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Ready for another ACC-SEC final? It won’t be the last

Nick Saban Dabo Swinney
Erich Schlegel/USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive season, Alabama and Clemson will play for the championship of college football. As much as that may annoy folks from other regions, there is a clear message.

Get used to it.

Nothing gets under the skin of those outside the South more than the people in this region acting like they invented football. People are sick of the SEC in general and sick of Alabama specifically. For that reason, Clemson will be the darling of America in the national championship game in Tampa. The Tigers will be representing not just the ACC, but virtually every conference other than the SEC. People hate the SEC. People hate Alabama. It’s just how it is.

But as much as folks will latch on to Clemson for now, it won’t be long until the Tigers are as much the villain as the Tide. Because the ACC slowly is growing into its own form of the SEC. This season, the ACC clearly is the better of the two leagues. That point would be pounded home if Clemson wins, but even if it doesn’t, the ACC would finish 8-4 against the SEC this year.

This isn’t about which of the two leagues is better. Or going to be better. That has been discussed enough. Rather, the point is that the neighboring leagues are going to grow into a 28-team, Southeastern/Mid-Atlantic juggernaut that might just win almost every national title for the foreseeable future.

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The words of a Southern snob? Maybe. But the evidence is compelling. In the past four years, six of the eight participants in the national championship games have come from those two leagues. In 2013, FSU beat Auburn in the title game; last season and this season, it has been Alabama-Clemson. Regardless of which team wins, the ACC and SEC will have combined to win 10 of the past 11 titles. The only outlier was Ohio State beating Oregon in 2014.

And it’s not just one or two schools. If Clemson beats Alabama, not only will the SEC and ACC have had 10 of the past 11 champs, but those titles will have come from six different schools — Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, FSU and LSU.

Heisman winners? Seven of the past 10 have come from the two leagues.

Many of the reasons for the Southern dominance have been mentioned countless times over the years. Resources, commitment to success including gigantic stadiums, state-of-the-art facilities, huge football budgets financed by hordes of rich financial boosters — all are factors. But none of that is endemic to the South.

Yes, the South has more such programs, which equates to more raffle tickets in the basket. But Ohio State, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas can go toe-to-toe with any of the Southern schools when it comes to resources. Penn State, Wisconsin and Stanford have good programs and nice stadiums. Notre Dame and USC have as much heritage, are as tradition-rich, as any of the Southern schools. Oregon has become an elite program in the past decade, even though the Ducks were down this season.

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So what is the reason the Southern schools have been so dominant? The South is where the players are. Period. It really is that simple — the region produces so many high-quality recruits. And it gets proven year after year after year. Big, fast, tough, athletic front sevens on defense. Really fast skill guys. Future NFL offensive linemen. That is the formula for winning titles in college. And no region in the country produces more of that than the Southeast.

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