By: Dan Hancock (@danhancock1978)
The Question Will Be Asked….
In just over two weeks, the coaches of the Southeastern Conference shall converge upon Birmingham, Alabama. As predictable as an episode of Matlock, the coaches and staff will be asked questions like:
Will Alabama be crowned champion three straight years?
Will this be Steve Spurrier’s final season as a head coach?
Will the SEC be open to further expansion?
While these are all good questions, are they the best questions? One question I’ve been chewing on for awhile now is: Will the ACC stand in the way of an 8th National Championship for the SEC?
While I don’t think that a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference will be invited to Pasadena for the final installment of the BCS National Championship, I do think the ACC has the best chance to hurt a few key teams chances at the title game. As we’ve seen, one loss can ultimately be the difference in going to the big show or not. As much as America will be tuned in to the rematches between Texas A&M and Alabama, LSU and Alabama, and Florida-Georgia, there will be pivotal cross-conference games on the schedule to elevate the blood pressure of even the most casual of fans. Fortunately, they get started early, so we’ll soon know the outcome and potential fate of those that have accepted the challenge.
On August 31, Alabama will make the trek to Atlanta, which has become a home away from home with their run on SEC titles over the years, to play Virginia Tech in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic. This may not be the best Hokies team ever to wear the VT helmet, but Frank Beamer recently revamped his offense, so there is a chance that they could have some surprises for Coach Saban. I didn’t say it was a good chance. What hurts Virginia Tech is that this is a highly anticipated game, if only because it’s the first game of the season. There will be no opportunity for a warm-up game. They’ll need to bring their A-Game, but crazier things have happened.
Also on this date, which should be considered a national holiday, Georgia travels to Clemson to open their season. Georgia should be familiar with Clemson because as some have described Clemson, “it’s just Auburn with a lake.” Hopefully for the Bulldogs, they are as successful with the Tigers of Clemson as the ones from Auburn. Tajh Boyd may be the most productive football player in the Atlantic Coast Conference this year and if he plays as well as he has throughout his time at Clemson, he’ll surely be an early Heisman favorite. Clemson’s last game was against a strong SEC team. At the New Year’s Eve Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Boyd led Clemson to a 25-24 victory over LSU. In that game, Clemson trailed for most of the game, but Tajh Boyd found a rhythm late and went 36 of 50 and threw for 346 yards with no interceptions. He was named MVP of the game. If that confidence is shown on Clemson’s home turf, Georgia may be in for a long night.
The following week, the Florida Gators will travel to Coral Gables to see if the Miami Hurricanes still have any swagger left in their reservoir. Hurricane QB Stephen Morris will be critical in the success of the Miami Hurricanes return to glory. Miami has added highly regarded receivers to help the senior quarterback find more consistency this season. If the Miami defense plays as well as it did last year Jeff Driskel and company will have their hands full on that first Saturday in September.
Another game that we always look forward to which will bookmark the Gators season and connection to the ACC in 2013 is the annual grudge match against Florida State.
“Once you’re predictable, no one finds you interesting.”- Chet Atkins
For as long as I’ve followed football in the state of Florida, I’ve never been successful in forecasting this game. Even in the worst years for either team, this is possibly the game that matters most. Both teams are on the verge of returning to their former glory. If winning the last game in November means the other gets a consolation prize and shut out of the national championship game, then the taste of victory will only be sweeter.
I’m sure there will be other questions asked in Birmingham, but I’ll be thinking a lot about this one.
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