ATLANTA — On the official Chick-fil-A Bowl logo is a source of angst for those associated with the Atlantic Coast Conference. It is a subtitle that reads ‘ACC vs. SEC.’
The ACC is 25-42 against the Southeastern Conference since 2004, and went 1-5 against the SEC this fall. The ACC’s lone win over a Southeastern Conference program this season is Clemson’s win against Auburn. Clemson has lost four straight games to rival and SEC member South Carolina.
Though the perception of Clemson and the ACC this offseason will be in part tied to how Clemson performs New Year’s Eve against LSU, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney did not want to spend much time on the subject Friday.
“We don’t spend a lot of time talking about the conference or any of that other stuff,” Swinney said. “It’s just a distraction. That’s just a sidebar. Obviously the SEC has been the power conference in the country for the last several years but I believe those things come and go in cycles.
“Our focus at Clemson is to be the best we can be and bring a national title back to the ACC through Clemson.”
Perhaps the ACC is unfairly compared to the SEC because of its status as a geographic neighbor. Other power conferences have also struggled against the SEC, which has produced six straight national champions. The Big Ten has gone 5-10 against the SEC over the last five years, and the Big 12 is 3-10 against the SEC over the same time period.
The ACC and SEC are tied at 10-10 in their 20 Chick-fil-A Bowl matchups, but the SEC sends its No. 5 team to the game, the ACC sends its No. 2 team.
Said LSU coach Les Miles: “It never crosses my mind what conference a team is from.”
But SEC coaches like South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, Georgia’s Mark Richt and Florida’s Will Muschamp certainly know how the ACC-SEC scoreboard reads. It’s up to Clemson to begin changing the standings and the perception.
Who’s your Tiger?
Swinney said Friday that LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis nearly became Clemson’s defensive coordinator in 2009 when Swinney shed the interim tag and made his first major assistant hire.
Chavis interviewed at Clemson but ended up accepting Miles’ offer to coach LSU’s defense. Swinney hired Kevin Steele.
“Les stole him from me at the last second. That dirty dog!” Swinney said.
Interestingly, Chavis is one of only three assistant coaches in the nation whose average annual compensation exceeds $1 million ($1.1 million), joining Clemson’s Chad Morris ($1.3 million) and Southern Cal’s Monte Kiffin.
Clemson Sammy Watkins believes Clemson fans will see the “old Sammy” – the 2011 version – on Monday night, not the Watkins that produced lower numbers across the board in 2012. Watkins says he is at full health.
Dabo said it:
“The only difference between the (Chick-fil-A Bowl) and a BCS bowl is they don’t wrap the bus with pictures of our faces. But I tell you, there’s really no difference,” Swinney said.