I think David French summed up the national championship pretty nicely last night:
It was a great game! That drive at the end was pretty nuts. Nick Saban was denied his place in history (for one more year, anyway) and Clemson claimed theirs. Fantastic stuff, truly gripping minor league football.
The best thing about the championship game, however, was that it confirmed something I’ve been thinking about all year: namely, the ACC’s place as the best power conference in football. The SEC? Fluff. The Big 10? Pikers. The Big 12? Garbage. The ACC is the king of football conferences. But don’t take my word for it! Here’s science:
The ACC has gone 8-3 this bowl season, already the second-most wins by a conference in a single bowl season since the AP poll era started in 1936. (Of course, because bowl season has become so bloated in recent years, this year’s ACC teams have also played in the third-most bowls ever, tied with four other conferences since 2013.) But the ACC’s record is still notable because of its difficulty: FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings — which estimate the relative quality of every FBS team — would have expected an average team to go 3-8 against ACC teams’ bowl opponents, losing by an average of 2.7 points per game. Instead, ACC teams have won by 7.6 points per game. That five-win gap between the ACC’s bowl record and what Elo would have expected from an average group of teams is easily the biggest of any conference this season.
And that impressive record was only improved upon last night, when Clemson came from behind to defeat Alabama in dramatic fashion.
As a graduate of the University of Virginia, I’ve frequently been disappointed by Mr. Jefferson’s University’s football team in recent years. I think back to my days wandering the academical village as a whimsical second year, cheering on Matt Schaub as he led the Cavaliers to victory in the vaunted Continental Tire Bowl.
But now I understand: UVA is just in a difficult conference! No wonder they have trouble racking up wins. If they were playing with lesser teams—say, like, the scrubs in the SEC—the Cavs would almost certainly mop up each and every year. It’s really not fair.
Ah well. Such is life. I guess I’ll just have to settle for knowing that UVA would be like the third or fourth best teams if it had to regularly face lesser competition like Michigan or Oklahoma. And congrats again to the ACC, clearly the best conference in college football.