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ACC coaches think they know the key to the SEC's success

Here's a stat you surely know: SEC programs are 9-1 in BCS championship games, and are undefeated against outside competition.

Here are a couple stats you may not have known: the ACC hasn't had a winning record against Associated Press Top 25 opponents since 1999, and hasn't posted a winning record versus the SEC since 2003.

A couple of SEC ex-pats think they know the reason for such a wide disparity between two leagues that have a lot in common.

“One of the biggest advantages they have in the SEC that people do not talk about -- and I’ve always said it was true -- you’ve got 10 stadiums with about 85,000 and they’re packed every time you play,” former LSU offensive coordinator and current Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher told “Those kids get used to playing in those atmospheres and environments. We used to say it all the time -- I was there. We’d play a kickoff game, a conference championship game, or a national championship game. Those environments were no different than it was every week. That influences being able to handle big games. That atmosphere is different."

“I tell people all the time, and it didn’t take me long to figure this out: All of those years in the SEC, why does the SEC dominate the big games, the national championship scene, the big, intense bowl games, the big intense preseason kickoff games?” added Duke head coach and 24-year SEC coaching veteran David Cutcliffe. “It’s because every week in the regular season is just like that. Game week, not just the game atmosphere, not just the games people know about. Ole Miss-LSU is an incredible experience for every player at Ole Miss, every player at LSU. Obviously Florida-Georgia, Tennessee-Alabama, Tennessee-Florida in the day. It’s just amazing. And it prepares those staffs and those kids for those moments. We are sitting there ready. We’ve got something to say and something to prove if you will, but it’s got to become a we thing. The intensity surrounding ACC football has to elevate.

“I’ll use ACC basketball as a great example,” he continued. “In its purest, best form, those regular-season games in our league in basketball were often better than Final Fours. Those atmospheres prepared those Duke teams and Maryland teams and North Carolina teams for the national platform. I think we need to continue to try and create that type of intensity in the ACC.”

For a pair of conferences that share three states and two borders, the gulf should not be this large. 

Fortunately for the ACC, the football product is on the upswing. Florida State and Clemson are starting to act like Florida State and Clemson, Miami and North Carolina are on their way back from scandal, Virginia Tech should return to being Virginia Tech and help is on the way in the form of a cooking Louisville program and partial member Notre Dame. Heck, even Duke made a bowl last year.

The ACC will have eight chances to close the gap against the SEC in the 2013 regular season but, according to Fisher and Cutcliffe, true recovery starts inside the conference.