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ACC Matchups Are Huge for SEC Legitimacy

The SEC has six teams in the top 12 of the BCS standings, which is a pretty impressive feat. Even more impressive is that the teams' only losses have come to each other.

The catch, though, is that these squads don't have a lot of non-conference wins to brag about. The best that anyone has is Alabama's demolition of Michigan all the way back in Week 1, and while it still looks good, no one is terribly impressed with having a Big Ten team as a signature win this season. LSU's best non-conference win is over a 7-5 Washington team that just lost to a pretty dreadful Washington State team. Texas A&M's best win outside the league was a two-point escape against Louisiana Tech. While LA Tech is far better this year than it pretty much has ever been, that's not going to get anyone's heart racing.

As for the three SEC East teams up there, they've got a whole lot of nothing to show for their non-conference excursions. They each had the same strategy for their non-SEC games this year: two I-A cupcakes, a I-AA team, and their ACC rivals at the end.

I've already seen some folks from around the country, one of them being a notorious troll with a surplus of Gs in his first name that I won't link to here, suggest that the SEC is somehow fraudulent because its top teams have not proved themselves outside the league this year. It's true to a degree, in that only Alabama has had any kind of a tough test outside SEC play. However we now have ratings that can show that these teams, if they aren't all true top 12 squads, are still among the nation's best.

For voters who don't look at those kinds of ratings, though, the SEC-ACC games this weekend are important. Florida State will be the highest ranked non-conference opponent for anyone in the league before bowl season, so the pressure is on Florida to find a way to win. Clemson will probably end up the second best depending on what happens with Michigan, so South Carolina also needs to deliver a victory. Georgia Tech isn't anything special this year, so Georgia must win comfortably to help maintain its legitimacy at the top.

I'm not saying this out of some kind of pure SEC pride motivation. The SEC's standing as the best conference is important because it means its teams tend to get the benefit of the doubt in the polls. That benefit of the doubt has helped it more than once place teams into the BCS title game during the current streak, and it will be even more important when it comes to putting teams into the upcoming playoff. Winning these kinds of big games are what helps that reputation remain intact.

Plus, there still is a sliver of a chance that the SEC could put two teams into this year's BCS championship game if Notre Dame loses to USC. Given the enormous backlash to last year's title game, one that was so big it became the tipping point for the playoff itself, voters will be looking for a way to avoid it. A clean sweep of the ACC teams today will make it as hard as possible for them to do so.

It's not often that the SEC's standing for a given year can be partially made or broken based off of playing ACC teams, but 2012 has been an unusual season for a lot of other reasons anyway. Go ahead and root for SEC teams today without any guilt or feeling like a putz. BCS accomplishments this year are definitely and playoff dollars in the future could in small part be riding on the outcomes of these games.