Where does the ACC fall behind the Pac12 and SEC in football?


There’s no question the ACC has improved as a football conference in recent years, but it is still not at the level of the Pac 12 or the SEC. The ACC did go 5-3 against the SEC, but most of that work was done by the best teams in conference. That still counts and it is significant, but you’ll see that doesn’t tell the whole story.

When looking for where the ACC needs the most improvement, a team by team comparison between the ACC , SEC, and Pac12 makes it pretty clear.

Below I’ve ranked the teams in each conference side by side. There are three tiers. Let’s look at how each ACC team stacks up to their SEC/Pac 12 counterparts.

Tier 1 Teams

Alabama, Oregon, FSU

Oregon isn’t 39 points better than FSU, but they are better. I think FSU can play with Alabama, but we’ll give Bama edge.

Georgia, Arizona, Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech beat Clemson, Georgia and Mississippi St in 3 of their final 4 games. Arizona was not playing well at the end of the year. The Yellow Jackets are a worthy 2nd best ACC team They may have been the best of the 3 teams here.

Mississippi St., Arizona St., Clemson

Clemson had the number 1 defense in the country, and are right there with Mississippi. St. and Arizona St.

Missouri, UCLA, Louisville

Missouri lost at home to Indiana. They were better than that in reality, but they weren’t an elite team. UCLA was good, but not an elite team either… kind of like Louisville. These 3 teams are pretty similar.

Ole Miss, Utah, Duke

All of these teams had up and down moments. Duke went down to the wire Arizona St. proving they were a solid team. They also beat Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils were in this class of teams.

Tier 3 Teams

Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, Vanderbilt,

California, Oregon St. Washington St., Colorado,

Virginia, Miami, Syracuse, Wake Forest

Ok these were all pretty mediocre to awful teams here. Florida and South Carolina are the best of the bunch, so I’d say the SEC’s Tier 3 teams slightly led the ACC and Pac 12 Tier 3 teams. A good indication that not much separated the Tier 3 teams is that South Carolina beat Miami 24-21 in a forgettable bowl game.

Why did I leave the Tier 2 Teams for last? The Tier 1 and Tier 3 teams were fairly even. The ACC at the top is right there with the SEC and Pac 12. You can mix and match a little there, but I don’t think there is much debate on that. Bad teams were bad teams at the bottom, but it is the Tier 2 teams – that middle of the pack where the ACC starts falling way behind.

Tier 2 Teams

Auburn, USC, NC State

I like what NC State did this year. I really do, but there aren’t the same type team Auburn or USC were.

LSU, Stanford, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech finished the year with a bowl win, but no they weren’t at the level of LSU or Stanford.

Texas A&M, Washington, Boston College

Boston College compared to Texas A&M and Washington? Possibly, the Eagles did beat USC after all. There isn’t much difference with this group of teams.

Arkansas, UNC

Arkansas was definitely better than UNC, probably by 14-21 points by the end of the year.

Tennessee, Pittsburgh

I’d favor Tennessee over Pittsburgh. Good teams don’t blow 31-6 fourth quarter leads to Houston – Pittsburgh

Clearly the ACC needs the most work to their middle of the pack teams. NC State showed positive signs. You really can’t pick on them. It is not their fault they are at the top of the Tier 2 group, when probably they really shouldn’t be.

Virginia Tech is a wild card. I really believe they are aren’t that far from being a top 25 caliber team. Bud Foster continues to produce strong defenses, and they have some young talent on offense. The Hokies proved they could still play at high level with wins over Ohio State, Duke, and a solid bowl win over Cincinnati. Now they need to do that over the course of a whole season.

Boston College is in a bit of limbo. I think Addazio is a good coach, but it’s hard to say what their ceiling is. Too early to say he can’t get them to the 9 win plateau.

UNC, and Virgina need complete overhauls of their programs.

Both recruit reasonably well, but leadership at the top is severly lacking at both places. UNC had documented team dissension, and Virginia has no identity especially on offense.

Pittsburgh has a new coach in Pat Narduzzi which is a start in the right direction.

If the ACC is going to eventually catch the Pac12 and SEC, it is not at the top where you might expect the most work to be done. It is the middle.


SEC Pac 12  ACC
Alabama (12-2) Oregon (13-1) Florida St. (13-1)
Georgia (10-3) Arizona (10-4) Georgia Tech (11-3)
Mississippi St. (10-3) Arizona St. (10-3) Clemson (10-3)
Missouri (11-3) UCLA (10-3) Louisville (9-4)
Ole Miss (9-4) Utah (9-4) Duke (9-4)
Auburn (8-5) USC (9-4) NC State (8-5)
LSU (8-5)  Stanford (8-5) Virginia Tech (7-6)
Texas A&M (8-5) Washington (8-5) Boston College (7-6)
Arkansas (7-6) California (5-7) UNC (6-7)
Tennessee (7-6)  Oregon St. (5-7) Pittsburgh (6-7)
Florida (7-5) Washington St. (3-9) Virginia (5-7)
South Carolina (7-6) Colorado (2-10) Miami (6-7)
Kentucky (5-7) Syracuse (3-9)
Vanderbilt (3-9) Wake Forest (3-9)

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