There is fact. And there is spin. And there are those who want to discredit facts with spin.
Fact: The ACC went 4-0 against the SEC on Saturday, the first time in 14 years it swept its conference rivals.
Spin: But it was against the miserable SEC East.
Fact: The ACC has more wins against Power 5 teams in 2014 than any other Power 5 conference, including four against teams ranked in the top 10 when they played.
Spin: But five of those wins came against teams with six or fewer wins.
Fact: Florida State has won 28 straight games.
Spin: But just look at the Seminoles. They have played too many close games to be the No. 1 team in the country.
Fact: The ACC has 11 bowl-eligible teams for the second straight season.
Spin: That just shows parity is alive and well in the ACC! You know what is truly impressive? Having 12 bowl-eligible teams, just like the SEC.
No other Power 5 conference is held to such a ridiculous double standard. The ACC is about to post a winning record against the SEC for the first time since 2003, but the knee-jerk reaction is to continue to discredit the strides this league has made over the past two seasons.
Florida State beat Auburn in the BCS National Championship this past January, but that might as well have been 100 years ago. Despite closing an unbeaten regular season in 2014, Florida State is not the No. 1 team in the country to the AP voters, coaches or College Football Playoff selection committee. According to AP college football reporter Ralph Russo, Florida State is the first team since 1993 to be unbeaten this late in the season and not be ranked No. 1 in the AP poll.
Back then, one-loss Florida State was No. 1, ahead of unbeaten Nebraska. We have debated the varied reasons Florida State has come under increased scrutiny this season, but there is no denying one of them is how the ACC is perceived.
This is where the double standards come into play.
Florida State has won more than its fair share of close games in the fourth quarter this season, inside and outside ACC play. But the growing sentiment is the Seminoles are no match for Alabama, which gave up 630 yards against Auburn on Saturday but was praised for its plucky resilience and ability to wait for it come back and win in the fourth quarter.
Critics want to laugh and point at the Coastal Division as one of the biggest weights holding down the ACC. Yet SEC fans seem ready to completely disown the East Division after a mediocre season. You can't just toss aside seven teams when they don't fit the glossy narrative that has been unabashedly hawked over the past 10 years. Family is family, warts and all. SEC East is SEC, warts and all. For fun, though, go ahead and check the ACC Coastal and SEC East division standings. You will find far more balance in the Coastal than the East.
But balance conveniently gets spun into mediocrity where the ACC is concerned. The ACC has five teams with nine or more wins. So does the SEC. The ACC has one team in position to make the College Football Playoff. So does the SEC.
These comparisons between the conferences are natural to make because they have set rivalry games other Power 5 leagues do not, and, well, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Louisville just swept them. But we can also see double standards in the way the ACC is judged against other leagues. Take the Pac-12, for example. Not only is one-loss Alabama ahead of FSU in the playoff rankings but one-loss Oregon is, too.
Now go ahead and compare the Pac-12 North with the ACC Atlantic. The Atlantic is the stronger division. But not many have spoken up about the mediocre teams Oregon has faced in its own division because the Pac-12 South has provided the drama.
At least Alabama and Florida State play in their conference's toughest divisions. Oregon does not. Its lone loss came to Arizona, out of the South.
These are all facts. Yet spin has kept many from acknowledging that the ACC has some pretty good teams, and some pretty good wins to boot. Gutting out wins in the SEC is a badge of honor. Gutting out wins in the ACC is a demerit.
The spin needs to stop because good teams exist beyond the SEC banner. The ACC just proved that in a big way.