Perhaps the last claim that the SEC could have had on superiority over the ACC fizzled away when Clemson tight end Hunter Renfrow secured quarterback Deshaun Watson’s two-yard touchdown pass to beat Alabama for the national championship Monday night.
Through almost any prism, the ACC was a better conference than the SEC. Led by Clemson and Florida State, various rankings make the case, though not as clearly as the ACC’s 10-4 record against the SEC this season. Georgia Tech contributed, going 3-0 against the SEC.
The ACC has now beaten the SEC in head-to-head matchups two of the past three seasons. The ACC was 5-3 against the SEC in 2014, a year that ended a 10-year run in which the SEC had the better record nine times and tied once. The ACC was 9-3 in bowl games this year, the best record of any league.
Can the ACC keep it up? Clemson is a candidate to take a significant hit with Watson’s departure to the NFL. Likewise, North Carolina (Mitch Trubisky), Miami (Brad Kaaya), Virginia Tech (Jerod Evans), Pittsburgh (Nathan Peterman) and Georgia Tech (Justin Thomas) lose highly-regarded quarterbacks who were essential to their teams’ success this season.
However, the league seems on firmer footing than it has in recent years, particularly with the coaching hiress from the 2016 offseason – Miami’s Mark Richt, Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente, Virginia’s Bronco Mendenhall and Syracuse’s Dino Babers.
At the top, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher don’t appear like they could be leaving anytime soon. Similarly, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino would seem bound to his job for the foreseeable future, and he has Heisman Trophy quarterback Lamar Jackson back in 2017.
What will happen in 2017 is anybody’s guess. For now, supporters of the ACC can enjoy a season unlike any other.