John Clay

Sorry, SEC, the ACC is the nation’s best college football conference

Clemson fans celebrate after the team scored the game-winning touchdown during the NCAA college football playoff championship against Alabama, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, in Clemson, S.C.
Clemson fans celebrate after the team scored the game-winning touchdown during the NCAA college football playoff championship against Alabama, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, in Clemson, S.C. AP

Random notes:

▪  Despite all the regular-season hype about the Big Ten, and that incessant self-important SEC commercial claiming “it just means more,” this college football season belonged to the ACC.

College Football Playoff title game ref steals show with muscular arms

We’re not just basing that on Clemson’s 35-31 win over mighty Alabama in Monday night’s terrific College Football Playoff championship game. The Tigers’ win merely placed a cherry on top of a remarkable ACC postseason.

The conference went 9-3 in bowl games, beating the SEC in four of five head-to-head meetings — North Carolina State crushed Vanderbilt 41-17 in the Independence Bowl; Virginia Tech rallied from a 24-0 halftime deficit to stun Arkansas 35-24 in the Belk Bowl; Georgia Tech outlasted Kentucky 33-18 in the TaxSlayer Bowl; Louisville lost 29-9 to LSU in the Citrus Bowl; Clemson topped the Crimson Tide for the national crown.

Compare that to the SEC’s 6-7 record in bowl games. Or the Big Ten’s lousy 3-7 mark. At 4-2, the Big 12 earned more wins than the Big 10 and played in four fewer games. (If you’re interested in all the Power 5 conferences, the Pac-12 went 3-3).

It’s not just the postseason, either. Florida State has won four straight over Florida. Clemson has beaten South Carolina three straight years. Georgia Tech has beaten Georgia two of the last three years with both wins coming in Athens.

Thank goodness for Kentucky, which snapped a five-game losing streak to Louisville by knocking off the Cards at U of L this year.

Then again, Louisville does boast the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Lamar Jackson.

It (football) might mean more to the SEC, but right now the ACC is winning more.

▪ You can bet that Tuesday morning Alabama Coach Nick Saban was on the phone to the chairman of the College Football Rules Committee discussing the legality of pick plays around the goal line. After Clemson scored two TDs on what could have been construed as “picks’ or “rubs” on Monday, Saban probably didn’t even wait that long.

▪  If this Kentucky football season taught us it’s nice to have a ball-control offense that keeps the defense off the field, Monday night’s title game reinforced the lesson. Of its 16 possessions, Alabama did not have a drive last longer than six plays. Twelve of the 16 lasted four plays or fewer. So the great Alabama defense became the tired Alabama defense, giving up 21 points in the fourth quarter, as Clemson ran 99 offensive plays compared to Alabama’s 66.

▪  Fun fact: When Dabo Swinney walked on as a wide receiver at Alabama in 1989, the head football coach was ex-Kentucky coach Bill Curry.

▪  Now that the college football season is officially over, Western Kentucky led the nation in scoring at 45.5 points per game.

▪  Give it up for Minnesota basketball coach Richard Pitino. After bottoming out at 8-23 overall and 2-16 in the Big Ten last season, Pitino’s Golden Gophers are not only 15-2, but ranked 24th in the current AP poll. With Rick Pitino and Louisville ranked 14th, it’s the first time the father and son have been ranked in the top 25 at the same time.

▪  Speaking of Minnesota, new football coach P.J. Fleck was introduced to the crowd at a Golden Gophers basketball game, where he then tossed bowls to the halftime act Red Panda, who rides a unicycle while juggling.

ACC bowl game results

  • Boston College beat Maryland 36-30 in the Quick Lane Bowl
  • North Carolina State beat Vanderbilt 41-17 in the Independence Bowl
  • Wake Forest beat Temple 34-26 in the Military Bowl
  • Miami beat West Virginia 31-14 in the Russell Athletic Bowl
  • Pittsburgh lost to Northwestern 31-24 in the Pinstripe Bowl
  • Virginia Tech beat Arkansas 35-24 in the Belk Bowl
  • Florida State beat Michigan 33-32 in the Orange Bowl
  • North Carolina lost to Stanford 25-23 in the Sun Bowl
  • Clemson beat Ohio State 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl
  • Louisville lost to LSU 29-9 in the Citrus Bowl
  • Georgia Tech beat Kentucky 33-18 in the TaxSlayer Bowl
  • Clemson beat Alabama 35-31 in the College Football Playoff championship game

SEC bowl game results

  • Mississippi State beat Miami of Ohio 17-16 in the St. Petersburg Bowl
  • Vanderbilt lost to North Carolina State 41-17 in the Independence Bowl
  • Texas A&M lost to Kansas State 33-28 in the Texas Bowl
  • Arkansas lost to Virginia Tech 35-24 in the Belk Bowl
  • South Carolina lost to South Florida 46-39 in the Birmingham Bowl
  • Tennessee beat Nebraska 38-24 in the Music City Bowl
  • Georgia beat TCU 31-23 in the Liberty Bowl
  • Alabama beat Washington 24-7 in the Peach Bowl
  • Kentucky lost to Georgia Tech 33-18 in the TaxSlayer Bowl
  • LSU beat Louisville 29-9 in the Citrus Bowl
  • Auburn lost to Oklahoma 35-19 in the Sugar Bowl
  • Florida beat Iowa 30-3 in the Outback Bowl
  • Alabama lost to Clemson 35-31 in the College Football Playoff championship game
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