any grand scale, but last season’s finish has stoked some justified optimism.

For the first time since 1998, the league had two teams with double-digit wins and two or less losses from Florida State (12-2) finishing No. 10 and Clemson (11-2) No. 11 nationally.

The Tigers clinched the ACC’s first winning bowl season since 2005 by downing No. 9 LSU and the Seminoles pushed the record to 4-2 by dominating No. 15 Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. The conference tied for the top winning percentage of the postseason (.667), capturing only its third BCS bowl win in 16 tries.

Clemson’s head coach says that kind of close is just what the ACC needs big picture-wise.

“We haven’t consistently won those type of games,” Dabo Swinney said at ACC media days. “Our league has been very good and very strong. We’ve been second in a lot of the statistics you try to find out which the best conferences are. NFL players and on and on and on, we just haven’t produced the 12-1 or 13-0 team that’s had a chance to go carry the banner for the ACC.

“We’ve had some really good teams and had some great competition and parity within our league. The SEC has had three, four or five teams that have been consistently dominant. Somebody has come out of that thing 12-1 or 13-0 and they’ve earned it.”

Yes, the SEC comparison is inextricably tied to any conference conversation – and more so with regional foe ACC.

It really isn’t a conversation considering the trump card of seven-straight national titles in the SEC’s favor. Top-to-bottom though, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson isn’t so convinced the gap is there.

“I remember in ’08 when we beat Georgia and (Clemson) beat South Carolina (and) it wasn’t such a big deal,” Johnson said. “Florida State’s beaten Florida (two of the last three years). We played Mississippi State twice and beat them both games. We played Vanderbilt and won the game.

“Now if you’re talking about Alabama and LSU, nobody is beating them. They’ve been pretty good. The biggest difference is at the top, but if you look as a whole, I bet you there isn’t as big difference as a whole.”

The top-tier analogy has some, but not much merit.

Over the last five years, the SEC leads the way with an even five AP top-25 teams per season. The next-nearest is the Big Ten and Big 12 (3.8) then the ACC (2.8) and PAC-12 (2.6).

Head-to-head in that span, the ACC is 18-27 against the SEC (.400), holding a better mark in neutral sites (6-7) and on the road (6-9) than home games (6-11). That is the SEC’s second-lowest winning percentage against any other conference with a minimum of five games (Big East - .524).

FSU defensive back Lamarcus Joyner says conference comparisons tend to stray off the actual field of play.

“At the end of the day, a lot of guys don’t like to be honest and truthful,” Joyner said. “Sometimes, it’s all about politics. Sometimes other teams in other conferences, teams may not be better than teams in the ACC, but national attention they get is what people portray of those schools.

“The ACC, we have a lot of great teams with great talent, but all we have to do is control what we can control and represent the ACC as best as possible.”

With the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, nine of the now 14-team league was bowl-eligible last season (tied for the most with the SEC). In the last three seasons, every team has made the postseason at least once.

“I think the league has some stability now going into this season that we didn’t have last year,” said Swinney. “I think it’s a great league that’s on the rise that in my opinion will produce the overall champion very soon.”

A chance to prove to itself on a national and local level comes in the first two weeks of the season.

Of course in Death Valley, Clemson meets SEC East favorite Georgia in the opener. Two days before that, UNC heads to South Carolina for a Thursday night matchup, while Virginia Tech takes on reigning national champ Alabama in the Georgia Dome that weekend too. The next week, Coastal favorite Miami hosts Florida.

“You got to win your share of them,” Swinney said. “We certainly have a great opportunity out of the gate with Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. That’s what you’ve got to do.”

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Comments » 11

KIMOSAMI (Inactive) writes:

Paul Johnsons's assessment is right on.

There has always been conference pride, I guess. The ACC has always prided itself as being the more cerebral conference as compared with the 'knucklehead league'(SEC).
While that may be an overall true comparison, there are exceptions: e.g., Vandy.

In recent years, however, the lower tier SEC schools have been making a big clamor of 'were the best' when actually it was only Alabama, LSU, Georgia, and sometimes Auburn that were REALLY the consistently exceptional teams.

clemvol writes:

I heard an sec fan call a sports talk show Friday and his belief (with most sec fans) is that every team in the sec gets hit in the mouth every Saturday when playing each other. Maybe it's me but when did Tennessee, Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Arkansas start playing defense that was second to none. Hmmm ... Just sayin.

TigerFan95 writes:

In the last 50 years only one team, UK in 1976, has won the SEC ouside of Bama, LSU, Auburn, UF, UT and UGA. I think that pretty much sums up where the REAL power of SEC lies. Compare that to the ACC where every school except Miami and BC has won the conference in the last 20 years.

TrevorT writes:

in response to TigerFan95:

In the last 50 years only one team, UK in 1976, has won the SEC ouside of Bama, LSU, Auburn, UF, UT and UGA. I think that pretty much sums up where the REAL power of SEC lies. Compare that to the ACC where every school except Miami and BC has won the conference in the last 20 years.

That's an amazing stat! May I ask where you picked that up?
I knew the SEC is top heavy, I just didn't know it had been that way so long.

rsb8931#286014 writes:

Some good points have been made on this article. The power is with 4 or 5 SEC teams whereas almost all ACC teams are capable of winning the conference championship and many have done so. As far as the ACC winning percentage against the SEC it looks an awfully lot like South Carolina's winning percentage against Clemson. Really not too good! South Carolina is in the SEC aren't they?

radtiger writes:

in response to rsb8931#286014:

Some good points have been made on this article. The power is with 4 or 5 SEC teams whereas almost all ACC teams are capable of winning the conference championship and many have done so. As far as the ACC winning percentage against the SEC it looks an awfully lot like South Carolina's winning percentage against Clemson. Really not too good! South Carolina is in the SEC aren't they?

Of course every school in the ACC is capable of winning their conference because its a weak conference and you have one weak team playing another weak team ....that leads to which one is the luckiest....this further proves theres no steady talent in the ACC conference....NOBODY takes the ACC serious but the ACC

TrevorT writes:

in response to radtiger:

Of course every school in the ACC is capable of winning their conference because its a weak conference and you have one weak team playing another weak team ....that leads to which one is the luckiest....this further proves theres no steady talent in the ACC conference....NOBODY takes the ACC serious but the ACC

The "tiger" in your user name, does that refer to LSU, Auburn, Missouri, or did you just misspell chicken? Silly troll, tricks are for kids!
I feel pretty sure the coaches and players of Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama are all taking their opening games very seriously. Or do they qualify as "NOBODY"?

radtiger writes:

in response to TrevorT:

The "tiger" in your user name, does that refer to LSU, Auburn, Missouri, or did you just misspell chicken? Silly troll, tricks are for kids!
I feel pretty sure the coaches and players of Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama are all taking their opening games very seriously. Or do they qualify as "NOBODY"?

Yep and they are serious and they should be because every team you named are SEC teams.....why wouldnt they but Pickens University shouldnt....we cant even get Prime time coverage unless we play out of conference schools.....I dont think Sammy Watkins is the only person smoking in Pickens,,,,,Most of our fans cant see the "Forest for the trees" and you are proof of that especially with the immature NAME CALLING.

TrevorT writes:

in response to radtiger:

Yep and they are serious and they should be because every team you named are SEC teams.....why wouldnt they but Pickens University shouldnt....we cant even get Prime time coverage unless we play out of conference schools.....I dont think Sammy Watkins is the only person smoking in Pickens,,,,,Most of our fans cant see the "Forest for the trees" and you are proof of that especially with the immature NAME CALLING.

Do you seriously believe anyone who's read your comments still believes you are a Clemson fan? You fiercely defend Jadeveon Clowney's foolishness and get offended when someone implies he made a poor choice of schools. You call Sammy Watkins "Sammy Potkins". You disrespect the University and it's conference constantly while having nothing but praise for the SEC. If you're not a chicken fan and a troll, you definitely should be. And by the way, you're also a hypocrite because you were doing plenty of name calling no less than two weeks ago. I promise this will be my last reply to your garbage because you are a ridiculous phony who's not worth another key stroke. Nice life.

cuGIZ82 writes:

ACC has placed plenty of talent into the NFL...go through various NFL team's rosters and you will find a lot of their top players came from ACC schools.

radtiger writes:

in response to TrevorT:

Do you seriously believe anyone who's read your comments still believes you are a Clemson fan? You fiercely defend Jadeveon Clowney's foolishness and get offended when someone implies he made a poor choice of schools. You call Sammy Watkins "Sammy Potkins". You disrespect the University and it's conference constantly while having nothing but praise for the SEC. If you're not a chicken fan and a troll, you definitely should be. And by the way, you're also a hypocrite because you were doing plenty of name calling no less than two weeks ago. I promise this will be my last reply to your garbage because you are a ridiculous phony who's not worth another key stroke. Nice life.

No disrespect to the school, just call it as I see it and could careless about who thinks Im a chicken fan or a troll but hate to see adults hate on athletes simply because they choose to go to the school of their choice....NEWS ALERT...SLAVERY IS OVER, hes free to be on whatever field he wants,None of them are Saints and trust me Clowney was recruited by Clemson harder than any other school.

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