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By BJ Bennett
Follow us at  Become a fan at the Facebook Page Senior Editor B.J. Bennett explains why the ACC is not the SEC, as week one showed us.

By B.J. Bennett Senior Editor Senior Editor B.J. Bennett explains why the ACC is not the SEC, as week one showed us.


It’s common knowledge that the SEC is annually the premier conference in all of college football.  It’s also pretty evident that the ACC is a league attempting to reconstruct its image.  While the two leagues have shared formats, two six-team divisions and a conference championship game, the similarities end there.  Furthering that sentiment were two week one interleague pairings that resulted in a combined score of 68-10, SEC.

When the ACC added Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech via expansion, many expected the new look to be comparable in ways to the SEC.  With 12 teams, two divisions and a championship game, the ACC was joining the Big XII and the SEC as the only BCS conferences with that format.  Three years into the 12-team setup, results have been disappointing.  One could make the argument that national criticism of the ACC peaked over the weekend.  With Alabama humbling eighth-ranked Clemson, the consensus league favorite, in primetime Saturday night, it appears the gap between the two conferences is as wide as ever. 

On the field, we have seen that there is no comparison between the ACC and SEC.  Off the field, it might be worth examining some of the reasons why: 

1. School Demographics – The SEC boasts nine flagship universities, meaning schools who have the state namesake or who are the leading names in their respective states.  The ACC has four.  This is significant through a variety of different resource realms.  Affects are extended to funding, enrollment, attention and other key facets.  With many of the schools in the SEC being larger than the schools in the ACC, they are better suited, in principle, to support a major college football program.  This plays into the SEC schools being more able to be financially competitive when pursuing head coaches and assistants.  It also is significant in terms of facility upgrades.  Again, many of the SEC schools are principally better suited to provide the foundation for a successful college football program.  One third of the ACC, Boston College, Duke, Miami, Wake Forest, are private schools. 

2. Location – The ACC is located in major media markets (Atlanta, Boston, D.C., Miami).  That is great for ad agencies and television contracts, but, with so many other teams to root for, college football only shares a portion of the coverage.  Think about the Boston College Eagles, who peaked as high as second nationally last season; in their own immediate area, you have the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins.  The same situation applies to Miami, Georgia Tech, NC State, Virginia and Maryland as well.  The immediacy of professional sports and even the close proximity of many of the schools within the league, leads to the dividing of fan bases.  Considering many ACC schools already have smaller enrollments than SEC schools, this furthers an already established disadvantage.  Because conference teams have to fight professional teams in the market, it may take longer for a large, devoted fan base to develop. 

3. History – While the SEC has undergone a transformation this generation, recent change in the ACC means the league has yet to develop an identity.  Just a few years ago, the ACC was a nine team league.  Florida State joined the conference in 1993.  A fourth of the conference has only shared affiliation for a handful of years.  A third of the league has only been established for 15 years.  That instability, compared to the SEC, hinders growth some.  This was an unavoidable problem for the ACC, as expansion needed to occur.  With a full 12-team alignment in place, progression can begin.  That said, the turmoil of the process should not be ignored.  New fan bases have been thrown into the mold, new rivalries have to grow and the conference championship game needs time to develop into a national entity.  Beyond that, many of the SEC schools have been playing football well for decades upon decades and have a more illustrious history than many of the ACC schools.   

The above reasoning does not excuse a 1-9 BCS bowl game record or the two projected division champions (Clemson, Virginia) both losing on Saturday.  The aforementioned characteristics do not have to be limiting.  One of the small, private schools mentioned, Wake Forest, looks to be the premier team in the conference and has emerged as a national program.  The four private schools mentioned went 4-0 in week one.  The new points are worth noting, however, when comparing the ACC to the SEC top-to-bottom.  As we saw in week one, there is no comparison.

While the SEC fortified itself as the leading conference in all of college football, talking heads are destroying the ACC in the aftermath of week one.  The league has been labeled the worst BCS conference in the nation.  Updated national polls will likely reflect that stance.  Teams in the ACC will have to take it upon themselves to improve their league’s image.  The Miami Hurricanes, who play at rival Florida Saturday, could do their part with a strong effort this weekend.  With Clemson losing to Alabama, Virginia Tech being upset by East Carolina, NC State being shutout by South Carolina, Southern Cal throttling Virginia and North Carolina and Maryland narrowly escaping games with FCS opponents with a win, league teams have their work cut out for them. 

Many, myself included, still believe the foundation is in place for the ACC to be very competitive on a national level.  The talent is improving, as NFL Draft results indicate.  New coaches are in place; half of the league has first or second year head coaches and Florida State has revamped their staff.  Growth, especially in the ultra competitive, parity-laced landscape of college football today, takes time. 

Back to the comparison between the two southern leagues, the ACC was modeled after the SEC and why not?  The SEC is what every conference hopes to be, the league is the measuring stick for success in the game today.  As this past weekend showed us, however, the two conferences are just not on the same level.  That sentiment can applied in more ways than one.



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BJ Bennett – B.J. Bennett is’s founder and publisher. He is the co-host of “Three & Out” with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the “Southern Pigskin Radio Network”. Email: [email protected] / Twitter: @BJBennettSports

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