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The CFP Just Put the Nail in the ACC’s Coffin

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 02 ACC Championship Game - Louisville vs Florida State Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Miami fans are shedding no tears for Florida State and its exclusion from the College Football Playoff. It took 22 years, but karma finally caught up to the ‘Noles.

With that out of the way, on to the bigger picture.

On Sunday afternoon, the College Football Playoff Committee officially proclaimed the ACC a dead conference walking. You are not a “power” conference if your champion is undefeated, with a prime time top 20 non-conference win at a neutral site, and the college football experts don’t consider you a top 4 team in the nation. Instead, the Committee selected not one but two one-loss conference champions over the undefeated ACC champion.

And here’s the conspiracy theory feeding kicker - really, the Committee selected four teams from two conferences!

The reality of college football is that all major teams are coalescing around the SEC and the B1G Ten like thirsty baby goats to the momma goat's underside. If you’re not in one of those conferences, you’re a second class citizen. That’s the “expert” perception because that’s from where the TV ratings and ad revenue flow, and it doesn’t matter what actually happens on the field.

ACC wins versus SEC/B1G Ten (10)

  • (13-0) No. 4 Florida State 45, vs. (9-3) No. 13 LSU 24 (neutral site)
  • (13-0) No. 4 Florida State 24, at (5-7) Florida 15
  • (10-3) No. 16 Louisville 21, vs. (3-9) Indiana 14
  • (8-4) Clemson 16 at (5-7) South Carolina 7
  • (8-4) North Carolina 31 vs. (5-7) South Carolina 17
  • (8-4) North Carolina 31 vs. (5-7) Minnesota 13
  • (7-5) Duke 38 vs. (7-5) Northwestern 14
  • (7-5) Miami 48 vs. (7-5) Texas A&M 33
  • (6-6) Syracuse 35 at (4-8) Purdue 20
  • (4-8) Wake Forest 36 vs. (2-10) Vanderbilt 20

ACC losses versus SEC/B1G Ten (7)

  • (7-5) Kentucky 38 at (10-3) No. 16 Louisville 31
  • (12-1) No. 6 Georgia 31 at (6-6) Georgia Tech 23
  • (10-2) No. 11 Ole Miss 48 vs. (6-6) Georgia Tech 23
  • (6-6) Rutgers 35 vs. (6-6) Virginia Tech 16
  • (4-8) Purdue 24 at (6-6) Virginia Tech 21
  • (8-4) No. 25 Tennessee 49 at (3-9) Virginia 13
  • (7-5) Maryland 42 vs. (3-9) Virginia 14

The ACC stacked up very, very well against the two “power” conferences this year. In fact, the ACC had the most wins and second best non-conference record against “Power 5” teams. Only one ACC team with a winning record (Louisville) dropped a game. Meanwhile, FSU won the only premier matchup between two top 15 teams on a neutral site; FSU, Clemson, and North Carolina single-handedly denied “good” schools bowl eligibility (you’re welcome James Madison); and Duke and Miami easily won their battles with supposedly comparable (7-5) teams.

But none of that mattered. It was easier for the Committee to tell FSU “no” than the SEC champion, even though the SEC is having a down year and did nothing on the field to deserve being selected. The ACC champion was sacrificed at the altar of Disney's ratings because fans "would rather watch Michigan play Alabama."

bUt ThE cOmMiTtEe PiCkEd ThE fOuR bEsT tEaMs

Based on what? Not any objective criteria. Just the amorphous “eye test” that always, always, always favors the SEC and often the B1G Ten. When you leave decisions to a subjective criteria, then what is the point of playing the games? The new reality is that the ACC and the Big XII are second class citizens to the Big Ten and the SEC no matter what actually happens on the field.

The Committee’s only justification was that FSU lost their starting quarterback to an unfortunate injury. It didn't matter when third stringer Cardale Jones led Ohio State, from the first class B1G Ten, into the playoffs, but it matters now when comparing the ACC champion with the SEC and Big XII champions. FSU pressed forward and won their final two games. Their defense didn’t change and is arguably the best in the nation. To the ‘Noles credit, they found ways to win with backup quarterbacks at a rival Florida team fighting for bowl eligibility and in their conference championship game. Would FSU be favored against another top 5 team? No, they wouldn’t. But they beat the spread these last two games, and absolutely the ‘Noles could beat another elite team...again. But even if they lost, the ‘Noles defense would not allow a blowout. This wouldn't be TCU v. Georgia.

bUt ThIs Is ThE lAsT yEaR oF a FoUr TeAm PlAyOfF

A twelve team playoff won’t solve a damn thing. Sure, the ACC champion will probably, maybe, by the grace of the merciful CFP Committee be allowed to play for a national championship as 5 seed or lower. But it’s unlikely a second or third ACC team is selected. This year, outside of Florida State, the Committee’s final Top 13 teams are all SEC or B1G Ten Teams. The Committee’s Top 13 consists of seven current or future SEC teams (Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, LSU) and five current or future B1G Ten teams (Michigan, Washington, Oregon, Ohio State, Penn State).

If Miami, Florida State, Clemson, or any other ACC team aspires to make the playoffs, it needs to immediately get out of the ACC. This cannot wait another decade for media rights to expire. If you’re in the SEC or B1G Ten, you’re a shoe-in at (10-2) and might even sneak in at (9-3). In the ACC or Big XII, you need to go undefeated or maybe squeak by with one loss in these second-class conferences.

The Big XII seems resigned to its fate and (with apologies to Coach Prime) instead is focusing its expansion efforts on basketball blue bloods like Arizona, Houston, and maybe even Gonzaga. At least they have that going for them. What does the ACC have? An undefeated conference champion excluded from a four team football playoff while the big boy conferences are salivating at three, four, or even five teams each given a chance at a Natty in a 12 team playoff? The ACC has no advantage in basketball either considering that the past two years only produced ten total bids - fewer than the B1G Ten (17 bids), SEC (14 bids), Big XII (13 bids), and even the smaller Big East (11).

At this point, given the public fuss the 'Noles made about their ACC affiliation, it would be shocking if FSU is still in the ACC two years from now. It’ll take some time to raise the funding needed to absorb the 9 figure exit fee. But, the NCAA just gave the FSU boosters the incentive they needed to pony up that figure. There’s strength in numbers and hopefully Miami is, or in response to an FSU exodus will quickly be, exploring its own exit opportunities.

Look ‘Canes fans. Don’t weep for FSU. Join our rival in being pissed as hell that no matter what actually happens on the field or on the court, our ACC athletes will be viewed as afterthoughts in this lifeless conference. FSU's fate today could be Miami's tomorrow. Our conference just got Alabama biased out of playoff money. The ACC is unsalvageable. Stop trying to zombify this dead conference by voting to admit Stanford, California, and SMU. Get out!