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Gamecocks Destruction of Wolfpack Serves Notice to Clemson and the ACC

Posted: Aug 29, 2008

Last night was the glorious kick off to the 2008 college football season.  Teams from almost every conference had games allowing us some very early previews of what might be coming in the weeks ahead.

Everyone now knows about the SEC's recent media deals with CBS and ESPN that will pay the conference around $200 million per year for the next 15 years.  In the last fews years of play, it became obvious that the SEC is the best conference in college football on the field, but this recent gargantuan deal shows that the SEC has long been the best conference off the field.


SEC fans remain the most passionate in college football with the largest support and the highest expectations for their teams.  Now they have the most money and the widest distribution of their games.  Let the big dog eat!

Our Patrick Snow wrote the first piece in an ongoing Tribal Fever series about college football in the Footprint ranking each state's tradition.  Today's TF dispatch gives a not to subtle hint about what conference will be on top of his rankings - the subject of article number two in this series.

South Carolina went out and laid a pretty big egg last night.  Starting QB Tommy Beecher threw 4 ints before Coach Steve Spurrier pulled him.  However, the Gamecocks' offensive sputters didn't matter.  Their defense dominated NC State so thoroughly that the game still ended up a 34-0 blowout for Carolina.

Adding in Vandy's win against Miami (OH), the SEC looks like they are on another level from everyone else.  In the coming days, the conference will play teams from the Big East (Lousiville), Pac 10 (UCLA), Conference USA (Memphis), Sun Belt (LA-Monroe) and two WAC teams (Hawaii and LA Tech).  Of course, one more ACC team remains to be served up.

With Clemson playing Alabama in Atlanta, much is at stake for the foundering ACC.  Clemson sits at #9 in the polls with expectations of both a conference and national title contender.  Alabama remains in the rebuilding mold under Nick Saban.

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden has the weight of expectations on his shoulders.  Tony Barnhart's recent column points out how lackluster the ACC has been on the gridiron.  Clemson must win to save face for the entire ACC.

In the wake of the SEC deal, Tim Stephens of the Orlando Sentinel opines about what the ACC's next move might be.  This passage lays out the guts of his idea:

If I am ACC Commissioner John Swofford, I do not sit still here. I go bold and proactive. I do not continue to allow the SEC to smother me from the West and the Big East to chip away at me from the North. I go to work finishing what I started in 2003. I raid the Big East again of four teams, split into two geographically compact divisions that restore the rivalries broken as a result of the 12-team lineup, and I get serious about owning the TV markets from New York to Miami. I must do this. Failure to do so only allows the Big East to grow stronger while the SEC counts its money and beats me over the head with the moneybags.

With all due respect to Stephens, this would be the exact wrong thing do to.  We don't see the recent ACC expansion as being about TV markets.  It should be seen as gaining important recruiting territory.  Bringing in Miami and Virginia Tech provided added strength in two fertile recruiting markets - coastal Virginia and south Florida.  FSU already recruits from Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama.  This provides the potential for a great deal of talent - equal in potential to the SEC.

Right now, the ACC has a handful of teams that CAN compete with the SEC if they can get on track.

FSU - Bobby Bowden regularly beat teams from the SEC in his heyday.  Today, he has a former SEC coach (Jimbo Fisher) lying in the wings to take over.  Fisher worked under both Nick Saban and Les Miles at LSU.  If he can bring their intensity, both on the field and off, back to Tallahassee, the Seminoles can go back to being a power.

Miami - This team hasn't won 5 national championships by accident.  South Florida remains one of football's greatest talent bases ever.  Larry Coker got the boot because he let recruiting slide.  Randy Shannon has recruited extremely well so far.  This bodes well.

North Carolina - The problem in the ACC before expansion was geography.  Four teams in NC doesn't help because that state just doesn't have the base of talent to support them all.  Butch Davis gives UNC a chance because of his time at Miami recruiting the players that won a title under Larry Coker.  If Davis can bringin the talent, UNC can possibly build a football program that can match its basketball legacy.

Virginia Tech - Frank Beamer has longed mined the strong Virginia talent base.  He only seems to need a few more stars like he had with Michael Vick.  Perhaps Beamer could also follow Tommy Tuberville's and Phil Fulmer's lead by bringing in a new offensive philosophy.

The next name on this list will be playing in the national spotlight on Saturday night.  On paper, Tommy Bowden has been slowly building Clemson back into a national power.  However, his teams have never played many significant games in all his years at the school.


FSU, Miami are former national powers with a plan to return to the spotlight.  UNC has a new leader who has been there before.  Clemson may already be there right now.  We'll see on Saturday night.

To Tim Stephens, TF says that the ACC's value must be proven on the field which comes from passion in the stands and support in the athletic departments.  TV markets don't mean a thing in the game of college football.

ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, an Ohio State grad, explains:

One of the coolest things about the SEC is the fraternity, how even though the teams and fan bases hate each other, when they play teams outside the conference, it's an extension of them. A Florida fan wants LSU to kill Ohio State. When they win, the first chant you hear is: "SEC! SEC!"

There's such a brotherhood among the teams, the coaches and the fans. As a Big Ten guy, I'm flat-out jealous of it. I would love to see the Big Ten adopt that, but I don't think it's possible.

Herbstreit is correct in saying the Big Ten won't get there after reading this quote from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany in the same piece:

I love speed, and the SEC has great speed, especially on the defensive line, but there are appropriate balances when mixing academics and athletics. ... I wish we had six teams among the top 10 recruiting classes every year, but winning our way requires some discipline and restraint with the recruitment process.

Those are the words of a man who isn't even trying to compete.

Well, ACC your path lies out ahead of you.  You can follow the Big Ten's lead, although you don't share their history so you can't capitalize ($$) on it, or you can follow the SEC's lead and start building your conference, brick by brick, into something relevant in today's college football landscape.

- Jim Markel

related tags

Tribal Fever,
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West Virginia,
South Carolina,
North Carolina,

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