Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  By STEVE EUBANKS  |  Last updated 9/13/13
As the clock ticked toward zero and the decibel level in Death Valley hit double-forte, chants of "A-C-CA-C-C" erupted from the stands. Clemson fans weren't chanting "Go Tigers", or "Clem-Son" as their quarterback knelt in the victory formation and the celebration of a season-opening win over Georgia took hold. Instead, in the seconds before thousands stormed Frank Howard Field, the Orange-clad faithful felt moved to shout-out for their conference. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney added to the ACC pride when, three seconds after shaking Georgia coach Mark Richt's hand, his first words to ABC's Heather Cox were, "There has never been a non-SEC team beat two top-10 SEC teams in a row until tonight. Its only unthinkable if you dont think it."It wasnt as though Clemson had beaten Alabama the previous week. The other team in Swinney's "two in a row" comment was LSU, which Clemson beat 25-24 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl way back in December. Last week, Swinney still had the SEC on his mind, even as his team was whipping up on South Carolina State. "How 'bout that ACC," Swinney said at his post-game press conference. "Spunky little old league." Then he made a U with his hands, signifying solidarity with the University of Miami, which had just upset Florida. The SEC living rent-free in other coaches' heads is nothing new. You don't win seven consecutive championships and not gain a psychological advantage. Big 10 and Big 12 coaches have made a habit of taking verbal shots at the conference, usually in the off season and almost always in the context of saying, "top to bottom, our teams are just as competitive," or something to that effect. But nowhere is the pressure to play on the same plane as the SEC greater than in the ACC where feelings of inferiority simmer in a stew of geography and familiarity. Georgia and Georgia Tech each have profane references to the other in their fight songs, and South Carolina-Clemson is arguably the most heated in-state rivalry this side of Alabama-Auburn. Florida has two ACC rivals -- Miami, a team that upset the ranked Gators, and Florida State -- while Wake Forest competes for the same student-athletes as Vanderbilt. But it goes further than that. Virginia Tech and Tennessee might only play each other once every six to 10 years, but there are plenty of companies in the Smokey Mountains that employ graduates of both. And while neither team's fans have much to brag about at the moment, conference chatter continues around the coffee pot. Fans of the ACC will point to the national championship trophies on display at FSU, Miami, Georgia Tech and Clemson, but the five titles won by the Hurricanes all came before the school joined the conference, and no sitting ACC team has won a national title this century, a fact most SEC fans know off the tops of their heads. In head-to-head match-ups since 1990, the SEC has beaten the ACC 98 times and lost only 68, and in the last decade the ACC has never won the overall intra-conference battle. A lot of that has to do with teams like Alabama scheduling Duke, but it is still a sore spot among ACC aficionados who can tell you exactly how many bowl wins and NFL players their conference has compared to others. In 2012, SEC teams went 6-2 against ACC opponents. So far in 2013, the conferences are 2-2 with Alabama beating Virginia Tech and South Carolina beating North Carolina. But as ACC fans will point out, the SEC team has been favored to win every game so far.Alabama and South Carolina were ranked an average of 31 spots higher than Virginia Tech and UNC, while Georgia and Florida -- the two SEC teams that were upset -- were ranked an average of 8.5 spots higher than Clemson and Miami.There are four more match-ups in 2013 -- Clemson-South Carolina, FSU-Florida, Georgia-Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest-Vanderbilt. ACC teams could be favored in two of those, and there is a potential for the underdogs conference win three. But would that elevate the statue of ACC football to SEC heights? Not hardly. It will take more than a couple of national titles for any league to compete with the dominance the SEC has earned.And it will take even longer for the underdogs to stop coming across as desperate.Just for reference, when Georgia beats Georgia Tech, no one in the stands chants "S-E-C".
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