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Wednesday, January 11, 2012
When will the SEC's reign end?

By Heather Dinich

As ACC fans, you have to be sick and tired of hearing about it.

The SEC has now won six straight national titles. It’s the conference you love to hate, and with losses to South Carolina, Georgia, Auburn and Vanderbilt this season, the ACC once again came across as the scrawny kid in the hallway who is easily shoved aside by the class bully.

Will it ever end?

Not anytime soon, not if you look at Mark Schlabach’s way-too-early top 25, which has four SEC teams ranked in the top 10. The ACC has plenty of reasons for optimism heading into 2012, but in order to displace the SEC as the nation’s premier conference, the league would need more than one special team and one magical season. It needs an LSU AND an Alabama. It needs a USC AND an Oregon. It needs consistent contenders in the top five or top 10, and while the ACC is getting closer to knocking on the national championship’s door, it’s still a long way away from becoming the conference to ruin the SEC’s reign.

Florida State and Clemson, because of their phenomenal recruiting in recent years, have to be considered the front-runners for the ACC’s next national title, but they are in the same division and are in each other’s way. Virginia Tech, which is in the Coastal Division, always seems to play its way into the conversation during the ACC slate only to fall out of the mix against better competition. Miami still hasn’t even won a division title since joining the ACC, let alone a league title, and the program is in rebuilding mode for 2012 under coach Al Golden.

Coaching turnover throughout the ACC has been an issue during the SEC’s recent stranglehold on the national title -- not only at the head-coaching position, but at the coordinator position. And it has happened at the league’s more nationally-recognized programs in Florida State, Miami and Clemson. This year it’s North Carolina’s turn. Coaching, moreso than recruiting, has been at the heart of the ACC’s problem. If it weren’t, why so many changes?

You can talk about SEC speed for 500 laps, but Clemson and Florida State not only hang with it, they recruit it (just ask Florida). You can talk about the NFL talent in the SEC, but North Carolina alone produced some of the most in the country last year. The development of that talent and speed is the bigger question, but another dividing factor between the conferences is where it is. The SEC might have more of it up front, where it is deeper and stronger on the lines.

Until the ACC starts to beat the SEC on a consistent basis -- until Georgia Tech and Clemson turn the tables on their rivals, and Virginia Tech proves it can beat LSU and Alabama, not just Tennessee -- the ACC will continue to be picking a fight it can’t win.