ACC Back Where it Belongs

There was a bit of a culture shock on the last weekend of the college football regular season. Georgia Tech ran all over Georgia. Clemson dominated South Carolina and Wake Forest beat Vanderbilt. The ACC, a group I have longed called the Almost Competitive Conference, had won three big head-to-head match ups with the SEC.

If not for Florida's drubbing of Florida State the boys in Birmingham would have been completely embarrassed.

This was a major disturbance to the force.

Then on Wednesday, the final day of 2008 Luke Skywalker (aka: Bobby Johnson) and Obiwan Kenobi (Les Miles) used their powers and assorted Jedi mind tricks to restore order to the galaxy. Two SEC teams that ranked lower in the SEC standings than the ACC team they were playing did in their league posted victories that placed the ACC in much more familiar territory – looking up at the SEC.

Vanderbilt was the eighth and last of the SEC bowl teams having finished the year at 6-6. The Commodores staggered into the post season by losing 6-of-7 after winning their first five games. Boston College was the losing team in the ACC Championship Game and would have to be considered no worse than the No. 3 team in the league. The Eagles outplayed the Commodores throughout the afternoon, but huge mistakes in special teams and costly penalties and turnovers allowed Vandy to thrill the home folks with a 16-14 win. It was the Commodores' first bowl win in my lifetime. That's not an exaggeration, it's a fact. The Commodores beat Auburn in the 1955 Gator Bowl some 31 months before I made my debut.

As hurtful as that had to be to the ACC ego, LSU was about to rip their heart out. The Tigers were playing Georgia Tech in Atlanta and the Yellow Jackets had the home crowd. They also had momentum from their wins over Georgia (45-41) and Miami (41-23) in which they had totaled 86 points.

That's all they had.

The nation's biggest underachiever chose New Year's Eve to play up to its abilities and humiliated Tech in its own backyard 38-3. LSU took a 7-3 lead in the opening quarter before driving 76 yards to a second touchdown. They added three more touchdowns in the second quarter on drives of 19, 24 and 42 yards. With a 35-3 lead at intermission all that was left was for the teams to play out the game as LSU improved to 8-and-5 and Tech fell to 9-and-4.

Those two games will give the SEC a little more swagger the rest of the bowl season. And they'll give the ACC even more reason to be happy it's basketball season.

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