What a long strange weekend it's been for ACC and SEC
College football has gone on sensory overload since Saturday. Where to begin?
The Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the nation lose and open the door for Georgia to control its own destiny in the BCS race.
Clemson’s Tajh Boyd accounts for eight touchdowns against N.C. State to thrust his name into a muddled Heisman Trophy race.
Miami self-imposes a postseason ban, opening the door for 6-5 Georgia Tech to represent the rumbling wreck of a Coastal Division in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
Then as if that wasn’t bad enough news for the ACC, charter member Maryland decides it’s worth $50 million (underwritten by Under Armour?) to abandon regional rivals going back more than six decades to join Rutgers in the preposterously named Big Ten.
Sports columnists have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Let’s start with this Maryland betrayal.
The first thing that leapt to mind when news of the Terrapins’ wanderlust hit the rumor mill was – so what? This speaks volumes about how far the ACC has fallen from the conference of my youth.
While it’s sad to see another charter member follow long-forgotten South Carolina into defector status, the ACC again loses little in the Terps’ disappearance. Now if North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Clemson or even Georgia Tech decided to bolt, that would be a crisis that no Connecticut, Louisville or any other candidate frantically speed dialing ACC commish John Swofford for safe harbor in the ACC could fill.
But Maryland is just a blip. Its football program is a disaster. Its men’s basketball isn’t what it used to be. Its financially strapped athletics department cut seven non-revenue programs recently.
The league doesn’t even lose a market, with Virginia and Virginia Tech easily holding up the greater metro Washington DC region.
The only thing this tells you is just how little tradition is left since Swofford started greedily pilfering the Big East for TV rights riches. He couldn’t even get indignant about the blind-side hit having finally been on the receiving end.
“Our best wishes are extended to all of the people associated with the University of Maryland,” Swofford said. “Since our inception, they have been an outstanding member of our conference and we are sorry to see them exit. For the past 60 years the Atlantic Coast Conference has exhibited leadership in academics and athletics. This is our foundation and we look forward to building on it as we move forward.”
Swofford has bigger things to worry about, like a football program with potentially a .500 record in the title game he so coveted he ruined the league footprint. Georgia Tech lost to Middle Tennessee State in September and was 3-5 at one point. Now the Jackets don’t even have to sweat out Miami’s game against Duke (words never written before) to earn a shot at Florida State in Charlotte.
Georgia Tech wasn’t even bowl eligible until Saturday night and now it could potentially play in the Orange Bowl.
Even better news for Tech, even if it loses (as expected) to Georgia and FSU in the next two weeks, it can still extend its bowl streak despite a 6-7 record. That comes from a clause that allows sub-.500 teams who played in conference title games to petition for an exclusion. Enjoy the Belk Bowl.
Sadly for the ACC, it can’t let Clemson and Florida State play a rematch that might be the conference’s only chance to sneak into the BCS title game.
Clemson is that lone September loss at FSU from being a national title contender, and Boyd deserves much of the credit. In Chad Morris’ system, Boyd is putting up gaudy numbers like his ACC record 41 touchdowns (33 passing, eight rushing) in leading the Tigers to a 10-win regular season for the first time since the national title season of 1981.
Boyd ranks first in the nation in points responsible for, second in passing efficiency, seventh in total offense and 10th in passing yards. Find another quarterback, including freshman phenom Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, with that breadth of statistical success.
But like everything else in the ACC, Boyd suffers from the company he keeps. Doubters will question his competition or label him a “system” guy. But if Clemson’s offense can muster the same kind of proficiency against a stout Gamecocks defense on Saturday night, Boyd would deserve at least a seat in New York for the Heisman presentation.
But enough of the ACC. The biggest winner since Saturday is the Southeastern Conference. Unless No. 2 Alabama or No. 3 Georgia lose to grossly inferior rivals Saturday, the winner of their SEC title game showdown on Dec. 1 is a lock for the BCS finale in Miami on Jan. 7.
Head coach Mark Richt couldn't escape the BCS chatter in his Sunday night conference call.
"Anybody want to talk about Georgia Tech?” he asked.
It is hard to believe that Georgia is in this situation after the 35-7 wedgie it received from South Carolina in October. The Bulldogs have beaten only two teams with winning records, and one of them was Vanderbilt.
Yet destiny keeps getting handed back to the Bulldogs and the ultimate prize is within their reach.
Of all the crazy things that have happened in the last 72 hours, that just might be the biggest assault on the senses of all.