AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. - Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is not shy about standing up for the ACC and picking at what he perceives as media hype for the ACC, and he has a strong ally in Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. Given a platform at the ACC spring meetings, Swinney happily engaged.
“We’ve won three Orange Bowls in a row, had 11 bowl teams, we’ve got incredible non-conference wins,” Swinney said. “Y’all used to ask me, ‘When are y’all ever going to beat somebody outside of your conference?’ None of y’all ask me that anymore.”
This past season, ACC teams defeated five top-10 non-conference opponents, the most ever in league history. Tech provided two of the five, beating then-No. 9 Georgia in Athens and then-No. 7 Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl. The other three: Virginia Tech over then-No. 8 Ohio State (which ultimately won the national championship), Boston College over then-No. 9 USC and Florida State over then-No. 4 Notre Dame.
The ACC swept its SEC rivalry games (Tech/Georgia, FSU/Florida, Clemson/South Carolina and Louisville/Kentucky) for the first time since 2000. The league had nine first-round draft picks, tied with the Pac-12 for the most. The SEC had produced the most in the previous four drafts.
“The Atlantic Division had more draft picks than any division in college football,” Swinney said. “I don’t hear that being written about anywhere. We’re still going to talk about some other division in college football, this mighty division. The fact of the matter is, this league is incredibly strong.”
Swinney was taking a less-than-subtle jab at the hype over the SEC West, which produced five BCS champions between 2007 and 2012 and in the middle of the past season had four teams ranked in the top seven of the Associated Press poll, but was 2-5 in bowl games.
“Our conference is strong. We’ve just got to keep producing results and hopefully y’all will eventually buy into the ACC being as good as any conference as there is out there,” Swinney said. “As coaches, we know we are.”