Blog debate: Will ACC sweep SEC rivals?

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
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The SEC has come to dominate its annual rivalry showdowns against the ACC, but that may not be the case this year. Florida State is a heavy favorite to blow out downtrodden Florida; No.6 Clemson has a great shot at knocking off inconsistent No. 10 South Carolina; and Georgia Tech could have an edge on injury-depleted Georgia. Indeed, the ACC has a real shot to sweep these three games for the first time since 2000. ACC reporter Andrea Adelson and SEC reporter Chris Low debate whether that will happen.

[+] EnlargeClemson's Tajh Boyd versus Florida State
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreTajh Boyd and Clemson, derailed by Florida State, look to end their losing streak against South Carolina.
AA: Chris, we are on a collision course for an epic SEC-ACC headliner in the BCS national championship game if Florida State and Alabama can win out to get there. But this weekend is extremely important for the ACC, which continues to play in the shadows of its conference rival. The league got off to a great start earlier this year, when Clemson beat Georgia and Miami beat Florida. But these three games have much bigger stakes. I think we can all agree Florida State is almost a guarantee to beat Florida. To me, the spotlight shines brightest on the Clemson-South Carolina game. The Tigers have lost four straight in the series, and this is Tajh Boyd's last chance to beat his team's bitter rival. In July, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney made headlines when he said he saw fear in Boyd's eyes last year. To be sure, Boyd didn't play his best game against the Gamecocks last season, nor did he play well against Florida State in an embarrassing 51-14 loss earlier this year. Something tells me he is going to be ready in this one. Do you think Clemson and Dabo Swinney have what it takes to beat South Carolina and Steve Spurrier?

CL: Andrea, you know I love you, but the ACC sweeping the SEC? In football? There's a better chance of soccer supplanting football as the sport of choice in the SEC. Let me start, though, by saying Florida State is legit, perhaps the most talented roster I've seen from top to bottom this season in college football. So you'll get no argument from me about the Seminoles. But since you asked about Clemson and South Carolina, that's a tough one to call. The Gamecocks have been tough to figure this season. Here they are with nine wins and a chance to win 10 in the regular season for a third straight year, and it's true they have some quality wins. But they've also sort of played just well enough to win at times. That's not going to cut it against Clemson. The Gamecocks should be healthy, including Clowney and Mike Davis. Backup running back Brandon Wilds also looks like he's ready to go, which will give even more punch to South Carolina's running game. At the end of the day, I'm not sure Clemson will be able to block South Carolina's front or stop the Gamecocks' running game. And there's just something about the Head Ball Coach in these kind of rivalry games. Gotta see it to believe it before I pick Clemson again in this game. I've learned my lesson after picking the Tigers the last few years.

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsGeorgia will play rival Georgia Tech in its first outing without starting QB Aaron Murray.
AA: It is easy to understand the trepidation. It is true Clemson has not done much to inspire confidence in this series, especially when you consider the Tigers have not scored more than 17 points in any of the last four losses. But I was at the South Carolina-UCF game earlier this year. I watched much of the Florida game a few weeks ago. South Carolina lost to a 4-7 Tennessee team, right? And Spurrier NEVER loses to Tennessee. Nor does he EVER lose to Georgia. He did both this year. This could be the year he hits the losing trifecta against some of his bitter rivals. Now let's shift over to the other rivalry game that could go the ACC's way: Georgia Tech at Georgia. The Bulldogs are so banged up right now, I have to think the Jackets have a really great opportunity to steal this one. Losing Aaron Murray has got to be such a tremendous blow not just from an on-the-field standpoint but from a leadership standpoint. The one constant over the last four seasons has been Murray. How on earth does Georgia respond without the heart of the team?

CL: More than anything, there's a profound sadness around that Georgia program that Murray won't be able to finish his senior season. He has meant so much to the Bulldogs both on and off the field and has been a rock this season through all the adversity. It just doesn't seem fair. You're right, though. Murray is one of those players you can't just all of a sudden replace. But the good news for Georgia is that Todd Gurley appears to be healthier, and I think the whole team will be eager to go out and get this done for Murray. A bigger question for me is how Georgia will fare defensively against Georgia Tech's option offense, although the Bulldogs have been better against the run than the pass this season. They're third in the SEC in rushing defense.

AA: Another great point. As for the actual picks in the game, our colleague, Heather Dinich, predicted an ACC sweep. I did not go that far, but I did pick two close games in the Clemson-South Carolina and Georgia-Georgia Tech games. So did you. If the games are indeed as close as anticipated, well, anything can happen.

Chris Low | email

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