Paul Zeise: The ACC is the king of college football
January 10, 2017 1:05 PM
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
Clemson's Deshaun Watson runs for a touchdown in the national championship Monday.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The ACC is the king of college football. Those are words I never thought I’d type, but there is very little to dispute this after this season.
The bad news for SEC and Big Ten fans: The ACC is just scratching the surface and has a lot of potential to get even better than this year. Remember a few years ago when SEC fans annually puffed their chests about their conference dominating college football? Take a look at the SEC now: Only one team finished with fewer than four losses, the conference failed to win a major bowl game and had a losing record in bowl games. The SEC had only three teams finish in the top 20 and can’t even lean on Alabama because the Tide lost in the national title game to an ACC school.
Remember about a month ago, when the Big Ten was the toughest and greatest conference, mostly on the strength of its top teams? The Big Ten’s top six teams — Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska — were a combined 1-5 in bowl games, and the one win was Wisconsin against MAC champion Western Michigan. Overall, the Big Ten went 3-7 in bowl games, which is not a good look no matter how fans try to spin it.
This was ACC commissioner John Swofford’s vision when he began to lead the conference realignment craze by pilfering Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College from the Big East. Swofford added three more schools with a history of commitment to football, and the conference began to steadily get better over each of the past four seasons.
This wasn’t supposed to happen this quick. The basketball conference, which is also the best in the nation, was supposed to carry the weight for a few more years until the football conference arrived. The reality is, though, the basketball conference would be lucky to have a season as good as the football conference just did.
The ACC was also the only conference that had a winning record against the Power 5 conferences this year, an impressive 17-9. The ACC was 9-3 in bowl games, including wins in two of the six New Year’s Six bowl games and wins against two of the Big Ten’s top three teams. The conference also claims the Heisman Trophy winner, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, who will be back next year.
The conference, which has won two of the past four national championships, has been getting better slowly but surely. This is mostly because the schools not named Clemson, Miami and Florida State have gotten serious about trying to be good in football. The Coastal Division, for instance, was once the laughing stock of college football, but if you look at the coaching hires over the past few years, it will only continue to get better. In fact, it’s already better than the SEC East and the Big Ten West.
The ACC has a lot of work to do. It needs to continue to build, but it was the best conference in football this year and has been closing in on that honor for at least the past three years. March Madness isn’t for a couple more months, but the ACC is no longer a conference that has to wait until March to puff its chest. Not only is it the best basketball conference, it’s the best football conference as well.
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