Remember two years ago when, in the midst of conference realignment, all the talk was about how the ACC could be pilfered by the SEC and left for dead alongside the Big East?
That feels far away this week, as the ACC has three teams in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll and a fourth in Louisville that will join the conference next season. Two of those teams are legitimate national championship contenders who will square off Saturday when the Florida State Seminoles visit the Clemson Tigers (8 p.m. ET, ABC).
Although some think the gap between the SEC and every other conference in the country has widened in recent seasons, some of that based on the SEC's run of national championships, 2013 may represent the first year when that gap is closing. In fact, it might have closed significantly.
I have called six games as an analyst for ESPN this season involving SEC or ACC teams and have seen the following teams up close and personal: Texas A&M, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Missouri from the SEC, and FSU, Miami, Maryland, Georgia Tech and North Carolina from the ACC. (I have not yet seen Alabama, LSU or Clemson in person.)
My impression after the first half of the season is that the distance between the SEC's elite teams and the ACC's elite teams is diminishing. There's no question in my mind that Clemson and FSU can compete with the best teams in the SEC, and the winner of Saturday night's Seminoles-Tigers matchup could not only make it to the BCS title game but win it once it gets there. Here's why.