A Case for the ACC (or Anyone Other Than the SEC)

Alec Lemon and the Orange Were Not Intimidated by the SEC

First, let’s be clear, the SEC is the most talented football conference in the nation. However, just how much better the SEC is than everyone else is less clear. Many people have bought into the notion of SEC superiority so wholeheartedly that they are now unable to seriously consider a team from another conference as a legitimate national title contender.

Playing in the national championship is not a birthright, it is something that teams earn. Right now though, it seems like the SEC is all but guaranteed a spot in the title game. Assuming Notre Dame beats USC, they are in, and will play the winner of the Georgia vs. Alabama game — so long as neither of those teams lose their regular season finale (go Jackets!). Georgia and Alabama are both talented one-loss teams; but it is wrong how one loss SEC teams are favored so strongly by humans, and thus computers too,  just because of their conference.

Why not a one-loss ACC team? Consider Florida State. FSU is currently ranked 10th in the BCS standings, behind five SEC teams. Two of these SEC teams, LSU and Texas A&M, both have two loses. FSU’s one loss this season came relatively early in the season on the road vs. NC State. Usually it is better to lose early in the season, yet Alabama lost just two weeks ago and is second in the BCS. FSU’s best win of the season came against Clemson, another one-loss ACC team wrongly buried behind SEC teams. FSU has two remaining regular season games: against rival Florida, and ACC Coastal Division Champion Georgia Tech. Should FSU win these two games, that would mean two more quality victories. Compare this to Georgia, who has a clear route to the national title available to them. UGA’s only signature win was a sloppy victory over Florida, whom FSU will have a chance to beat too, and their only loss was a beat down by South Carolina. Georgia is 1-1 in premiere games this season and has the 46th-ranked strength of schedule according to the Sagarin ratings. Other SEC teams mirror this pattern of one quality in-conference win, and one or two in-conference losses.

Florida State and Clemson have a right to be angry that they are not in the title game picture, and so does everyone else. Just ask Oregon and Kansas State. Kansas State has a better strength of schedule than ‘Bama or UGA; Kansas State has signature wins against Oklahoma, Texas Tech, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State. Meanwhile Oregon has beaten Arizona, Washington, USC, and their only loss came in OT to a very good Stanford team. There is a strong case for all of these teams having a more impressive resume than Alabama, Georgia, or Florida.

The point is that college football society has become so obsessed with SEC superiority, that it has become unfairly biased towards SEC teams. Top-to-bottom, the SEC is not especially deep, and the best wins for SEC teams came against other SEC teams. You may agree or disagree that FSU and Clemson should be in the national title discussion right now. But there is no good reason for the insistence on doubling down on SEC’s title game entitlement every year without objectively analyzing every teams qualifications. Who knows, maybe a selection committee will help.

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9 thoughts on “A Case for the ACC (or Anyone Other Than the SEC)

  1. This is great stuff, Glynn! And it’s something I’ve been asking people for weeks, myself. Why does the SEC get a free pass? They haven’t “figured out the system,” as several people have put it. They’ve simply let the system become inherently biased toward them.

    • Thanks John, I encounter so much SEC love down here it is unbelievable. People are so blind to it, they do not even realize their bias, and generally will not consider an alternative view. It is just not fair to other teams and conferences.

  2. If the ACC sweeps the SEC this weekend (a tall order, but not impossible), might it be enough? Who knows. The inherent problem with the polls goes deeper than a mere SEC bias. It punishes losses severely while hardly rewarding “signature” wins. Unless/until the polls recognize the fact that beating Oklahoma and Texas Tech is better than beating Ole Miss and Arkansas, human bias will rule the day.

    • I just don’t see any scenarios that get FSU into the national title picture. And even getting the SEC out seems like a pretty difficult task. The only way it could play out:

      – Georgia loses to Georgia Tech, beats Alabama in SEC title game
      – Florida loses to Florida State
      – Stanford loses to UCLA
      – Oregon beats Oregon State, beats UCLA in Pac-12 title game

      … In this scenario, Oregon would move up into the second slot. This would also reopen an easy scenario for Clemson to get to a BCS game. With late losses, Stanford and UCLA would likely be out of the top 14, leaving only Clemson, an SEC team, Oklahoma (likely) and Notre Dame for the four at-large bids.

  3. I think the SEC poll bias is due to the fact that the SEC has done well over the last 5 to 7 years in head to head match ups against the other “power conferences.” Embarrassing the Big 10 in national title games in particular has earned a lot of this in my opinion. The media was forced to abandon their Big 10 football superiority bias and replace it with the SEC conqueror. The fact that the Big 10 was not really superior in the first place is another story, but that was the thinking, so the SEC is the current king. Somebody has to be. It will end, but not until the SEC loses a few high profile inter-conference games. If the ACC sweeps the Clemson/USC, UGA/GT and FSU/UF games, that will go a long way to minimizing the current poll bias. I’m a Wake fan and I know the Vandy/Wake game is this week also, but it really does not move the needle here. If the sweep occurs and the SEC representative loses the national title game, it could happen as early as next year, but that is a lot of “ifs.”

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