ACC once again showing it might be one of the best in the country


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Clemson has won the ACC two years in a row
Clemson has won the ACC two years in a row

For much of the last decade, the national perception has been that the Southeastern Conference has been the nation’s best, but the Atlantic Coast Conference not only made up ground, they’ve surpassed the SEC in many regards.

Just ask Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.

A Southeastern Conference program won the college football national title in seven straight seasons from 2005-2006 to 2012-13. During the period, the national media did nothing to quell the belief that everything about the SEC was superior to any other product.

Over the last few years, the narrative has shifted. Florida State put the ACC on the map with the 2013 national championship win and Clemson has been an annual contender since Dabo Swinney took over, finally claiming the ultimate prize last season. Teams like Louisville, Virginia Tech and Miami have been trending in the right direction while N.C. State, Wake Forest, and Boston College have all been better this season.

During bowl season last year, the ACC went 9-3 to lead all conferences in victories, percentages and anything else of significance. The SEC? Six victories and seven losses. Against teams from Power Five conferences last season, the ACC was 17-9 while the SEC finished 11-14, including 4-10 against the ACC.

How have they fared this season? The Big 10 can’t get out of its own way, the SEC is top-heavy with Georgia and Alabama, the PAC-12 doesn’t have a dominant team and the Big 12 is regarded as an offense-only league.

Meanwhile, led by Clemson with seven, the ACC leads all conferences in wins (32) vs. teams with a .500-or-better record. No other team in the AP Top 10 has played more .500-or-better teams than Clemson (7).

“Yeah, those other teams, they're not getting that memo. This is a great conference, top to bottom, and I've said it many times, I've been kind of beating that drum for the past few years,” Swinney said Wednesday. “All you've got to do is look at the numbers -- I don't know, what do we have, we're like 9-3 in bowl games last year, post-season success and the amount of teams that have been bowl eligible. This league is incredibly difficult. I mean, every single week, anybody can beat anybody. I mean, it's not Clemson and Florida State; anybody in this division can beat you.”

Swinney said the ACC Atlantic is as difficult as it’s ever been.

“I have such great respect for the job that (Steve) Addazio is doing at BC, such great respect for Dino (Babers) and what he's done at Syracuse. I mean, Dave Doeren has built a great team and program at NC State. I mean, man, they've got -- they're a handful, Louisville. They've got the Heisman Trophy winner over there. They're a nightmare to get ready for. Wake Forest and what (Dave) Clawson has done, I mean, putting them back and making them bowl eligible. I mean, just the consistency that you're seeing in this division is incredible.

“Obviously Jimbo (Fisher), I mean, he's as successful a coach and program as there is in college football. I know they haven't had the year they wanted to have this year and sometimes you've got to look beyond just the scoreboard, but man, they're Florida State, and he's an unbelievable coach. I mean, this is a really, really difficult league and incredibly difficult division. But you know what? Isn't that the way we want it? To me that's the way you want it.”

Swinney ended the discussion by saying he is proud of where the league stands right now.

“You know, for years everybody talked about how bad this league was and couldn't win postseason and couldn't win out of conference,” he said. “It's not really a discussion anymore. Anybody that really understands and pays attention, this league is top to bottom incredibly strong, and if you don't show up, I don't care who you are, you've got a chance to get beat. Our guys understand that, and it's just a bunch of good coaches. I'm proud of this league.”

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